Graced by Mr Lee Yock Suan, Minister for Information and the Arts, the award ceremony organised by the National Arts Council (NAC) honoured 82 corporations and six individuals who made significant contributions towards the promotion of cultural and artistic activities in Singapore in 1998. Among them were 25 new corporate and six new individual recipients. Their collective efforts had brought total arts sponsorship (in cash and in kind) received in 1998 to $39.9 million, an increase of 6% over that received in 1997. It supported 3,817 activities and 401 exhibitions, which reached an audience of about 828,000.
In his welcome speech, Mr Liu Thai Ker, Chairman of NAC, affirmed that "despite the less bright economic climate, arts sponsorship had not been relegated to the lowest priority." He observed that the increase of 6% in sponsorship and increase in the number of sponsors from 78 to 88 were clear indicators that arts patronage in Singapore had taken strong root and could sustain great adversities.
Four categories of award — Associate of the Arts Award, Friend of the Arts Award, Patron of the Arts Award and Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award — were given out that evening.
The awards presentation started with Minister Lee presenting the Associate of the Arts Award to those who contributed between $50,000 and $99,999. This category saw 19 new recipients this year. Mrs Elizabeth Choy and Carrier (Singapore) Pte Ltd were two of the new recipients among the 38 Associate of the Arts Award recipients. Mrs Choy had donated two sculptures worth $50,000 to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) while Carrier (Singapore) Pte Ltd had contributed $50,000 worth of air-con equipment and services to ACTION Theatre's new home at 42 Waterloo Street.
For contributions between $100,000 and $299,999, 28 corporations and two individuals received the Friend of the Arts Award. Notably, there were eight newcomers. They included MobileOne (Asia) Pte Ltd which contributed to the MI Youth Connection, Helu-Trans for provision of freight to SAM and CDL Hotels International Ltd for supporting TheatreWorks and ACTION Theatre.
The Patron of the Arts Award, for contributions $300,000 and above, was presented to 10 recipients. Mr Chan Shi Pong and Nokia Pte Ltd were two of the new recipients in this year's award. Mr Chan, a Hong Kong businessman, was the top contributor among the six new individual recipients. He has donated $400,000 worth of Chinese paintings to SAM. As for Nokia Pte Ltd, the bulk of its contributions went towards the millennium visual arts festival — Nokia Singapore Art 1999.
The Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award is given to individuals or organisations who receive the Patron of the Arts Award on the fifth consecutive occasion. It is also awarded for contributions of $1.5million and above, made in one year or within five years from 1995 onwards. Among the 10 Distinguished Patrons recipients was OCBC Bank Group who received the Distinguished Patron of the Arts Award for the first time. Receiving the award for the eighth consecutive year, was the Shell Companies in Singapore. A faithful arts patron, Shell had been a recipient of the various patron awards since 1984.
Arts patrons can also look forward to two new sponsorship initiatives by NAC. To give arts sponsors higher visibility, a Roll of Honours for the Patron of the Arts Award recipients will be displayed at all three NAC theatres each year. A list of this year's recipients will be put up in October. The award list will also be carried in NAC's publications such as house programmes and annual report. NAC is also currently working on the details for a separate Arts Supporter Scheme to give recognition to the many donors who have contributed less than $50,000.
The new millennium poses new challenges. With the rapid increase in the sheer number of cultural activities generated by arts groups, the amount of funding needed by the arts community far out-paces the increase of funding from sponsors and government. However, it should not be left unattended for long, or the creative initiatives of our artists may be thwarted. Hence, it is vital for a sustained tripartite partnership of the arts community, the government and the private sector to move towards the ultimate goal of making Singapore a global city of the arts.