Six outstanding arts practitioners from different genres receive Singapore’s top arts accolades
Front row (L-R): Tan Gee Keow, Permanent Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth; Goh Swee Chen, Chairman, National Arts Council; Cultural Medallion recipient Eric James Watson; President Halimah Yacob; Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth; Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth; Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Council
Back row: (L-R): Young Artist Award recipients Emily Koh; Gabriel Chan; He Shuming; Tan Wei Keong; Weixin Quek Chong
2019 marks the 40th year since the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s highest artistic accolade, was first instituted in 1979
Cultural Medallion conferred on a passionate educator and prolific composer whose works reflect Singapore’s multi-cultural heritage
Young Artist Award recipients have each excelled creatively in their disciplines – music composition, lighting design, film, animation and printmaking
Singapore, 15 October 2019 – The National Arts Council (NAC) has conferred the Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award on six artists from various disciplines, in recognition of their artistic excellence and outstanding contributions to growing Singapore’s vibrant and diverse arts scene. The accolades also honour the recipients for their work in connecting local communities through the arts and defining Singapore’s cultural presence abroad. The distinctions were presented to them this evening at the Istana.
Cultural Medallion (CM)
2 This year marks the 40th year of the Cultural Medallion (CM), Singapore’s highest honours in the arts that recognises and celebrates the pinnacle of artistic excellence. It was first established in 1979 as an initiative of the late President, then Minister of Culture, Mr Ong Teng Cheong. To date, it has been conferred on 126 artists, whose invaluable contribution and dedication to the arts have enriched our nation. These esteemed individuals include accomplished realist artist Chua Mia Tee (2015), renowned for his depictions of traditional life and significant events in Singapore’s history; acclaimed poet and writer KTM Iqbal (2014), whose works have been published in the region’s leading newspapers and magazines; pioneer choreographer and dance practitioner Low Mei Yoke (2018), who has inspired generations of contemporary dancers as an educator and instructor; and jazz pianist, composer, vocalist and educator Jeremy Monteiro (2002), who has taken local music abroad with some of the biggest names in music.
3 At the ceremony, Guest-of-Honour President Halimah Yacob presented the Cultural Medallion to this year’s recipient Eric James Watson, a musician, composer, conductor, music technologist and educator. Eric is widely recognised as one of Singapore’s most prolific composers, whose works draw upon Singapore’s rich musical traditions and cultures. Eric has called Singapore home since 1991, and in 2001, he was the composer and musical director for the National Day Parade (NDP). In 2007, he wrote and arranged music for NDP across Indian, Malay, Chinese and western classical orchestras. As composer-in-residence of Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) from 2016 to 2018, he has composed major works performed by SCO that were well-received.
Young Artist Award (YAA)
4 Since the introduction of the Young Artist Award (YAA) in 1992, 154 recipients whose artistic talent and commitment distinguish them among their peers have received the Award, which is accorded to artists aged 35 years and below. This year, five more arts practitioners will join their ranks. Each of them has a strong body of work reflecting their unique artistic visions in their areas of speciality. These outstanding young artists are also inspiring role models who connect diverse communities through their work and outreach in the arts.
5 US-based composer Emily Koh is recognised as one of Singapore’s top emerging composers of acoustic and electronic concert music. Lighting designer Gabriel Chan has created lighting designs for different art forms – dance, theatre and music, and has been lighting the seasons of some of Singapore’s top dance and theatre companies. Multi-talented film director and screenwriter He Shuming, whose work has been described as heartfelt by critics, is expanding his practice into theatre and multi-media work. Animation artist Tan Wei Keong, known in the industry for having a unique voice, has had works screened in numerous film festivals around the world, and is a strong supporter and advocate for Singapore’s animation scene. Visual artist Weixin Quek Chong has gone beyond her training in printmaking to experiment with various materials in her works presented locally and internationally, and she works with and mentors young artists at local institutions.
6 Minister for Culture, Community & Youth, Grace Fu, presented the Young Artist Award to the five recipients. She said, “Congratulations to the recipients of the Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award! While they have been recognised for their artistic achievements, they continue to challenge themselves by exploring new dimensions, perspectives and expressions. Their journeys have not been easy nor smooth, but they have demonstrated resilience and determination in pursuing their passions. We are committed to supporting our artists in their pursuit of artistic excellence, and look forward to seeing them scale new heights.”
7 Mrs Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Council, said, “The Cultural Medallion has, for the past 40 years, honoured our talented artists who have defined our multi-cultural heritage through their works, articulating our identity as a nation and people. CM recipients are cultural heroes and role models who have raised Singapore’s profile at home and abroad. Together with this year’s Young Artist Award recipients, they attest to Singapore’s rich artistic talent and I congratulate them for achieving this milestone in their careers. The National Arts Council recognises the important role that the arts play in building a more cohesive and confident Singapore, and will continue to champion our growing arts scene.”
Past Award Recipients’ Contributions to the Arts Scene
8 Recipients of the Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award are encouraged to continue to grow in their artistic practice, as well as to nurture future talents and inspire other arts practitioners to create meaningful arts experiences that Singaporeans can relate to and cherish. The accolades also help to raise greater awareness and appreciation of the works by our arts and cultural icons, and of Singapore as a vibrant cultural city.
9 Past recipients who have utilised their awards to contribute to Singapore’s rich artistic heritage include Margaret Leng Tan, Cultural Medallion recipient in 2015, whose upcoming performance at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music on 23 October 2019 will be the Asian premiere of iconic American composer George Crumb’s METAMORPHOSES (Book I). Chua Mia Tee, Cultural Medallion recipient in 2015, used the funding support to publish ‘The Art of Chua Mia Tee’, a monograph documenting his career and practice since the 1950s, and launched in June 2018 at the National Gallery Singapore.
Please refer to the following annexes for more information:
Annex A – About the Cultural Medallion and the 2019 recipient profile
Annex B – About the Young Artist Award and the 2019 recipients’ profiles
Annex C – List of Specialist Assessment Panel Members
Annex D – A Look at 40 Years of the Cultural Medallion
 The total number of Cultural Medallion awards conferred includes the 2019 recipient.
 The Young Artist Award has been conferred on 159 recipients, including the 2019 recipients.