Keeping the Flame of Dialogue Burning


Exhibition of Works by Tan Swie Hian


Hall des pas perdus, United Nations Office, Geneva


12 – 27 Nov 2003


Multi-talented artist Tan Swie Hian is keeping the United Nations flame of dialogue burning bright with an exhibition of 10 works at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Fresh from his participation in the prestigious 50th Venice Biennale, Tan presents the seven paintings showcased at the Biennale, two pieces from the collection of the World Economic Forum, and a new sculpture.


The National Arts Council is pleased to have facilitated the exhibition, one in a series of events organised under the auspices of the United Nations’ Dialogue Among Civilisations, an initiative aimed at improving dialogue and promoting friendly exchanges between countries.


Ms Goh Ching Lee, Director of Programme and International Development Division at National Arts Council, says “Swie Hian is well-known for his seamless creative work that crosses cultures, philosophies and art genres. Following closely after his conferment of the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum and his participation at the Venice Biennale, this exhibition at the UN in Geneva is a further recognition of Swie Hian as Singapore's Global Citizen."


The exhibition is expected to draw over 10,000 visitors over two weeks and we hope that through this exhibition in the “nerve centre” of the international community, Swie Hian’s works will continue to encourage dialogue among visitors and stir interest in Singapore art.


Well-versed in Chinese culture and traditions, Mr Tan disclosed that his new sculpture was inspired by the gu qin     (古琴), the most ancient Chinese musical instrument with a recorded history of over 2,500 years. It is considered the greatest embodiment of Chinese culture and the only instrument whose form permits new designs.


While there were more than a hundred designs in history, few have been time-honoured and institutionalised. Mr Tan designed his own unique version of the gu qin and commissioned its construction by one of the most renowned gu qin makers, Wang Peng, who crafted it out of a 500-year-old fir beam from the Ming Dynasty. The instrument’s musical features were put in by Gong Yi, another well-known gu qin master in China. Following tradition, Mr Tan has named this new design A Still Cloud (停云) and the instrument The Fragrance of Meditation ( 定香).  


More information on the UN’s Dialogue Among Civilisations initiative is available at and visuals of Mr Tan Swie Hian’s works are available upon request.