11 September – 16 November 2008


(Vernissage:  9 – 10 September 2008)




Organised by the National Arts Council (Singapore), the second edition of Singapore’s premier international contemporary art event, Singapore Biennale 2008 (SB2008) will be held from 11 September to 16 November 2008. The Biennale allows for interaction and engagement between the local scene and the international world of contemporary art. As a platform for collaborations with the global arts community, the Biennale provides new opportunities for local visual artists and arts businesses, and is a significant opportunity to cultivate deeper public engagement with the arts. 


Highly accomplished curator and art critic, Fumio Nanjo has been re-appointed the Artistic Director for SB2008.


“We are glad to appoint Fumio Nanjo as Artistic Director of SB2008. The opportunity to work with the same artistic director for the sophomore edition allows for greater continuity for an event that is still new and for the project to deepen in its reach and engagement with the city and audiences.  In addition, it also presents the unique opportunity for the artistic director to reflect on what was created for the first edition and together with a new team of curators, respond to the process and methodology of exhibition making. We had a very good working relationship with Nanjo for SB 2006 and are pleased that he has agreed to work with us again to build on the foundation of our successful first Biennale." says Lee Suan Hiang, Chairman of the Singapore Biennale 2008 Steering Committee, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council.


Internationally reputed for having headed the programming and adjudication of major art events throughout the world, the Director of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, Nanjo will once again chart the direction and programming for Singapore’s visual arts biennale, continuing to boost Singapore’s position as a distinctive global city for the arts.


Working with Nanjo on SB2008 are two emerging curators from Singapore and the region. Formerly a curator at the Singapore Art Museum and the Lopez Museum in Manilia, Joselina Cruz is an independent curator currently working on projects in Manila andSingapore. Matthew Ngui is one of Singapore’s leading artists in contemporary art. The first Singaporean to exhibit at Documenta in 1997, Ngui was also one of four artists who represented Singapore at its first participation at the 49th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition, 2001. The duo makes an interesting combination of an independent contemporary curator familiar with the museum context and an artist playing the role of a curator.


Wonder is the theme for SB2008. Its conceptual scope issues a challenge to the contemporary world, a world that no longer questions choices, nor allows for things and events to awe us. Through contemporary art, Wonder calls on us to question and be curious; to reach beyond the surface, surpassing the apparent and to allow ourselves be surprised, awed, tantalised and challenged. All of which is an aperture to the World.


There are many issues that challenge our world today. The second Singapore Biennale proposes other possible ways of seeing and arriving at truths and answers, resolutions and compromises, and even the creation of new questions, to the challenges presented to and by humanity. It seeks to revolt against our belief and trust in theories, logic, science and technology, politics and economy that consciously regulate the world we live in. Criticism, skepticism and doubt exist on the flipside of creative thinking, which brings about a different kind wonderment of and to the world.


To wonder is a process of questioning, feeling or thinking about something. It is about looking at things with fresh eyes and from different perspectives. The site of a creative critical spirit, it operates either as a means to an end or as a sense generated when we encounter an object, subject, thing, event, site, or experience. Embedded in the production and thinking of much of contemporary art is this creative critical spirit. It challenges what we know and seeks to encourage us to think about our now, our pasts, and our futures. To wonder and question is thus a critical comment on the first edition’s theme, Belief, which at the same time contextualises it.


“With Wonder, we want audiences to question the world around us, to inspire them to have a healthy skepticism about what we know and believe, to be surprised and move them towards a new revelation or understanding of our world. We aim to provide a commentary on the identity of individuals in a multi-cultural world, recognise the dignity of individual human beings and their communities and make reference to the fact that different cultural viewpoints are varied and valid. We want audiences to be involved in the experience and creation of artworks through greater interaction during the next Biennale, resulting in greater development of understanding and critical thought regarding the events of the world.”  says Fumio Nanjo, artistic director of SB2008.


SB2008 aims to make people aware of this sense of wonderment and their capacity for it, as contemporary art brings about moments of surprise, enchantments, shifts in perspectives, new experiences and ultimately, enrichment.


A major part of the Biennale programming involves cultivating a deeper public engagement with contemporary arts. This will be conducted through the Encounters series of talks, workshops and events. These regular dialogue sessions provide a discursive platform for Singaporeans to voice issues and concerns pertinent to our society and contemporary art.  In addition, a series of education projects focusing on primary and secondary school children will accompany the Biennale. This programme will also include a number of artist residencies and workshops.


SB2008 promises to be refreshing and surprising for audiences. Together with the two curators, Nanjo will be researching on artists and art practices from various parts of the world with a special focus on Asia and its region; further establishing Singapore as the hotbed for research, documentation and presentation of Asian contemporary artforms. They will provide for accessibility of programming to multiple levels of audiences – local, regional and international and pay special attention to outreach and education, allowing for a deeper engagement with contemporary art by the people of Singapore.


Please refer to the following annexes for more information:


Annex 1           – Curatorial Statement

Annex 2           – Invitation for Expressions of Interest

Annex 3           – Profile of Artistic Director Fumio Nanjo

Annex 4           – Profiles of Curators: Joselina Cruz (Philippines) and Matthew Ngui (Singapore)


About the Singapore Biennale

Organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore, the Singapore Biennale aims to position Singapore prominently as an international centre and regional thought leader in the field of visual art. It encourages Singapore artists and Singapore to engage with the international art world, through the invitation of regional and international artists to exhibit with Singapore artists, and for Singapore to join the international community of art biennales whose language is mainly conducted through the medium of contemporary art. As a platform for collaborations with the global arts community, the Biennale provides new opportunities for local visual artists and arts businesses, and is a significant opportunity to cultivate deeper public engagement with the arts.  It complements the achievements of other areas of the arts and cultural scene, collectively enhancing Singapore’s international image as a vibrant city to live, work, play. 


About Art Compass 2008

Art Compass 2008 is a new initiative developed by the leading contemporary art events in the Asia-Pacific region; the Biennale of Sydney, Gwangju, Shanghai and Singapore Biennales and the Yokohama Triennale. Art Compass 2008 is a travel packaging device to encourage contemporary art lovers to visit the events in an organised itinerary. The proposed package tour will provide visitors with an unprecedented opportunity to experience five extraordinary and innovative contemporary art events from September 2008 through to November 2008. Art Compass 2008 will actively promote visitation to the Closing Week events of the Biennale of Sydney (30 August – 7 September 2008) and the Opening Previews of the Gwangju Biennale (5 September 2008), Shanghai Biennale (8 September 2008), Singapore Biennale (9 – 10 September 2008) and Yokohama Triennale (12 September 2008).


About the National Arts Council (Singapore)


The National Arts Council (NAC) was established in September 1991 to spearhead the development of the arts in Singapore. To realize its vision of developing Singapore into a distinctive global city for the arts, NAC provides total support to nurture artistic talent, promotes the practice and appreciation of the arts among Singaporeans, builds up capabilities and resources, facilitates internationalization and advocates the value of the arts. Through its holistic range of programmes and initiatives to develop the entire arts value chain, the Council champions the growth of a vibrant arts sector where the arts is accessible to all, and the community of artists, arts groups and arts businesses can innovate, excel and achieve sustainability in the long term.