Art community reactions to news of 2021 closure of NTU CCA Singapore spaces
ArtAsiaPacific talks to artists and curators internationally about the news that the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore (NTU CCA) is scheduled to close its exhibition and artist residency spaces at Gillman Barracks in March 2021.
Just over seven years is all the time that the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA) had for its exhibition program as the “anchor tenant” in the mixed-use art complex Gillman Barracks. From 2014 through earlier this year, NTU CCA also hosted more than 175 artist-residents from over 40 countries. After its final show of filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha, at the end of February 2021, the organization will be pared down to a single administrative office, an online archive, and a final publication about its projects to date, with a handful of staff remaining to work on future research projects and the possibilities of exhibitions at other NTU locations.
Following news that Singapore and the wider region was losing this unique hybrid space where intellectual and artistic research was designed to intersect, ArtAsiaPacific reached out to figures in the art community to get their reactions.
Many reflected on the importance of NTU CCA’s programming and residencies for the vitality of the arts in the region, and noted that the potential for the Centre to create further impact has been cut short.
Among the comments:
NTU CCA is the only institution of its scale in Singapore that takes an internationalist approach to making exhibitions and supporting artistic research. In a time that we are reckoning with how our worlds are more interconnected than ever, the cessation of the Centre’s exhibition and residency operations is an unfathomable loss.
Ho Rui An, artist
Singapore has great artists and a burgeoning generation of curators and writers. What they need is long-term support and the time to develop. What seems to be lacking is a commitment to diversity—that is, sustaining an art ecology composed of multiple institutions of different shapes and sizes.
Melanie Pocock, curator at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery
Over the past six years, a large number of artists, curators, thinkers and writers from all around the world have benefitted greatly from the residency program at NTU CCA. The proliferation of conferences, open studios, lectures, parties, performances, informal sharing sessions at NTU CCA felt like an open-ended school of art and culture.
Heman Chong, artist
In a media statement, Joseph Liow, dean of NTU’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, blamed NTU CCA’s closure on the Covid-19 pandemic, saying “the current environment is not easy” and “CCA is going through a period of transition and transformation of its longer-term capabilities for the post Covid-19 recovery.” However, in reality, NTU CCA’s financial restructuring had been on the table since before Covid-19. After March 2021, Liow said NTU CCA will “[look] at diversifying the locations of its exhibition and other activities, and increasing its presence at NTU main campus and other NTU locations.” Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.
In the latest newsletter from NTU, the Founding Director, Ute Meta Bauer, and NTU team respond:
Much has been talked about with the Centre’s recent announcement of the Online Benefit Art Auction and the impending changes for us come April next year. It will indeed be a time of change for the Centre but be assured we are committed to our presence at Gillman Barracks, and look to continue our work in research and education in contemporary art as a research centre of NTU. Showing your support by taking part in the upcoming auction will be one of the most concrete ways at this moment in order to help the Centre realise its projects and we’re immensely grateful to the contributing artists. We are also highly appreciative for the messages of support in the last weeks, these mean a lot to me and the team.
The NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore Benefit Online Art Auction 2020 takes place 1-18 October. The auction website is live from 17 September. It features donated artworks from: Alecia Neo (Singapore), Ang Song Nian (Singapore), anGie seah (Singapore), Animali Domestici (Thailand/Italy), Arin Runjang (Thailand), Entang Wiharso (Indonesia), Fyerool Darma (Singapore), Haegue Yang (South Korea/Germany), Heman Chong (Singapore), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), ila (Singapore), Jae Rhim Lee (South Korea), Jason Wee (Singapore), Jeremy Sharma (Singapore), Lucy + Jorge Orta (United Kingdom), Magne Furuholmen (Norway), Marjetica Potrč (Slovenia), Ming Wong (Singapore/Germany), Regina Maria Möller (Germany), Robert Zhao Renhui (Singapore), Rossella Biscotti (Italy/The Netherland), Shubigi Rao (India/Singapore), Tiffany Chung (Vietnam/USA), Trevor Yeung (Hong Kong), Wei Leng Tay (Singapore), and Weixin Quek Chong (Singapore).