Veteran curator and humanities administrator Tan Boon Hui, for many years a significant presence within the Singapore artwork world and a tireless promoter of Asian artwork on the world stage, died July 7 on the age of fifty-three, following problems of a stroke he had suffered in Might. Tan was a stalwart champion of Singaporean artists, notably these of the lesser-known stripe, and of up to date artwork, and was instrumental in bringing the nation’s arts scene to broader international consideration via his efforts as director of the Singapore Artwork Museum and organizer of two iterations of the Singapore Biennale. A former director of the Asia Society Museum in New York, he performed a key function in establishing the Asia Society Triennial, whose inaugural version, “We Do Not Dream Alone,” passed off on the peak of the Covid-19 disaster.
Tan Boon Hui was born in Singapore in 1968. His father was a bus driver and his mom a housewife. Tan remembered being dropped at the Nationwide Museum of Singapore as a baby, telling Hyperallergic in 2020, “It nonetheless had its pure historical past assortment of animal specimens and bones, alongside ethnography and work. It was this unusual, odd jumble of issues that fascinated and type of frightened me on the similar time.” He earned his BA and MA in geography on the Nationwide College of Singapore earlier than going to work as an editor for Editions Didier Millet, which amongst different publications produced exhibition catalogues for Southeast Asian establishments. Tan in 1997 assumed the function of assistant curator at Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum.
“I’ve learnt the whole lot on the job,” he advised the Straits Occasions in 2009. “Proper from writing the storyline for the exhibition, deciding what goes into an exhibition and discovering the artifacts or the artworks. Lots of it’s undertaking administration and I’ve carried out the whole lot that goes into the job—I’ve even swept the museum flooring.”
Following a stint as deputy director of applications on the Nationwide Museum of Singapore, throughout which era he curated the curated the Singapore Pavilion on the 2003 Venice Biennale, Tan in 2009 took on the function of director of the Singapore Artwork Museum (SAM), the place he’s credited with reinvigorating the establishment’s exhibition program via a concentrate on up to date Southeast Asian artwork. Among the many exhibits he curated there are these by pathbreaking Singaporean artists Amanda Heng, Vincent Leow, and Lee Wen; he moreover staged exhibitions by rising artists from the area. Tan in 2011 served as director of the Singapore Biennale, a task he would reprise in 2013, that yr assuming co-curation duties as effectively. He departed SAM in 2013 to function assistant chief government for museums and applications at Singapore’s Nationwide Heritage Board, the place he based the Singapore Night time Pageant. In 2015, he helmed the Singapour en France competition—which brough Singapore up to date arts, tradition, and heritage to French cities together with Lyon, Nantes, and Paris—earlier than being named vp of worldwide inventive applications and director of New York’s Asia Society Museum. There, he oversaw the nonprofit’s exhibitions program and museum assortment, in addition to its annual Arts & Museum Summit. Following the launch of the Asia Society Triennial in 2020, he left to return to Singapore and take up the put up of government director of Arts Home, which sponsors the Singapore Worldwide Pageant of Arts and has cost of efficiency venues together with the Arts Home and the Victoria Theatre and Live performance Corridor.
Tan was a powerful believer in inclusivity and in what he described as a “big-tent” strategy to artwork, and in reaching a steadiness between native assist and internationalization. “All artwork comes from a particular place and time and doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” he advised Tradition Academy Singapore in 2021. “All worldwide guests or audiences of artwork search to grasp the place artworks come from and they’ll wish to know what the neighborhood from which the artwork comes from has to say about it.”