The largest showcase of Singapore arts and culture overseas opened on Thursday evening in Paris, with an estimated 2,000 visitors packing Palais de Tokyo, a cutting-edge space for contemporary art.
It was the opening night of the Singapore in France Festival, a three-month season of events by Singapore artists in cities all over France.
In a sprawling 2,000 sq m basement gallery, an expansive exhibition put together by former Singapore Art Museum curator Khairuddin Hori - now deputy director of artistic programming at Palais de Tokyo - featured new artworks by 37 South-east Asian artists, including 11 from Singapore. The exhibition is titled Secret Archipelago.
One level above, white-clad performers roamed the halls and mingled with groups of audience members in theatre director Ong Keng Sen's multimedia visual feast, The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers, a six-hour work dealing with transnationalism and migration that will be performed in Singapore as part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts later this year.
The evening began on a more sombre note, with Mr Jean de Loisy, president of Palais de Tokyo, acknowledging the passing of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in his opening speech.
Speaking in French, he said: "We join you in your pain, in your sadness as a Singaporean person, after the passing of your first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew."
Mrs Rosa Daniel, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, delivered the opening address on behalf of Minister Lawrence Wong, who could not be in Paris because of Mr Lee's funeral tomorrow.
She said: "As Singaporeans grieve and reflect on our loss, we continue to honour Mr Lee's vision of establishing Singapore on the international stage, with this unique showcase of Singapore's arts and culture."
The festival celebrates the 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is co-organised by Singapore's National Heritage Board and National Arts Council, and Institut Francais, France's agency for international arts and cultural projects.
Singapore's contribution to the festival is about $6 million.
Perhaps most immediately visible to the French public is a large-scale wall mural at the entrance of Palais de Tokyo by Singapore artist Farizwan Fajari, who goes by the moniker SpeakCryptic.
The work depicts versions of the artist and interrogates his own identity.
Said Mr Farizwan: "I've had to generalise a couple of things but, so far, the exchange has been wonderful.
"I think this exhibition serves as a good starting point - it's a good representation of South-east Asia as a whole, with many different styles, from the traditional to the contemporary. Hopefully, people will talk and conversation is important."
This article was first published on March 28, 2015.
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