Drawn to art melting pot

Drawn to art melting pot
Professor Ute Meta Bauer, founding director of Centre for Contemporary Arts at Gillman Barracks

SINGAPORE - The much-awaited Centre for Contemporary Art, touted as a new hub for art and research in the region, has opened its doors on and all eyes are on its founding director Ute Meta Bauer.

Professor Bauer, 55, who was appointed last week, has her work cut out for her at the centre run by the Nanyang Technological University in the Gillman Barracks art enclave off Alexandra Road.

Her well-burnished credentials include co-curating the prestigious contemporary art exhibition Documenta in Germany in 2001 and being the founding director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (2002 to 2005), which is known for its artist residency programmes.

Prior to joining the centre, she was dean of the school of fine arts at London's Royal College of Art, as well as associate professor for visual art at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding director of its programme in art, culture and technology at the school of architecture and planning.

She was first approached for the position here early this year and she says candidly that she "didn't consider it" immediately; she had just begun her appointment at the Royal College of Art.

But the genial don was eventually persuaded by the unique proposition of the centre here and the challenge to set it up from scratch. She says: "To me, what is interesting is this unique combination of having a research centre, a residency programme and an exhibition space all in one place and how they could overlap."

She likens it to "a laboratory where everything goes hand in hand", a holistic space where creative sparks fly between intellectual and artistic pursuits, and people from all parts of the art community including artists, curators, researchers and the audience, given the proximity for exchange of ideas.

And there are many possibilities for collaboration at the centre. Professor Bauer lists some: It could co-host seminars and workshops with Nanyang Technological University's faculty; international and Singaporean artists in its residency programme could collaborate with academics at the university and exhibit the product of their collaboration.

Indeed, the multi-disciplinary nature of work at the centre also swayed her to take up the post because it unites her diverse interests as an academic and curator.

Her extensive experience and expertise, however, do not make her immune to the heavy expectations placed on her. The pressure has been building since Gillman Barracks, which comprises 14 pedigreed galleries from 10 countries, opened last year.

The research centre was envisioned as an anchor for the area and galleries there have high hopes for it to galvanise activity in the enclave, which has been plagued with visitorship woes.

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