Biennale boasts strong attendance at halfway point

Biennale boasts strong attendance at halfway point

SINGAPORE - In less than two months, the crowd-pleasing Singapore Biennale 2013 has drawn more than 210,000 visitors, surpassing attendance figures for the last two editions in 2008 and 2011.

The large-scale contemporary art exhibition comprises more than 100 artworks by 82 artists and artist collectives. And unlike previous editions, which had an international focus, the spotlight this year is on art from South-east Asia.

The audience has also been engaging with the Biennale on a deeper level through curator and artist-led workshops and talks. Attendance for these activities has averaged 85 per cent.

Dr Susie Lingham, 48, director of the Singapore Art Museum, which organised this year's Biennale, says: "We are extremely pleased by the positive response from visitors thus far. Attendance to date has far exceeded the past two editions and demonstrated that the South-east Asian focus has clearly resonated with audiences here."

The four-month-long exhibition, which was launched in late October, has attracted 210,443 visitors around its halfway mark. The number surpasses total attendance to the 2011 edition, which attracted a total of 196,000 visitors during its two-month run.

Attendance at the halfway mark for this year's Biennale also posts a jump from the 2009 edition, which had 194,100 visitors for the same period; its total visitorship was 505,200. The inaugural Biennale in 2006 drew more than 800,000 but the figure includes visitors to its outdoor venues as well.

Dr Lingham says the organisers have likewise received encouraging feedback from visitors.

"Those we have spoken to have commended the curatorial team for boldly choosing to present works from the region that are fresh and exciting, providing diverse and layered perspectives of South-east Asia's contemporary art scene," she says.

She adds that works such as Ken + Julia Yonetani's Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nuclear Nations have also "drawn strong reactions and encouraged dialogue".

The installation by the Australia-based artist duo features 31 chandeliers with its glass beads made of uranium, a naturally occurring element with radioactive properties. The work aims to explore people's fear of radiation, among other issues.

While the authorities had cleared the artwork for public display in the basement of the National Museum, after confirming that it emits only a small amount of radiation, some visitors were concerned about its safety.

The museum has since enlarged the print of the advisory for the exhibit, which is placed at the entrance to the gallery showing the work, and included a note to say that it poses no health risk.

Art lover and financial consultant Angela Lau, 35, who has visited the Biennale on three occasions and attended a lecture featuring architectural historian Lai Chee Kien on his Biennale installation, National Theatre@50, says: "I am used to seeing international artists at the previous Biennales so I did not know what to expect with the South-east Asia focus this year. But it was suitably provocative and an eye-opener on the potential of South-east Asian artists and what is available in our backyard."

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