Life Power List 2015: SG50 leads the way

This year, you could not throw a stone without hitting an SG50 concert, play or exhibition.

Events marking Singapore's Golden Jubilee blitzed the Singapore entertainment, lifestyle and arts sectors. Love it or hate it, there was no ignoring it.

The annual Life Power List reflects the year's zeitgeist with a slew of creative types who have contributed films, books, songs and designs to the landmark celebrations.

Half of the people in the top 10 made it for SG50-related work. Together, these thought-provoking efforts explore what the milestone year means for themselves and Singapore.

The Life Power List began in 2005. It features those who have seized the public's attention, burnished Singapore's position on the world stage or inspired others to act.

This year was one of culture, marked no less by the opening of an ambitious $532-million museum 10 years in the making and targeted to be the foremost authority on South-east Asian art.

Fulfilling these high hopes and more is the National Gallery Singapore, whose successful opening placed both its director Dr Eugene Tan (No. 1) and principal architect Jean Francois Milou (No. 8) on the list.

Others in the top 10 include designer Jackson Tan (No. 7) who was behind the ubiquitous SG50 logo, film-maker Royston Tan (No. 3) who spearheaded the acclaimed 7 Letters movie that paid tribute to Singapore, and multihyphenate entertainer Dick Lee (No. 9) who was creative director of the National Day Parade, composed its theme song and also wrote the score for the sold-out The LKY Musical.

The list also welcomes first-timers who have carved out new paths in Singapore's culture and lifestyle scenes.

They include the team behind the inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition (No. 15) and the Michelin inspector (No. 2), who right now, in his assessment of Singapore's food offerings, will determine how the country's dining scene is presented to the world when Singapore's first Michelin Guide is launched next year.

Steering National Gallery

1) DR EUGENE TAN, 43, director of National Gallery Singapore

His job was to set up Singapore's flagship art museum in two of the country's most iconic civic monuments and open it in time for the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Costing $532 million and taking 10 years to get off the ground, during which it encountered a few construction mishaps, the National Gallery Singapore finally threw open its doors on Nov 24.

Presenting Singapore dining to the world


Singapore's debut Michelin Guide is set to be launched in the second half of next year and, right now, the most powerful people on the food scene are the Michelin inspectors who are assessing the food offerings in Singapore.

The team, said to number 20, will decide which restaurants - and, possibly, hawker stalls - get into the guide.

Driving 7 Letters

3) ROYSTON TAN, 39, film-maker and executive producer of 7 Letters

In a year of a bumper crop of Singapore-produced films, one project stood out.

When tickets to the initial screenings of anthology 7 Letters were first released online, they were snapped up within hours.

Graphic success

4) SONNY LIEW, 40, graphic novelist

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is one of the year's most prominent literary titles.

The 300-page graphic novel's controversial retelling of Singapore's tumultuous history via the life of a fictional comic artist has landed it in a debate over mainstream and alternative historical narratives, a discussion much needed in a year of introspection as the Republic celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Rocking the airwaves


Nobody took them seriously when veteran radio presenters Glenn Ong and Flying Dutchman, whose real name is Mark Van Cuylenburg, said that they were done with radio last year.

The pair, who hosted the morning show of Mediacorp's Class 95FM from 2004 to 2013, had quit at almost the same time.

A green landmark

6) SOUTH BEACH, Singapore's largest mixed-used development

In the eight years it took to complete South Beach, the developers faced a financial crisis, a change of venture partners and a tough design brief that involved work with heritage buildings.

But their efforts have paid off. South Beach finally opened in stages this year to generally positive reviews.

The man behind the little read dot

7) MR JACKSON TAN, 41, creative director behind the SG50 logo

Printed on banners, plastered on sales promotions and sprayed onto the sides of buses, the SG50 logo was ubiquitous this year.

Whatever your feelings towards it, you could not escape this red circle with letters SG and the number 50 in a bold white Gotham Typeface font, since it was tagged onto every kind of publicity material imaginable to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee.

Designing the National Gallery

8) MR JEAN FRANCOIS MILOU, 61, architect behind the National Gallery Singapore

When the doors to the National Gallery Singapore opened last month, it was the final stage of what architect Jean-Francois Milou, 61, says has been the biggest project and proudest achievement of his career.

The French, Singapore-based architect has spent seven years on the demanding $532-million project, converting two landmark municipal buildings - the former Supreme Court and City Hall - into a stunning visual arts institution, which houses the world's largest collection of South-east Asian art.

Pulling off the biggest show in town

9) DICK LEE, 59, creative director of the National Day Parade and composer of theme song, Our Singapore

The National Day Parade is arguably the most spectacular show in town and interest was keener than ever this Golden Jubilee year.

The multi-talented singercomposer Dick Lee was not only the creative director of the entire enterprise, but he was also tasked with coming up with the theme song.

Taking arts festival to the community

10) ONG KENG SEN, 52, festival director, Singapore International Festival of Arts

In a year packed with performances to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday, the second edition of the revamped national arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa), still drew 62,000 viewers - nearly three times last year's crowd.

Poster girl for start-up success

11) MS ALEXIS HOROWITZ-BURDICK, 33, founder of Luxola

Founder of beauty e-tailer Luxola, Ms Alexis Horowitz-Burdick, is undoubtedly 2015's poster girl for start-up success, after her four- year-old business was acquired in June by French luxury goods conglomerate Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, better known as LVMH.

Though financial details have not been released, industry insiders believe the deal to be in the tens of millions - making it one of the largest acquisition deals to have taken place in the past three years and rightly earning her a debut spot on the Power List.

Starting Singapore's biggest literary award

12) MR EDMUND WEE, 63, publisher, Epigram Books

For putting his money where his mouth is - starting the $20,000 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, Singapore's richest literary award - publisher Edmund Wee scores a slot on this year's Life Power List.

This marks the fourth time that Mr Wee, who is 63 and married with two children, has made the list. He debuted on the list in 2011 for reprinting classic Singapore works and publishing the best new local plays.

Putting Singapore in global spotlight

13) MR TAN BOON HUI, 45, director of the Asia Society Museum and also vice-president for the society's Global Arts and Cultural Programs

This year, another arts administrator puts Singapore in the international spotlight with his move to New York.

Former Singapore Art Museum director Tan Boon Hui makes it to the Power List for positioning Singapore's cultural power in France and for his appointment as director of the Asia Society Museum as well as the society's vicepresident for Global Arts and Cultural Programs.

Rising Star

14) SUFIE RASHID, 24, singer

Rising singer Sufie Rashid is about to follow in the footsteps of home-grown artists such as Ramli Sarip and M. Nasir who ventured beyond Singapore and cracked the much bigger entertainment industry in Malaysia.

In October, he made headlines in both countries when he became the first Singaporean to win the popular Malaysian reality singing show Akademi Fantasia.

Orchestrating Singapore's biggest violin contest

15) TEAM BEHIND THE SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL VIOLIN COMPETITION, among them, Associate Professor Qian Zhou, 47, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory head of strings, and Professor Bernard Lanskey, 55, conservatory director

Boasting a star-studded international jury and the heftiest top prize for a music competition here yet, the Singapore International Violin Competition placed the country on the classical music map.

Two of the main players behind the competition are the conservatory's head of strings Qian Zhou, who also chaired the nine- member jury, and its director Bernard Lanskey.

National chef

16) MS VIOLET OON, 66, chef-owner of her eponymous restaurant in Bukit Timah Road and the new National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery Singapore

It is a testimony to Ms Violet Oon's culinary credentials that nobody bats an eyelid that her new restaurant is boldly called National Kitchen.

The 3,000 sq ft set-up at the National Gallery Singapore has won praise for serving delicious Singapore dishes from the Chinese, Indian, Malay, Eurasian and Peranakan communities, in an elegant setting.

Zouk's dark horse buyers


It was news that shook up the nightlife scene this year: A company known for running cruise ships and casinos has bought over Singapore's most famous club, Zouk.

This seemingly incongruous acquisition by Genting Hong Kong, which runs Star Cruises, was sealed for an undisclosed sum.

Widening reach of writers fest

18) YEOW KAI CHAI, 47, Singapore Writers Festival director

This year's Singapore Writers Festival, which broadened its line-up to include music, drama, dance and art events, proved a hit, drawing an audience of about 19,700, with ticket sales growing by 30 per cent compared with those last year.

Its director Yeow Kai Chai, a poet and former Straits Times journalist, debuts on the Power List for giving the literary festival a multi-faceted direction while retaining its mass appeal.

Visionary duo

19) MR ZHANG WENJIE, 41, festival director, Singapore International Film Festival, and MS YUNI HADI, 39, executive director

At the Singapore International Film Festival screening of Cemetery Of Splendour (2015), award-winning Thai film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul had said the occasion meant more to him than being screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

His film about Thailand's recent social and political history would probably not be allowed in his country without cuts. Weerasethakul, who won the Palme d'Or in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, had said he would never censor his work.

Knocking on China's door

20) KIT CHAN, 43, singer

She might have been eliminated from China's televised competition I Am A Singer 3 twice, but singer Kit Chan still ended up winning big.

The high-profile stint opened doors in mainland China, leading to the home-grown singer's first regional tour and a recently inked contract with major Chinese record label Taihe Music Group. The music group is merging with search engine giant Baidu's music platform, Baidu Music.

This article was first published on Dec 20, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.