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S’pore Art Museum abandons search for director, CEO

SINGAPORE — Over a year after its top two leadership positions were vacated, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has revealed it will not be filling the chief executive officer and director positions anytime soon.

SINGAPORE — Over a year after its top two leadership positions were vacated, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has revealed it will not be filling the chief executive officer and director positions anytime soon.

Responding to queries from TODAY, a SAM spokesman said: “The museum has been running with no interruption to programming and development plans under the guidance and support of the SAM Board Executive Committee, and during this time, there is no intention to continue the search for a museum director.”

It added that there was similarly “no intention” to continue the search for a CEO.

On the decision to stop the search, the SAM spokesman said: “SAM is fortunate to have capable and passionate staff in its various functional areas, and continues to run smoothly without interruption.”

She added: “During this time, as we focus on the development and programme planning for SAM, we will strengthen the team as and when necessary to ensure that SAM continues to deliver on its vision and mission.”

The revelation comes just after the SAM announced last week that it had appointed Dr June Yap as its new curatorial director overseeing SAM’s content creating starting Sept 1.

In the absence of a museum director and CEO, Yap will report to Ms Chong Siak Ching, who is deputy chair of the SAM Executive Committee of the Board and head of the Visual Arts Cluster overseeing the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, and Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

In June last year, marketing and arts management specialist Leng Tshua stepped down after less than a year as SAM’s CEO, while Dr Susie Lingham stepped down as museum director in March last year.

Several members of the arts community expressed concern about a national institution running without a museum director and CEO, even with Yap coming on board.

Nominated Member of Parliament for Arts Kok Heng Leun called Yap “a great asset to SAM”, but found it “baffling that Singapore Arts Museum, being one of the national institutions on contemporary arts, should run without a museum director and CEO. These are the two most important roles in the institution”, he said.

“While the institution is led by strong artistic leadership, it is (ideally) backed by an equally strong administrative and management support,” he added.

Affordable Art Fair director Alan Koh also raised the issue of striking a “balance”. He said while it is “great” to have a strong curatorial director lead the museum’s content, “I do think you need a balance between content creation and managing the operations as both work together”.

The concerns come as the SAM’s S$90 million revamp announced earlier this year to create “double-volume” spaces for large-scale art installations is under way.

Renovation works are slated to begin this year and be completed by 2021. Up to S$80 million will come from government funding and SAM will fund-raise the remaining S$10 million.

Managing director of arts consultancy Amador Arts Projects, Tanya Michele Amador, said: “I question how it is possible that any institution desiring to put its best foot forward in representing Singapore could run itself with one person expected to wear so many hats. Fundraising itself is a full-time job.” 

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