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Tina Yee-wan Pang. Competing for Venice

When the National Arts Council (NAC) of Singapore announced in August 2012 that it would not be participating in the 55th Venice Biennale (1 June-24 November 2013), its artists reacted with shock and consternation. Reportedly, the decision was made to ‘critically reassess its long-term participation’ and ‘re-examine the relevance of participating in future Venice Biennales’ ( The NAC nevertheless expressed its commitment to more opportunities for artists through schemes such as international residencies and partnerships. This is clearly not how it has been interpreted by the artists, who consider themselves to have been denied an opportunity to show at the oldest and most prestigious contemporary art platform in the world. In September 2012, more than 200 arts practitioners signed an open letter, published on, to the Minister of Information, Communication and the Arts, Yaacob Ibrahim, against the decision.

Framed as a debate concerning a small number of art-world insiders, controversies surrounding Hong Kong’s participation at Venice in 2013 have similarly deep implications for the momentum and direction of funding for the visual arts and arts administration here.

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