The year 2020 till date has been a year that all of us around the world would want to cancel and write it off immediately. A global pandemic Covid-19 has swept the Earth off her feet, causing massive impacts to the world economy, international travel and tourism, our daily living. Everyone of us is affected by the impacts, some industries suffered more greatly than others. Arts and creative industries have been severely hit by this global pandemic. As a commercial photographer, I am going through this very challenging and difficult period. For the local arts community in Singapore, there is a new art initiative being launched, titled Proposals for Novel Ways of Being.

How did this name “Proposals for Novel Ways of Being” come about?

Go back a few months back in time, do you remember the initial name of the global pandemic that is now universally known/classified as COVID-19? Proposals for Novel Ways of Being bears reference to the earlier name of the virus “2019 Novel Coronavirus”, a sombre yet hopeful reminder that this COVID-19 is not the world’s first global pandemic or the first crisis the world has encountered, nor will be it be the last. This would be a reminder for the human race, the society, to seek, adapt and adopt new ways of being.

National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum have come together to launch a new local initiative of unprecedented scale and scope, a project that see museums joining forces with 10 other local art institutions and independent art spaces and collectives to present a series of exhibitions and programmes, in both physical and online environments, featuring the works of over 170 local artists and cultural workers. Presenting “Proposals for Novel Ways of Being”, a united response by the visual arts community to the changes brought by the global pandemic COVID-19, a wide range of art experiences exploring new ways of living in a world forced to change by this pandemic and imagining new possibilities for the future.

Elaborating on the compelling reasons behind the development of the Proposals for Novel Ways of Being initiative, Dr Eugene Tan, Director, National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum says, “As we grapple with the “new normal”, we consider how art can respond to the global pandemic and propose new possibilities for our changed world, as well as how it can inspire hope in these times. As national art institutions, we ask ourselves how we can show solidarity with the local network of independent art spaces, institutions and collectives to engage and support members of the art community, and how we can highlight the role that art can play in times of crises such as the current pandemic.

The Programme Partners of Proposals for Novel Ways of Being include seven institutions: ADM Gallery, NTU School of Art, Design and Media; LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore; National Gallery Singapore; National Museum of Singapore; NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore); Singapore Art Museum; STPI, and five independent art spaces and collectives: Coda Culture; Grey Projects; INTER-MISSION; soft/WALL/studs; and The Substation.

To support the wider network of art professionals and practitioners, Programme Partners have invited independent guest curators to each propose projects that involve up to 15 artists based in Singapore. The projects presented can include new commissions or existing works, and may take the form of physical or digital exhibitions, and include programmes such as talks, performances and community engagement events.

Audiences can look forward to

  • Coda Culture’s exhibition, which brings together artists who produce works using found objects;
  • National Gallery Singapore’s range of works by a diverse group of emerging contemporary artists, which embody poetic contemplation;
  • National Museum of Singapore’s series of digital works created in collaboration with artists and creatives, which respond to the pandemic;
  • NTU CCA Singapore’s showcase of experimental works by artists who engage with sound, bodily movements and performances;
  • Singapore Art Museum’s presentation of contemporary artworks that reflect on the passage of time and various acts of care-taking; and
  • soft/WALL/studs’ suite of interconnected activities and projects that navigate the themes of (dis)repair, maintenance, and cultivation by artists and curators, presented on digital platforms and at their physical site.

For more information on Proposals for Novel Ways of Being, please visit and keep a lookout for the various exhibitions and programmes taking place soon between August 2020 and February 202.

As a fellow creative in the photography circle, I am able to relate the situation that other arts and creative industry folks are going through. Let’s give them the support and encouragement during this difficult time arising from the global pandemic situation.

We are all in this together as a nation. The journey ahead is still going to be more turbulent and choppy. Let’s all be #SGUnited together facing this global crisis and overcome it!

* Information and picture courtesy of National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum and Ogilvy Singapore *

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