Announcing New Leadership

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore) announces a change in leadership effective 1 July 2024, when the Centre’s Founding Director, curator and educator Prof Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore) stepped down after more than 10 years at the helm of the institution. Bauer will continue to oversee her ongoing large-scale Ministry of Education’s research projects as Principal Investigator of Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss (Academic Research Fund Tier 2 Grant, 2021-2024) and as Senior Principal Investigator for the recently awarded Climate Transformation Programme (Academic Research Fund Tier 3 Grant 2023-2030) headed by Earth Observatory Singapore at NTU. She will continue to teach in the MA for Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices, a self-funded Masters Programme she co-founded and co-chaired at NTU’s School of Art, Design, and Media (NTU ADM).

Founded as a National Research Centre with a threefold mandate: exhibitions, residencies, research and academic education, the Centre welcomes its new Director, the curator, author, and educator Dr Karin G. Oen (United States/Singapore) as it continues its strong transdisciplinary approach to artistic research and knowledge production and redefining the Centre’s continued role within the University – as a curatorial body, a publisher, a convener of diverse collaborators, and a resource and thought partner for faculty, researchers, and students across many schools and colleges. Oen, a curator and museum educator with experience in the US at the Peabody Essex Museum (Massachusetts), the Crow Museum of Asian Art (Texas), and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (California), was previously NTU CCA Singapore’s Deputy Director, Curatorial Programmes (2019-2021). She is currently Senior Lecturer and Head of Department, Art History, at NTU’s School of Humanities (NTU SOH), and will retain her affiliations with NTU SOH while also overseeing NTU CCA Singapore’s programming, publications, exhibitions, and the evolution of the Centre’s artist-in-residence programmes. In its next phase the Centre’s residencies will continue to focus on artistic research and knowledge production in the arts, while increasing collaboration with NTU’s other Institutes, Centres, and laboratories tapping into the wealth of resources for artistic engagement that is offered by a University dedicated to research.

Bauer and Oen first crossed paths at MIT, where Oen received her PhD in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture (2006-2012) under the supervision of the art historian Caroline A. Jones (United States) and Bauer served as Director of the Visual Arts Programme (2005-2009) and Founding Director of the Programme in Art, Culture and Technology (2009-2012). Since 2019, the Bauer and Oen have collaborated on several NTU CCA Singapore exhibitions and programmes and worked together as co-authors, co-editors and co-teachers at NTU ADM. “I am honoured to return to CCA to continue the work of this important and unique research Centre,” says Oen. “In addition to contributing to research, programming, and publications that are visible to art worlds in the region and around the world, the Centre holds a special place in the complex ecosystem of NTU, a leading technological university. I look forward to working with artists, curators, educators, and students to explore new topics connected to the Centre’s established areas of inquiry including Spaces of the Curatorial, Curating the City, and Climates. Habitats. Environments. In 2024 and 2025, I hope to renew the Centre’s commitments to fostering critical thinking and writing; innovative exhibition-making; local, regional, and international coalition-building through the arts; and digging deeper into the connections between art and technology through diverse lenses including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.”

The Centre’s continuing staff includes longtime Senior Assistant Director Jasmaine Cheong (Singapore) and Dr Anna Lovecchio (Italy/Singapore), Curator, Programmes. This turning point also marks the departure of several dedicated staff: researcher and curator Magdalena Magiera (Germany/Singapore) who held various roles at the CCA since 2015 and recently joined Singapore’s ArtScience Museum as Senior Manager, Exhibitions; and Low Ming Aun (Singapore), the Centre’s Assistant Manager, Programmes & Operations since 2022.

Bauer said: “It’s been a great honour to serve as the CCA’s founding director for more than a decade and becoming an integral part of the country’s art ecosystem with a strong focus on artistic research, capacity building in the field of curating. Being a host to so many artists, curators but also a training ground for Singapore’s next generation cultural practitioners has been a rewarding task. I could not imagine a better suited successor as Dr Karin Oen, who endorses CCA in all its components, knowing it from the inside yet bringing a basket of fresh ideas to the table. I am certain with Karin as director, CCA will continue its thought-provoking role in the field. I am immensely grateful to the core founding and funding bodies – EDB, NTU, and NAC – and all the many contributors and staff, who worked with and along CCA over the past decade making it a recognised go-to entity in the field of Contemporary Art in the Singapore and a highly regarded partner in and for the SEA region.”  

Established in 2013 by NTU Singapore, over the past decade NTU CCA Singapore has shaped itself as a hub for curatorial experimentation and artistic research with a strong focus on Climate Change and its impact on all aspects of life. The centre’s inaugural exhibition Paradise Lost (2014) featured Zarina Bhimji (India/United Kingdom), Trinh T. Minh-ha (Vietnam/United States) and Fiona Tan (Indonesia/Netherlands). Its various programmes were guided and unified by the overarching research clusters PLACE.LABOUR.CAPITAL.(2013–2016) and CLIMATES.HABITATS.ENVIRONMENTS. (2017–ongoing). Under this unique institutional framework, NTU CCA Singapore has presented over 50 exhibitions and research presentations in its public exhibition spaces (Block 43, 2014–2021) designed by artist Fareed Armaly (United States/Germany). These range from Theatrical Fields (2014), Incomplete Urbanism (2016/2017) inspired by architect William S.W. Lim (Singapore), Ghosts and Spectres – Shadows of History (2017), The Oceanic (2017/2018), Trees of Life – Knowledge in Material (2018), Arus Balik: From below the wind to above the wind and back again (2019), The Posthuman City (2019/2020), and Non-Aligned (2020), to first institutional solo exhibitions in the region of ground-breaking artists such as Yang Fudong (China) in 2014/2015, Allan Sekula (United States), Simryn Gill (Australia/Malaysia), and Tomás Saraceno (Argentina/Germany) in 2015, Joan Jonas (United States), Charles Lim (Singapore), and Amar Kanwar (India) in 2016, Ulrike Ottinger (Germany) in 2017, Tarek Atoui (Lebanon/France) in 2018, Jef Geys (United States) in 2018/2019, Siah Armajani (Iran/United States) in 2019, and Trinh T. Minh-ha in 2020/2021. The Centre released 17 publications, amongst them Theatrical Fields: Critical Strategies in Performance, Film and Video (2016), Becoming Palm by Simryn Gill and anthropologist Michael Taussig (Australia/United States), and Saraceno’s award-winning Arachnid Orchestra. Jam Sessions in 2017, Place.Labour.Capital. and Voyages de Rhodes by Thảo Nguyên Phan (Vietnam) in 2018, The Impossibility of Mapping (Urban Asia) (2020), and Climates.Habitats.Environments. (2022). NTU CCA Singapore’s innovative exhibition series Free Jazz (2013, 2018, 2021, and 2022) and the large-scale programme series NTU CCA IdeasFest (2016/17, 2019/20, 2023) serve as examples of the type of flexible, impactful, and inclusive curatorial programming that will continue to iterate, as modes of engaging with diverse artists and artists’ collectives, independent curators, and other institutions from both beyond and within the arts. For example, the second iteration of NTU CCA IdeasFest was guest curated by IdeasCity, a collaborative, civic, and creative platform of the New Museum, New York.

Since 2014 the Centre’s residency programme has worked with and nurtured more than 210 Artists-, Curators-, and Researchers-in-Residence, among them 60 Singaporean artists and counting. Many of the projects developed by the artists during their residencies went on to be presented at international exhibitions, biennials, and festivals. Its public resource platform, programmes and conferences continue to engage with artists, curators, and critical thinkers across disciplines. The Centre was joined by 56 Young Professional Trainees over periods of six to eight months, contributing to capacity building in the arts sector. In 2018, NTU CCA Singapore and NTU ADM jointly inaugurated the self-funded Master of Arts Programme in Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices, the first of its kind in the region, that has since graduated 110 alumni that are actively working in the cultural sector in the region and around the world.

A registered Singapore publisher, the Centre has released 11 publications, including Tomás Sarceno. Arachnid Orchestra. Jam Sessions, winner of the 2018 Singapore Book Award for Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Book. Most recently, it published, with National Gallery Singapore, The Modern in Southeast Asian Art: A Reader (2023), edited by eminent art historians T.K. Sabapathy (Singapore) and Patrick D. Flores (Philippines/Singapore).

In a 2018 article in Ocula, writer and curator Robin Peckham summed up CCA’s impactful role:

CCA is maybe best described as a curatorial research institute and has become Singapore’s foremost hub for art among international networks… CCA sits within a series of concentric circles that expand its influence outward. At its centre, one finds a tightly engineered knot, a system built to allow for creative thinking by pulling sources, influences, and references inward from every direction and then to spit this energy back out in new, amplified forms. Founding Director Ute Meta Bauer accomplishes this through allocating equal emphasis to exhibitions, public programmes, publications, and residencies, and by affording each of these strands teams of intellectual heft. Where the raison d’être of most non-collecting contemporary art spaces is to stage exhibitions, with some public programmes to drive traffic, CCA builds the context it requires, creating platforms for diverse kinds of exchanges that are able to attract and reach out to targeted forms of publics, from artists and thinkers to university students.