SINGAPORE — The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has recently appointed Claire Chiang and Professor Lily Kong to its board of directors, while former board member of the National Heritage Board (NHB), Chang Hwee Nee, will be appointed its chief executive officer (CEO) from May 1.
All three female appointees are well regarded in their fields. Prof Kong, for example, is the Provost and Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Social Science at Singapore Management University. Her research focuses on society and culture, with a recent publication titled Arts, Culture and the Making of Global Cities.
Chiang is executive director of the Banyan Tree Gallery, a company that she founded. The former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) was also one of the first two women to be admitted to an all-male Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) in 1995, thanks to her business acumen.
Meanwhile, Chang, 54, is currently Deputy Secretary (Planning) of the Ministry of National Development, where she oversees policies relating to land use, greenery, biodiversity, construction, the built environment and food security. She also served as a member of the NHB Board from 2009 to 2015 and has a strong interest in Singapore’s heritage.
“Ms Chang’s leadership experience will be instrumental in leading NHB as it works with the Ministry to draw up the long-term heritage plan for Singapore, strengthen the museum and heritage ecosystem, enhance the outreach to schools, and engage the wider community,” said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in its media release on Monday (March 20).
Chang will take over from Rosa Huey Daniel, who was appointed CEO of National Arts Council from March 1, but has continued to oversee key projects at NHB pending the appointment of a new chief executive.
Daniel’s appointment was not without concern. Arts Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Kok Heng Leun, speaking on behalf of the arts community during Parliamentary debates earlier this month, said: “She is concurrently the CEO of NHB and Deputy Secretary of MCCY. I have no doubt of Ms Rosa’s credentials which will put her in good stead for the job, but her multiple posts beg the question as to how she will manage all of them, given the time and energy they require.”
He added: “Is there a lack of potential candidates for such leadership roles?”
Leadership uncertainty at SAM
Prof Kong said her appointment to the SAM board took place in late 2016. Chiang declined to comment as she has only attended one meeting as a board member so far. SAM was unavailable for official responses on these appointments.
Since its appointment in December 2013 by MCCY, SAM’s Board of Directors has witnessed a slew of changes.
All directors of the appointed board have left except for its Chair, Ex-Officio and two members. Besides Chiang and Kong, the board of directors has seen several new faces added over the years.
These include Philip Antony Jeyaretnam, global vice chair and regional CEO at law firm Dentons Rodyk & Davidson; Dr Imran bin Tajudeen, assistant professor at the Deptartment of Architecture at the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore (NUS); Collin Tseng-Liu, chief operating officer (Southeast Asia) at Baker & McKenzie LLP; Zulkifli Bin Baharudin, executive chairman at the Indo Trans Logistics Corporation; and Prof Brian McAdoo, college rector and professor of science at the Yale-NUS College.
The only mainstays on the board are Jane Ittogi, who is a partner at law firm Shook Lin & Bok, helming the museum’s board of directors as its chairman; Chong Siak Ching, chief executive at The National Gallery Singapore; Kenneth Choe, executive director at Goldman Sachs (Singapore); and Yeo Whee Jim, senior director of arts and heritage at MCCY as ex-officio.
Singapore’s first dedicated national contemporary art museum still faces questions about its major leadership vacuum coming to 10 months, since its CEO left in June 2016.
During Parliamentary debates on March 7, Kok said, “We have seen some major shifts in leadership at a few of our largest arts institutions. For instance, both CEO and Director of the Singapore Art Museum have left last year. But to date, no replacements have been announced.”
According to the museum’s spokesperson, the search for CEO is still underway. Also, SAM is looking into a “retrofit of our premises” since its official opening more than 20 years ago, with official announcement and details still in the works.
The museum premises itself have been closed temporarily for the de-installation of current exhibitions from March 20, with their upcoming exhibition children’s contemporary art exhibition, To The Ends of the Earth, to be held at SAM at 8Q from May 6.