June Yap, Curator of Singapore Pavilion at 2017 Venice Biennale, Resigns

Project manager Neo Kim Seng had also quit, both citing ‘irreconcilable differences.’

Zai Kuning and June Yap. Photo courtesy National Arts Council Singapore.
Zai Kuning and June Yap. Photo courtesy National Arts Council Singapore.

As announcements of artist/curator teams for the 57th Venice Biennale continue to roll in, one has announced its withdrawal: curator June Yap and artist Zai Kuning, announced in August as the artistic duo to represent Singapore, have decided to split up, citing “differences in operational approaches,” according to a statement released by the National Arts Council of Singapore (NAC) on December 31.

In addition to Yap, project manager Neo Kim Seng has withdraw from the project as well. The NAC approved their request due to the mutual agreement of all three members of the team.

The original proposal, titled Dapunta Hyang—the name of the first Maharaja of the Southeast Asian city-state Śrīvijaya—outlined an expansion of Zai’s work over the past 20 years. It was to deal with the history of the Śrīvijaya empire and Malay language, with a focus on the Malay Orung Laut, or sea gypsies, with whom the artist has spent time.

It was billed by the NAC to be “his most complex and intricate installation to date.” Despite the original team’s irreconcilable differences, the fate of the prolific project is not doomed; the NAC will continue to work with Zai to see it through. It will expand the project team if need be, and, as Low Eng Teong of the NAC is quoted in Channel News Asia’s report, the realization of Dapunta Hyang is “underway and on track,” and “Everything else including the planned opening of the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is on schedule.”

The 57th Venice Biennale runs from May 13 until November 26, 2017.


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