The Curator is Present: Office Hours for Art Conversations The Curator is Present: Office Hours for Art Conversations

The Curator is Present:
Office Hours for Art Conversations

  • 05 Apr 2022

SAM is not just a place to see exhibitions or meet artists, but you could interact with the museum’s curators too! SAM curator Selene Yap tells us more about Office Hours, a pilot initiative to encourage more engagement between the museum and artists.

How did the idea for Office Hours come about?

Selene: As part of our direction to be a “constituent museum”, we reviewed our interaction with artists and representatives from art collectives and communities and noticed that there was a need to address limitations in networking. Hence, the idea of opening a channel for interaction between artists and curators was born.

Through this, we hope to create more opportunities to foster conversations with artists who might not otherwise have access to sources of cultural capital (e.g. gallery representation, prestigious residencies or coverage in publications) that would put them on the radar of other cultural producers and agents. With Office Hours, art practitioners can freely sign up to chat directly with members of the SAM curatorial team. The conversation does not need to have a predetermined outcome.

SAM curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa with artists from the SAM Residences.
SAM curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa (foreground, in black) hanging out with artists from the pilot SAM Residencies (clockwise, left-right) Chu Hao Pei, Salty Xi Jie Ng and Johann Yamin.

How is this different from how curators typically engage artists?

Selene: Currently, curators initiate the engagement with artists by making studio visits and conversations tend to be more outcomes driven. While the idea of making curators more accessible to the public is not new, we were looking for curatorial models of engagement that circulates through channels beyond our existing networks. The programme has been publicised to artists via the SAM website, eDM and targeted cohorts of art school students and artist collectives. Artists of any background or discipline can come by our new office at Tanjong Pagar Distripark and ask a member of the SAM curatorial team any questions they may have or to share their ideas and art practices. The topics do not have to be related to SAM’s ongoing exhibitions – even if they just want to find out what a day is like for a curator at SAM, we will be happy to share!

Audiences at SAM’s new space at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
Office Hours builds upon SAM’s other public programmes, such as Dear Singapore Art Museum Acquisition Committee, a recent artist talk held at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

Who do you hope will sign up for these sessions?

Selene: For a start, we are reaching out to the artistic community in this pilot run. We look forward to sharing insights about our work or about the SAM collection. More importantly, we hope to have conversations in which both artist and curator can ask genuine questions, understand each other’s point of view and be curious about differences in views. After the pilot, we hope to extend the invitation to the public and engage other communities as well.

What can artists who sign up for Office Hours look forward to?

Selene: Office Hours is fluid, informal and casual. Participants can look forward to engaging in constructive discussions with the curator on themes related to artistic and curatorial practice, discourses in the study of contemporary art and ask about questions about institutional workings. They can also explore SAM’s new space in Tanjong Pagar Distripark and walk through ongoing exhibitions with the curator. Last but not least, they can continue to stay connected with us as part of SAM’s long-term plans to grow its network of artists.

SAM office at Tanjong Pagar Distripark
Besides getting to meet curators, Office Hours’ attendees can visit SAM’s new office at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

How else is the SAM curatorial team making itself more accessible and inclusive?

Selene: The curatorial team will be launching a series of public seminars with leading curatorial and artistic voices in the field of contemporary art, identifying modes of working that could influence future research trajectories at SAM. We also plan to roll out a series of online content catered for different communities. For those focused on the arts, we have discursive articles that cover multiple research topics related to contemporary art. Whereas for the public, we will have informative and fun pieces connecting artworks to contemporary culture such as fashion, food, trending topics, etc.

Join us for the second cycle of Skill Futures featuring an online performance, 𝘈 𝘓𝘪𝘧𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘺𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘢𝘴𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘚𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 by Sungsil Ryu on 27th September 2023. Sign up now or learn more here !