︎Born in Seremban, Malaysia, Teo Han Wue was educated mainly in Chinese-medium schools in Malaysia before entering the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur where he graduated with a Masters degree in Chinese Studies. During the 1980s he wrote art reviews as a freelance for the The Straits Times, which he later joined as editor of its now defunct Bilingual Section. Between 1992 and 2002, Han Wue served as Director at the National Arts Council Singapore in various capacities, ranging from Arts Development to Research and Publications. From 2004 to 2012 he was the director of Art Retreat Incorporating the Wu Guanzhong Gallery, a private museum. Han Wue occasionally contributes a column in The Sunday Times.


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Transcripts of interviews between Teo Han Wue and Chow Yian Ping


  1. Formative years
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  2. A career in the arts
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  3. On Kuo Pao Kun, Wu Guanzhong and the Singapore art scene
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  4. Development of the arts in Singapore
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Interviewer: Chow Yian Ping • Transcriber: Chong Gua Khee • Editors: Chow Yian Ping and Khim Ong • Translator: Khim Ong • Sound editor: Toh Hun Ping

Chow Yian Ping: So, like you have mentioned, with incidents like Josef Ng’s and Vincent Leow’s, the government, because they are in the face of public controversy, have to make immediate responses. Do you think it’s because the country’s development of a… Because we were still at a nascent stage?

Teo Han Wue: This can be said to be a learning curve. I think in this, for example, how should I put it, like Josef Ng’s case or some other case, Kuo Pao Kun then made a comment which I think was rather apt. Because when the National Arts Council was established, there was a group of artists appointed as advisors, so-called Arts Advisors. So, when the government, when the National Arts Council… In fact, the National Arts Council was acting on behalf of the [then] Ministry of Information and the Arts; it could not be acting on its own, right. So, the point Kuo Pao Kun raised was: you appoint us as advisors, but when you encounter such a situation, you do not consult us. You see? There was no consultation and they immediately… So, this consultation process was bypassed, skipped. But the procedure required that this be done but maybe they were in a haste or something, there wasn't such a step.
Since we have advisors, we should sit down with them to discuss what to do with the situation. Do we need to state a position or how should we deal with the issue, or something. Or, how do we take the next step to encourage a… say, organise a seminar to discuss this issue. There wasn’t any such step. So, it became, what we called, short circuited. Discourse, as what we mentioned earlier. In a situation like this, the government’s opinion becomes very important. In fact, there should be an opportunity for those in the critics’ circle to voice their comments, a platform for discussion. So, I think, maybe in the process of our development, we had not considered this perspective.︎

Transcript excerpt from 2. A career in the arts ︎

About the interviewer:
Chow Yian Ping is a senior correspondent at the SPH Chinese Media Group. She writes long reads and features. Between 2004 and 2008, Yian Ping was assistant director and curator at the Singapore Art Museum. Her published works include Southeast Asia Modern Art (co-authored with Kwok Kian Chow, Guangxi Art Publishing House). She has curated exhibitions in Singapore and overseas which include: Encounters – Southeast Asian art in the Singapore Art Museum collection; the 5th Shenzhen International Ink Biennale – Singapore Modern Ink; Idealism – Zeng Fanzhi; Xu Beihong in Nanyang. She was also a lead organiser for the 2nd Asian Art Museum Directors’ Forum hosted in Singapore. In 2016, she was on the specialist panel of the Singapore Cultural Medallion award.

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