Public Program

Curator Talk: Shabbir Hussain Mustafa – ‘Siapa Nama Kamu?’ Some remarks about art history and curatorial practice in Singapore

2018. 9. 11. 5pm

Art Sonje Center B1 Art Hall

Curator Talk: Shabbir Hussain Mustafa – ‘Siapa Nama Kamu?’ Some remarks about art history and curatorial practice in Singapore

For a while now, the question of the modern as a concern of curatorial practice and art historical analysis have been emerging as distinct fields largely within the museum and the academy respectively. These questions have also stressed the need for a systematic critique in attending to the modern, especially from vantage points outside of Euroamerica.
The field of Art History has done much to promote such a project. But in many ways, the critique has also played out as a theoretical endgame. In Art History After Modernism (2003), Hans Belting theorizes this tendency, “Those commenting on art or art history today see each theory they might seek to promote already devalued by any number of other theories. One can no longer take a position that has not already been advanced in another form. It is best to insist on the standpoint one has decided upon and to accept that others will find it mistaken or, if they agree, probably have misunderstood it. This is a time of monologue, not of dialogue.” Belting’s complaint is that within Art History a form of analysis has emerged that privileges an essentially active and resistant subject of the modern. From this perspective, it does not matter what kind of artworks you look at because potentially it is all open to being used in a similarly ‘creative’ and ‘subversive’ way at the point of consumption. While the historical reasons for this approach can be partly explained by earlier formulations that took the subject of the modern as passive, the result is now an endless search for the progressive within the dominant, a search that seems to be locked into telling the same story repetitively.
Launched in 2015 at the National Gallery Singapore, Siapa Nama Kamu? (What is your name?) is an ongoing survey of 400 artworks about Singapore from the late 19th century to present that takes on some of these burgeoning issues. The presentation will attend to these issues by weaving together a series of fragments associated with the history of curatorial work in Singapore since the mid-1950s.

About the Curator
Shabbir Hussain Mustafa is currently Senior Curator at the National Gallery Singapore and was formerly Curator (South-Southeast Asia) at the National University of Singapore Museum. In 2015, Mustafa curated SEA STATE featuring artist Charles Lim Yi Yong for the Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. At the National Gallery Singapore, he heads the curatorial team overseeing Between Declarations and Dreams, a long-term exhibition that surveys art about the region from the nineteenth century to present. In 2017, Mustafa was awarded the DAAD Scholarship in Berlin for his curatorial work. He was also co-curator of the Dhaka Art Summit 2018, where he presented The Sunwise Turn, an interdisciplinary project platform on the philosopher-curator Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy. Most recently, he co-curated with Catherine David, Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960-1969), an exhibition that traces the painter-poet Latiff Mohidin’s movements across Europe and Southeast Asia as he sought to challenge the dominance of Western modernism in the 1960s.

*Consecutive translation between English and Korean will be provided.



2018. 9. 11. 5pm
Art Sonje Center B1 Art Hall
Shabbir Hussain Mustafa(National Gallery Singapore, Senior Curator)
Organized by
Art Sonje Center