The Nanyang Technological University Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA) will be ceasing operations at the Gillman Barracks arts precinct in March 2021, said founding director Ute Meta Bauer.
As reported by Art Asia Pacific (AAP), local artist and blogger Jennifer Teo mentioned the news after a press meeting about an upcoming online benefit auction.
Earlier in January, NTU CCA—which is co-funded by NTU and the Economic Development Board—revealed that a financial restructuring resulted in a shortfall which it needed to cover. Unfortunately, its plan for a benefit in February 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19.
As AAP noted, the termination of the centre’s residencies and programs will be “a major blow” to the local art and cultural communities. The NTU CCA has been a place for critical discussion about regional and international topics in the country, which still has a rather strict speech and censorship laws.
In its tenure at the Barrack, NTU CCA has also maintained a running residency program for young artists, both regional and international; while also utilising the space for exhibitions, lectures, conferences, and the wildly popular Singapore Art Book Fair.
Speaking to AAP, the centre’s communications manager Cheryl Ho explained that while the centre will be leaving the Gillman Barracks, its educational link to NTU will “remain active” and that the organisation will continue to work in research and academic enquiry via art. It will also continue to development talent for the arts and culture sector in the country.
NTU CCA opened in the Gillman Barracks in 2013 and has had many exhibitions over the years which reflect its research-oriented agenda from marine ecology to urbanism, environmentalism, and reflections on colonialism in the region. Additionally, it features solo contemporary art figures such as filmmakers Yang Fudong and Amar Kanwar, sculptor Siah Armajani as well as multimedia art-science researchers like Tómas Saraceno.
The final exhibition that will be held in NTU CCA at Gillman Barracks is an exhibition of works by Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T Minh-ha, slated for 17 October 2020 to 28 February 2021.
With NTU CCA leaving, there is now a question mark over the future of the Gillman Barracks given that NTU CCA is an anchor tenant. The barracks—which have become a primary destination for contemporary art exhibitions in Singapore—is a government-funded cluster of contemporary art galleries and restaurants, opened in 2012. Only about 6 of the original tenants remain.
The closure of NTU CCA raises a question about the government’s commitment to investing in contemporary art and culture, especially now. While there is no argument that the government is focused on trying to assist people and businesses in weather the COVID-19 storm, how much is being done to help the arts and culture community who have suffered just as much?