On Kawara: Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the Hills, 2004, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Goodman Road

For thirty years the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore has played a unique and significant role in the Southeast Asian contemporary art scene.

The ICA Singapore was founded in 1986 as the Dr Earl Lu Gallery, named in recognition of a major donation by Dr Earl Lu to LASALLE to support teaching and learning. Based at the LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts campus at 490 East Coast Road from 1986, and from 1995 at Goodman Road, it presented both contemporary and traditional arts, focusing on the perspective of the artist. During the first two decades, the gallery also developed the LASALLE College of the Arts Collection, acquiring significant paintings and sculpture by Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng, Lim Cheng Hoe, Seah Kim Joo, Chua Ek Kay, Jimmy Ong, Ang Kiu Kok, Sutee Kunavichayanont and the founder of LASALLE, Brother Joseph McNally, among others.

From 1996 to 2003, the gallery was directed by Binghui Huangfu, who developed major curated exhibitions of international contemporary art with an emphasis on visual arts from Asia. Highlights include In and Out, Text & Subtext: International Contemporary Asian Women Artists Exhibition, Site + Sight: Translating Cultures and Compound Eyes: Contemporary Visual Art from China.

The programme was refocused under the directorship of Eugene Tan (2003–08), during which time the gallery staged solo exhibitions by international artists including Antony Gormley, On Kawara and Lim Tzay Chuen. In keeping with the gallery’s increased focus on research emerging from LASALLE, in 2004 it was renamed the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, and in 2007 published a comprehensive publication on contemporary art in Singapore.

In 2007, LASALLE College of the Arts moved to its current award-winning campus designed by RSP Architects on McNally Street. With this new development, ICA Singapore was repurposed, inhabiting a new, dramatically increased footprint of seven galleries. In 2010, Charles Merewether was appointed Director. During Merewether’s tenure, the gallery maintained a dynamic exhibition and publishing programme, presenting numerous exhibitions of the work of LASALLE students and staff along with landmark solo presentations by artists including Roberto Chabet (2011) and Tang Da Wu (2013).

Melbourne-born curator Bala Starr joined ICA Singapore as Director in November 2013. Previously, she was Senior Curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, where she developed major single-artist projects and surveys, and thematic exhibitions. Under her direction, the programme explores new models for curatorial practice and exhibition development. It is produced in close collaboration with artists.

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