Founded in 1986 as the Dr Earl Lu Gallery, named in recognition of a major donation by Dr Earl Lu to support teaching and learning at LASALLE, ICAS has played a unique and significant role in the Southeast Asian contemporary art scene for over 30 years.
During the first two decades, the gallery also developed the LASALLE Collection, acquiring significant paintings and sculptures 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 curated major 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 from 2003 to 2008, 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, it was renamed the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore in 2004 and in 2007, it published a comprehensive publication on contemporary art in Singapore.
In 2007, LASALLE College of the Arts moved to its current award-winning McNally campus.
Melbourne-born curator Bala Starr served as LASALLE's ICAS Director from 2013 to 2019. She was previously Senior Curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, where she developed major single-artist projects and surveys as well as thematic exhibitions. Under her direction, ICAS collaborated closely with artists to explore new models for curatorial practice and exhibition development.
On Kawara: Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the hills, 2004.