News From:The Straits Timesposted on 19 February at 5:12 PM
19 February at 5:12 PM

New head of National Art Gallery Chong Siak Ching wants the art to come first

By Deepika Shetty

The new head of the National Art Gallery, Singapore believes "the art has to come first".

Ms Chong Siak Ching steps down from her post as president of business-space solutions provider Ascendas to become chief executive of the Gallery on April 1.

The multiple award-winning businesswoman says the opportunity to take on this new challenge was just what she was looking for.

The energetic Ms Chong, who looks a lot younger than her 54 years, tells Life!: "When this opportunity came up, I felt it resonated with what I have already been doing - promoting Singapore's expertise and competencies. Art is an area I am particularly interested in and it gives us a chance to promote Singapore through art."

She is not completely new to the idea of art and business - Ascendas has brought in art into the real estate space under her watch. In 2005, it commissioned 14 large-scale paintings by Singapore-based P.Gnana for the International Tech Park in Chennai. To mark its 10th year, 10 creative individuals ranging from visual artists to designers to chefs were commissioned to create works exploring the concept of infinite space.

In an hour-long interview, she is frank, forthright and shows clarity of vision for the next big job she is embarking on.

"I am not in any way artistically inclined in that I don't draw, paint or sculpt," she says. "I am not a practitioner, that is why I have great admiration and appreciation for artists. I have been a passionate collector and supporter of the arts."

Many of her artworks have been picked up during her extensive travels all over the world. "The entrance to my home in Braddell Heights is through an 80-year-old wooden door from South India. It is a memory of the time I have spent in India over the years. I collect a lot of miniature paintings. I do not have a particular area of interest, it is what appeals to me and what I can hang in my home," she says.

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