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Singapore Art Museum announces Lee Wen. Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real

The Singapore Art Museum presents Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, on view 20 April–10 June 2012, the first major solo exhibition by one of Singapore’s most internationally renowned artists, Lee Wen.

Lee Wen, “Journey of a Yellow Man No.1,” 1992. Performance with red chain and solid fuel at City of London Polytechnic, London (April 1992). Image courtesy of artist.

The third in a series of annual solo shows initiated by SAM to present the practice of established local contemporary artists who came to prominence during the pivotal late 1980s to early 1990s when contemporary art practice entered the public imagination in Singapore. Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real follows successful solo exhibitions by Lee’s contemporaries, Vincent Leow (Tags & Treats: Works by Vincent Leow in 2010) and Amanda Heng (Amanda Heng: Speak To Me, Walk With Me in 2011), presented by SAM.

A multidisciplinary artist, Lee is recognised for delivering complex, layered works that deal with contemporary issues of society, politics, culture, and identity. His personal responses to challenging experiences as an individual in society, as well as his practice of integrating myth and metaphor to reflect on life and reality are meant to provoke dialogue and invite audiences to reconsider their roles in society, just as he does. A pioneer and champion of Singapore performance art, Lee is best known for his Yellow Man series, where his body is covered in bright yellow pigment to express his ethnic identity in a striking manner.

Mr. Tan Boon Hui, Director of SAM, says, “We are excited to continue our series of solo showcases with an exhibition by Lee Wen. An iconic figure in Singapore’s contemporary art scene, Lee Wen’s practice reflects his commitment to art that is rooted in local Singaporean issues but yet resonates with the world at large. Some of the exhibits invite interaction and will offer museumgoers a different exhibition experience each time they visit and also challenge everyone to think differently and critically. Through times good or challenging, Lee Wen has continued to dedicate his life to his practice, which encompasses the written word, music, sound, and interactive or participative installations with performance. He is an inspiration for all today.”

Curated by SAM senior curator Khairuddin Hori, the exhibition delves into Lee’s practice and showcases over 40 quirky, engaging and interactive works from his 25-year-long illustrious career that span genres including installations, photographs, videos, documentations and performance art. It comprises both early and recent works including rarely seen works and those originally performed overseas. These include works from Lee’s iconic Yellow Man series; Art vs Art No.1 (2003), a remote-controllable “durian vacuum” that cheekily comments on the arts funding situation in Singapore, and Ping-Pong Go Round (1998–2012), a doughnut-shaped table tennis table aimed at encouraging dialogue and challenging perceptions. One of the works made specially for this exhibition at SAM, Deviant: ten days nine not seen, enter mountain meet big worm (2012), plays with the Chinese characters forming the dialect word benlou used in North East China to describe deviant behaviour of foreigners, and invites audiences to look at them from different perspectives, altering the meaning of the phrase.

A revised work that will be presented for the first time in Singapore at SAM, Songs of Sisyphus in the Key of Narcissus (2012), will feature a series of ‘live’ performances with collaborators throughout the exhibition period. An installation of mountain of cardboard boxes stacked from floor to ceiling, the work also incorporates a recording studio. Visitors can perform a piece of music or witness Lee host spontaneous jamming sessions and dialogue sessions.

To accompany the exhibition, a publication Singapore Contemporary Artist Series: Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, will be launched on 11 May 2012 to provide comprehensive documentation of Lee’s practice, including his overseas showcases and reconstructed works. There will also be performance art workshops by the artist, a dialogue with Lee and exhibition tours.

Singapore Art Museum
71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555

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