Monday, November 24



: Italian for "every other year"
: An event that occurs every two years
: Commonly used within the art world to describe an international manifestation of contemporary art

"Wonder" is a feeling of surprise and admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected or unfamiliar, and as a verb, it is not only to “feel curious” or “desire to know”, but also to "feel doubt"
- Concise Oxford Dictionary, 11th Edition, pp1658, 1859.


In recent years the Singapore Government has made effort to increase interest in and heighten awareness of the Arts Scene in Singapore through the organisation of various events. One such event was the Singapore Biennale, an art exhibition that collects the works of modern day artists all around the world.

The inaugural Singapore Biennale 2006 provided not only an international stage for Singaporean artists, it also provided opportunities for curators, art businesses, and helped to “facilitate exchange and collaborations for the global arts community” (Lee Suan Hiang, CEO, National Arts Council).

Having had great success from Singapore Biennale in 2006 with a massive 103 million audience count, and having received positive feedback from both media and public, Singapore Biennale 2008 was hosted.

This year’s Biennale boasts of 66 artists and a collection from more than 35 countries and regions. Contemporary art pieces showcased how various artists defined the theme ‘Wonder’.
The purpose of this blog is to evaluate and identify how the various components of the event marketing mix had been adopted, as well as the overall effectiveness of these components in contributing to its success and the Singapore tourism economy.

The reflections will be based on personal experience through a fieldtrip undertaken on 8 November, and online research.


Traditional 4Ps


Singapore Biennale 2008 was selling the experience of ‘Wonder’ and of viewing a splendidly compiled art gallery. Works of many renounced artists from Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Americas, such as Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Deborah Kelly, Isak Berbic, Hans op de Beeck, Anthony McCall, Isaac Montoya, Faisal Samra, Fujiko Nakaya, Ki-bong Rhee, and Felice Varini, to Southeast Asia and Singapore, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Heman Chong, Shubigi Rao, Tang Ling Nah and Willie Koh and Sherman Ong were displayed.

As the theme of the exhibition was ‘Wonder’, the art works featured different interpretations of the word to instil feelings of ‘amazement’ and ‘awe’ in the viewer. The physical product – the art piece – evokes an emotional response from the viewer. In that sense, it is like getting two products for the price of one.

Guided tours were also a service product offered at the exhibition. Guides around the main exhibition venues (City Hall & South Beach Development) provided explanations of the origins of each art piece, and they also helped to interpret the implied meaning behind it. This was particularly helpful to the visitors; it helped us understand what the artist had in mind when creating the art piece.


The exhibition was located at the city centre, with the art pieces scattered and displayed close to various old and new monuments and landmarks. These included the South Beach Development building, City Hall, Raffles City Shopping Centre, One Raffles Quay, Collar Quay, Central Promontory Site, the Esplanade Bridge, Suntec City Mall, and newly built tourist attraction – The Singapore Flyer.

“Key to the exhibition is also in the selection of the venues within walking distance that are best able to present the artworks and engage visitors in a meaningful way.”

By setting the venue at various locations within walking distance from each other, the Biennale encourages the visitor to stroll along the central business district to take in the historical and cultural landscape of Singapore. From the rustic City Hall to the developing Marina Bay, visitors would have to travel from one location to another if they want to explore the other art exhibits.

Displaying the art pieces in the heart of the city was also very useful as these places are common tourist attractions. Tourists who were travelling around the area on their own could chance upon the ongoing exhibition and might be interested to view the exhibits. Tickets were readily available for immediate purchase.


The set price for an adult Biennale Pass was S$10, while a S$5 pass was offered to full time students, senior citizens aged 60 years and above, as well as children below 3 years old. This pass entitled visitors to a one-time entry to the City Hall and South Beach Development exhibitions.

For the French Biennale - Biennale de Lyon 2005, tickets ranged from €2 - €10 and allowed once-only access to each of the five exhibition venues throughout the duration of the event, which is similar to the Singapore Biennale Pass. The amount, however, does not include a tour with commentary. For that extra service, tickets are priced at €5 - €12.
The Biennale of Sydney 2008, on the other hand, provides free admission and even offers free ferry service to Cockatoo Island (one of the venues) everyday throughout the exhibition period.

In my opinion, charging S$10 for a contemporary art exhibition that included indoor locations is reasonable. Although when compared with the Biennale of Sydney, Singapore Biennale will lose out on the price factor as well as the service provided. Perhaps Singapore Biennale can provide more services such as shuttle bus services to the other art venues with a commentary tour while passing by the various important landmarks. In this way, people will feel that the money they paid to experience this event would be more justifiable.

All other art venues were complimentary except for the one exhibit at the Singapore Flyer, which is priced at S$21 per adult and S$20.65 per child/student on top of their purchased Biennale passes. The price of experiencing both the art and the ride within the Singapore Flyer is also much cheaper than the original adult price of S$29.50 and child price of S$20.65.

Complimentary exhibits were scattered around the city area and displayed as public art.
“Public art becomes an amenity for everyday life.” (Fumio Nanjo, Artistic Director, Singapore Biennale 2008)

These public art pieces offered community a glimpse of what the rest of the Biennale had in store for them. Interest parties could then purchase passes to view the other art exhibits at other venues.

Promotion & Programming

Before the exhibition, Singapore Biennale organised various programs to encourage advertising and sales promotions. These included the Vernissage, Encounters and the Kids’ Biennale.

The Vernissage was a preview held on the 9th and 10th September 2008 for VIP’S, invited guests, professionals and for the general public. Activities the usual – a press conference for international and local media, a gala dinner for invited guests, and an opening party for the public. This helps to start off the event and make an impression on important people such as VIPs and most importantly the press.
Impressing the press would definitely help promote the event as the media’s web of influence is global and strong. Singapore Biennale seems to have achieved that. “Singapore Biennale puts accent on wonder” titles the review of the exhibition on the International Herald Tribune.

The Encounter Series included interactions between the public and the art community behind the Biennale. Interactions ranged from artists’ talks, tours and lectures to public forums and dialogues. The purpose of this segment was to obtain feedback from the public as the Biennale was being organised, for the local public to feel “a sense of ownership” over the event. This is a good move to help make the general public feel involved in the massive event. These interactions also provided a platform for the budding artists in the country to learn from the experts and helping inspire more people to love art.

Kids’ Biennale was a new segment for Biennale. This year, the event designed a programme to introduce Primary School Children to the theme of ‘Wonder’. Art was brought into the classroom with the children’s artworks on ‘Wonder’ being displayed in the City Hall Kids’ Zone area. This does not only encourage the young to be creative and creates a whole new method to “Art Education”; it will also boost ticket sales through the parents and family members who purchase tickets to appreciate the children’s artwork. It will also create awareness of the event to locals via the children’s word-of-mouth.

However, this year, there seemed to be less advertising efforts made to promote the event. The first Biennale even put up posters and banners around the city area but I do not recall seeing any this year. Perhaps, they could improve promotion through the medium of print media to create more awareness of the event amongst the public.

The Other 3Ps


The first point of contact with staff/volunteers would be at the ticketing booth. I purchased my ticket at the City Hall exhibition venue.

The volunteers welcomed visitors and readily issued the Biennale Pass and a Guide book of the exhibition upon payment. There are also volunteers at almost every art exhibit to ensure visitors do not damage the art work in anyway. This helps in ensuring the safekeeping of the art pieces.
As stated in the Product Mix, there were guided tour sessions where one volunteer would take visitors around the exhibition, explaining about the art pieces in detail. This saves visitors the trouble of manually finding and reading the guide page by page to understand the underlying meaning behind each art work.

Other interactions with people behind the Biennale were during their promotional activities – the Vernissage and the Encounter Series. Encounter Series is especially interactive; the public can speak and listen to the people backstage, the organisers and even the artists themselves. Such exchanges with these people who created the Product for the event would definitely have helped to encourage host-guest relations.


The Singapore Biennale was organised by the Singapore Arts Council which is under the government, hence it would have been easier to facilitate partnerships.
Partners ranged from Raffles City Shopping Centre (Venue of One art piece – Fantasmas) to The Little Art Bug Workshop (helped in developing the Kids’ Biennale Segment) and to even the most recent tourist attraction - Singapore Flyer.

Partnering a popular Shopping Centre in the middle of the City Hall district would definitely help in advertising the event. Furthermore, the art piece was displayed across the front of the building and was extremely attention grabbing. Personally, I knew of Singapore Biennale 2008 through that art piece. Locals and tourists alike who love to shop would not miss it.

Developing Kids’ Biennale was definitely a successful move and with the help of The Little Art Bug Workshop, which already has many children attendees, Singapore Biennale shows that it reaches out not only to youths and adults who would like to appreciate art; it reaches out to children whose potential is the most bountiful. Proud parents and family members would be supportive of the event as it helped develop and showcase their children’s talents in art. This made the event suitable for families.

Sky Duet by Evan Tan and spell#7 was featured in the Singapore Flyer. It was a site specific audio installation hence visitors had to pay an additional S$21 per adult and S$20.65 per child/student on top of their purchased Biennale passes to experience the art work. I believe that this helped to promote Singapore’s latest attraction.

Packaging & Distribution

The Singapore Biennale 2008 has packaged itself such that it accommodates not only mature art lovers; it also feeds the young and passionate art enthusiasts with its Education & Outreach Programme.

“SB2008 is committed to building new arts audiences and broadening arts participation, thus bringing across exciting programmes that are designed to engage the young minds and the community at large.”

Other activities were organised other than the exhibition. These include the Biennale Race 2008, Wanderlust, Peer-led Guiding, School Tours, Wide Open Wonder (W.O.W) Trail and Unconference. All of which are reaching out to the youths aged between the Primary School to Junior College level. Educating the young about art would not only attract them to view the present exhibition, but future art exhibitions as well.


Place Marketing

Singapore Biennale is an art event that is not only for tourists, but for locals to appreciate as well. This year’s program seemed to involve locals more. The Exhibition volunteers were mostly youths and with the various programmes lined, Kid’s Biennale, Education Outreach Programme, it is evident that event organisers tried hard to include the participation of the local community rather merely focusing on international visitors.

The event has also played its part in boosting the Art Scene in Singapore. Tourists who had little knowledge of the sunny island now know how far urbanisation and development has taken the country.

The appreciation of the Arts is usually deemed as activities for the rich or educated. Showing these tourists that Singapore has extended Art education to even the young ones helps to weave a positive image of the country.

Tourist Attraction

The event itself has become a tourist attraction that occurs once every two years. The Singapore Biennale has become an international Arts affair ever since the success of the inaugural event held two years back which attracted a remarkably huge international audience. At the City Hall exhibition, it was visible that the crowd consisted of many tourists.

Furthermore, only a few days after the launch of Singapore Biennale 2008, the first ever Formula 1 Night Race took place in Singapore. The F1 race was an instant hit being a first in the region and brought a big boost in Singapore’s tourist arrivals. Having two large-scale events taking place consecutively would definitely help elongate the length of stay for visitors. It only makes sense that visitors stay longer to experience more of what Singapore has to offer. Longer stays naturally mean more visitors spending. After the F1 hype, visitors could take their time to explore Singapore and the ongoing Biennale event.

With the Biennale being held in different venues, tourists are encouraged to stay even longer, visiting a few venues a day.

Image Maker

Themed ‘Wonder’, art pieces that were meant to depict the theme were scattered around various locations in Singapore, helping to instil the feeling of wonder in curious passersby through the medium of art. The art helps to pause the hectic way of life in this bustling city and makes people stop, look, and understand.

Public Art is like the freedom of expression. This provides the image of a society that embraces a blend of cosmopolitan and openness. Cosmopolitan, how Singapore houses a mix in ethnicities, and Openness to each other’s culture. In that way, the art helps to enhance Singapore for who she is, boasting to people of her rich culture of diversity.


The event helped to boost the ticket sales of the Singapore Flyer. The site specific audio installation was definitely a way to encourage visitors and even locals to try out the newest attraction. Other venues were also strategically located; in the heart of the city. Some examples are the Old City Hall which faces the Padang – where Singapore was declared an independent state, and even the South Beach Development building which was formerly a military camp. It was a tactical move; getting visitors to experience not only the art exhibition, but at the same time, the various prominent landmarks within Singapore.

There were no new infrastructures created specifically for the exhibition; it was more of an addition to the already present infrastructure.

Economic Value

The Biennale has served its purpose in helping to heighten Singapore’s tourist arrivals, at the same time generating the economy. With an increased number of visitors and visitor stays, there is money spent by these foreign tourists through accommodation, transport, food, leisure shopping and event purchases (Biennale Passes, tickets for the Singapore Flyer and perhaps event merchandise).

However, the only merchandise I recall selling at the ticket booth was a pair of Biennale Beach Slippers. The previous event boasted of a wider range of merchandise, from T-shirts, to Mugs, Pencil Sets, and even Files. They had also packaged all the different merchandises into a ‘BELIEF Pack’ which was selling for S$50, but currently S$30. Perhaps, the organisers this year could have created new souvenirs for people to take home with them.

Other than the Beach Slippers, only windmills were available for the public to take home for a donation to the children’s charity. This shows the charitable side of the country - helping local charitable organisations raise money through the means of art; done by children, for children.

The longer the length of visitor stay, the more money spent on necessities. Hence, the event has helped not only generate money through its admission or tickets, but through other business related to the tourism industry (i.e. The Hotel Industry, the Food & Beverage Industry)


Getting to experience the Singapore Biennale 2008 was indeed enjoyable. The theme of ‘Wonder’ gave even more meaning to the art pieces being displayed. Overall, I think that the Singapore Biennale 2008 was a success. The marketing mixes have proved to be effective in boosting ticket sales for the event.

Locations were well chosen as they helped to bring out the essence of Singapore through the various strategic landmarks (City Hall building, Raffles City Shopping Centre, South Beach Development Building).

I think the most successful of all were the programs designed to promote this year’s Biennale. Reaching out to inculcate Arts education in the youths is definitely a positive move as the youths are the future. Getting the young to appreciate art will definitely help increase awareness of Art in this city, and a step further, the Arts scene in Singapore.

To appreciate Art, is to take a break from hectic city life and enjoy what is painted, drawn, sewn, moulded in front of you.
I would be looking forward till two years later for Singapore Biennale 2010.


Pictures are worth a thousand words:

Credits to these websites: