As Pioneer Curator:
He has extensive expert experience in Europe. Keng Sen is the founder artistic director (2001 – 2003) of In-Transit, an annual interdisciplinary arts festival which continues in Berlin today. He initiated the curation of south east Asian contemporary art and performance in Europe with the Insomnia season for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (2005), as well as the Politics of Fun exhibition at the House of World Cultures, Berlin (2005).
Founding Festival Director of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA):
Keng Sen was the Festival Director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). As Festival Director from 2013 – 2017, he is responsible for both artistic and executive directions including sponsorship, maintaining the financial well being, setting policy and creating the public profile for the Festival.
He was invited to recreate this national performing arts festival, formerly named the Singapore Arts Festival, after an industry review. He restructured the festival with a global vision and renamed it SIFA to highlight the Singapore and International perspectives in it.
Despite his artistic collaboration with traditional arts of Asia, Keng Sen has niched SIFA as an inclusive, multi-genre, contemporary arts festival including cross disciplinary work. This is to complement other cultural institutions in the compact nation-state of Singapore.
In particular, he has brought an unprecedented quality to the festival, concentrating not just on quantitative performance indicators. His inspired artistic leadership has won him accolades locally but has also attracted the attention of colleagues in different countries and the international press from The Guardian to South China Morning Post to New York Times.
In his term, he has zealously safeguarded the public space of the arts in Singapore, winning audiences for his robust curation studded with breathtaking international artists bringing Asian premieres to SIFA. This is only possible with international partnerships drawn from his vast artistic networks around the world. He has striven to dynamically commission artistic challenging work from Singapore and international artists, winning support from both sides. It is a rare achievement in this contentious field with its local and international divide.
Specifically, the curation of Singapore artists has seen his sensitivity to the artistic and cultural needs of the city. Singapore artists have also benefitted from his thoughtful brokering of collaborations between them and international art stars. During his tenure, he has brought international artists to work deeply with Singapore art schools. He has capacity-built cultural development through his scaffold of an alternating international and local focus for SIFA from year to year.
Strategically, he has strengthened the engagement, outreach and educational directions of SIFA with The O.P.E.N., an exciting pre-festival of ideas. This has won praise for its innovation and fruitful communication with restless audiences wanting more.
The last 3 annual festivals have seen SIFA growing from strength to strength under his baton. Audiences have grown beyond that of the former Singapore Arts Festival. Beginning with 20,000 audiences in SIFA 2014, this has increased to 62,000 and in 2016, the festival peaked with 155,000 attendances, 96% capacity houses and 75% of its performances sold out. Further in 2016, he was responsible for raising 20% of the S$9 mil festival through sponsorship.
He completed his fourth and final festival in September 2017.
His Accolades Include:
From 2011 – 2015, he served on the prestigious Awards Committee of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in Amsterdam. A Fulbright Scholar, Keng Sen is also the first and only Singapore artist to have received both the Young Artist Award (1992) and the Cultural Medallion Award (2003) for Singapore. He was awarded the much respected Fukuoka Asian Arts and Culture Prize 2010 for his work in Asian performance.