The CEO of The Arts House recently led the Asia on the Edge delegation in Hong Kong and is one of our most illustrious arts administrators. He talks to Terry Ong about his quirks and eccentricities.

Singaporeans are a quirky bunch. I find the act of “chope-ing” tables with packets of tissue quite ridiculous. I once took a tissue packet and started wiping the tables with it. I thought it was from the hawker stall but ended being scolded for not being a Singaporean.

Another is queuing up for almost everything—the longer the queue, the better the perceived value of the item that they are queuing up for.

Though I must confess I’m guilty of it too. I once stood in line hoping to get a Hello Kitty for my daughter. Not my fault: I thought it must be good if everyone is queuing, right?

I started off as a “professional beggar” with the Community Chest and it is something that I continue to do. Then I moved to an exhibition and design company and was asked to construct props for art companies like the Singapore Lyric Opera and Singapore Repertory Theatre.

Then strangely in 1994, I was posted to Pacific Theatricals, a local theater company and became the associate producer for Bugis Street: The Musical, without any inclinations of how musicals worked!

In hindsight, it was a success to a large degree as we were all part of the drive to push Singapore’s musicals abroad. But financing was almost non-existent and we ended up losing lots of money.

I wanted to be a priest at a very young age. That is, until I met my wife.

My most amazing art experience was also my first, which has left quite an indelible mark. It was the play Metamorphosis that I watched at the University of Adelaide in 1986, based on Berkoff's adaptation of Kafka's novel.

It was simply stunning watching a monologue for the first time and seeing how theater transforms and explores the inner thoughts that often lay dominant within one’s sub-conscious.

I’m rather philosophical about life and see it as a continuum. It starts at the same point and ends at the same point. The in-between are experiences to share, memories to remember and legacies to leave behind. Nothing else matters.

Strangely enough, I collect perfume bottles. I like scent. I admire the bottles for their fancy shapes and designs.

There is an association called the International Perfume Bottle Association made up of a large group of like-minded collectors who are passionate about this subject. Not sure who in Singapore might be keen to form a chapter here?

Being part of a non-profit arts group, there is no recession, because you’re always in recession. There’s no retrenchment because you’re always trying to recruit someone. And there’s no retirement, as there’s always somebody to help and you can go on and on for a long time. Anyone wants to join us?


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