SINGAPORE – The leaders of two Singaporean cultural institutions were conferred the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government on Thursday (Jan 16) in recognition of their efforts to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries.

France’s Order of Arts and Letters was established in 1957 and comprises three ranks – Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer) and Commandeur (Commander).

Singaporeans who have received the honour in previous years include film-maker Eric Khoo and the late playwright and director Kuo Pao Kun.

Mrs Rosa Daniel, the deputy secretary of culture at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and chief executive officer of the National Arts Council, and Ms Chong Siak Ching, chief executive officer of the National Gallery Singapore, were conferred the rank of Officer and Knight respectively.

Mrs Daniel has led many Singaporean cultural showcases in France, most notably the three-month Singapour en France – le Festival in 2015, the largest overseas showcase of Singapore’s contemporary arts, culture and heritage. She also had an active role in discussions between the two countries about innovations and trends in the arts and culture sector.

Ms Chong continues to spearhead collaborations between the National Gallery and leading French and global museums.

Her efforts laid the groundwork for two major exhibitions in both countries: Reframing Modernism: Painting from Southeast Asia, Europe and Beyond at the National Gallery in 2016, and Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960-1969) at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2018, which marked the National Gallery’s first travelling show on South-east Asian art.

In 2017, the National Gallery also showcased world-renowned impressionist painters such as Frenchmen Claude Monet and Édouard Manet when it staged Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.

“I am very honoured today to bestow these awards upon two major partners and friends of France,” said the Ambassador of France to Singapore Marc Abensour in a press release.

“France is looking forward to further cooperation with Singapore in forefront cultural areas such as digital innovation and creative industries.”