Singaporean curator Khairuddin Hori joined Palais de Tokyo, one of Paris’ most prominent centres of contemporary art, as the deputy programming director. We caught up with Khairuddin to discuss life as an expat and the differences the art world shows between Singapore and France.
Tell us about yourself and what brought you here?
I started my career in art through the traditional performing arts. I was involved in community theatre as an actor and director, and I also dabbled in writing poetry before going to art school in Singapore where I studied fine arts. As an artist, I organised and curated various exhibitions which led me to the position of Senior Curator with the National Heritage Board, specialising in contemporary Southeast Asian art. It was through my work here that I met Jean de Loisy, President of Palais de Tokyo who later invited me to work at the Palais here in Paris.
It is very different. We do not have a long history in modern and contemporary visual art. However, in the past 20 years or so, Singapore built and promoted various infrastructures that have encouraged creativity and art-making. As a node in the region, Singapore benefits from various exchanges by visiting regional and international professionals. The country has also been economically progressive and politically stable, allowing space for the arts to finally be given structured state support to grow.
What exhibitions are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on young Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen’s first solo exhibition outside of China. This exhibition is born out of Palais de Tokyo’s collaboration with K11 Art Foundation based in Hong Kong. I was asked to scout for a young Chinese artist who I felt had promise and could contribute to the global conversation in contemporary art. Tianzhuo reflects and connects our spiritual and mortal realities through his art. He projects icons and ideas from popular and underground culture.
What is the most challenging aspect of your life as an expat working in France?
Of course, language and administrative demands are challenging, but I see them as mere roadblocks to overcome. If anything, the most difficult thing for me is to develop friendships outside of work, possibly due to my own language impediment and bouts of introversion!
What has been the best experience you’ve had here related to your expatriation?
The best part was definitely meeting and working with some of the most prolific figures from the French art world like Jean Hubert Martin, Alfred Pacquement and Jean de Loisy whom I used to only read about.
I arrive in the office at 10am, attend various meetings or have discussions with colleagues on ongoing projects, and try to respond to the many emails I receive. I try to go home to make lunch as I live near work. The same for dinner, as I enjoy cooking and eating my own food. I attend events or exhibitions, and normally, I try to keep a low profile. To be honest, I prefer to visit exhibitions after the official opening as I hate crowds. Every couple of weeks, I arrange to meet young artists who are in residence in Paris through visiting their studios. I get quite a lot of visits by friends and fellow professionals from Asia and around the world at work too. These visits sometimes lead to fruitful collaborations. Tours of the spaces and exhibitions in the building are a great way for me to introduce the ethos of the Palais. Having said the above, I should probably share that most of my thinking and creative work happens outside of the office, on weekends and at nights when I am alone and just occupied with dreaming.
What is your vision of art?
Art should relate to our mortal reality and not be overly obscured by theories or entrenched in a ‘market’. To me, a ‘market’ is a manufactured construct and does not exist in art; theories are just that, theories, and often cannot be scientifically proven especially in a soft field such as art; therefore, art should relate to life itself.