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Superstylin’ with Tan Siuli

Superstylin' with Tan Siuli - the art of dressing

Those who frequent local arts events are likely to bump into curator Tan Siuli, turning heads at exhibition openings with her elegant ensembles. We caught up with the fashionista to find out what she’s been wearing during the circuit breaker, and to get the lowdown on the brands that this chic curator loves.

Hello Siuli! How are you keeping, and what are you wearing these days as you’re working from home?

Hello! I am well, thank you. Very much enjoyed the quiet time of the circuit breaker, but work has been picking up of late. I have been working from home in loungewear, which as you know is just a fancy way of saying ‘pyjamas’. These are for the days that I don’t have online meetings. When I do, I’m in comfy and cooling separates since I don’t use air conditioning during the day and just leave my windows wide open for natural ventilation. I’m sure we’ve all heard about this being the season of the ‘zoom-worthy’ top.

Pictured here are some of mine from Reformation and Sezane, and I live in Love Bonito’s super comfy and flattering shorts:

So much of the art world has to do with being social for example, attending parties and openings, or meeting friends to visit exhibitions. Now that things have moved indoors, how has that affected your personal sense of style? Now that there is less of a need to “be seen” – do you think that fashion has less of a place in the art world (or indeed, in life in general)!

At first, I welcomed the freedom to work from home in total comfort, but after weeks on end of a rather unimaginative rotation of the same tank tops and shorts, I really missed getting dressed up to go out! I did notice that I was spending much less than usual on new outfits because of this whole situation, but I don’t think fashion will ever die, as long as people still crave beauty and style, and enjoy the whole process of getting dressed up.

Do you think your sense of personal style affects your taste in art? If so, give us an example if you can, about how one informs the other?

Well, I like clean and minimalist, but I also like colourful and expressive – in both art and fashion, so it’s difficult to say! If I’m attending an art event, I do try to dress to the theme. It’s more fun that way.

How do you think the art world is going to change, or has changed, as a result of this pandemic?

Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve listened to many online conversations on this same issue, and certainly I think the way we regard a lot of art world ‘givens’ such as blockbuster traveling shows, biennales, art fairs, art travel, art socials etc is going to have to change. It’s not a bad thing. As you may know, the art world often moves at breakneck speed, and I’ve actually welcomed this opportunity to slow down and recharge. One thing is for sure – everyone can’t wait to experience art in the flesh again, and hopefully, when we do venture out to do so, we are encountering art not with a jaded eye but with a renewed appetite and appreciation.

We love how you’re always in gorgeous outfits at art events – would you take us on a trip down memory lane and share with us, some of your favourite ones?

Sure! I do love my local labels, and here I present….

Exhibit A: My outfit from Stolen


Exhibit B: Dress from Our Second Nature

Tan Siuli in dress from Our Second Nature with artist Citra Sasmitra - the art of dressing
I love colour and prints too, and local label Our Second Nature does this best. Here I am with artist Citra Sasmitra on the occasion of her solo show “Ode To The Sun” at Yeo Workshop. Yes, I dressed to match the artwork, with its wonderful life-affirming hues of sunshine and turmeric!

Exhibit C: Wrap dress from Klarra

Tan Siuli in wrap dress from Klarra - the art of dressing
Don’t you just love a curated moment? This was taken at STPI. I’m wearing a blush wrap dress from Klarra, and it just so happened my colleagues and I matched this artwork by Pinaree Sanpitak perfectly.

Exhibit D: Batik by Ong Shunmugam

Tan Siuli in batik by Ong Shunmugam - the art of dressing
I love batik – I worked on the Indonesia portfolio at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) after all – and have a weakness for Ong Shumugam’s batik pieces. Here I’m wearing a pencil skirt from the label, made from batik tulis with a garuda motif. I paired it with a white kebaya top I got from Uluwatu Lace in Bali. These photos were taken at SAM, on the occasion of TK Sabapathy’s book launch. Anyone who knows Pak TK knows that he loves his batik too, and I remember the dress code was something along the lines of ‘Love Me In My Batik’!

Exhibit E: Ong Shunmugam’s sari-cheongsam

Tan Siuli in Ong Shunmugam’s sari-cheongsam - the art of dressing
Ong Shunmugam’s iconic sari-cheongsam. Everyone talks about the syncretism of Southeast Asian cultures, and I think this piece embodies that idea beautifully. I was probably holding my breath for this photo. This was taken at the opening of the 2016 Singapore Biennale, An Atlas of Mirrors. The dress code was black/white; fellow curator Louis Ho and I are dressed to theme and to match the artwork, Calendars by Xiao Lu.

Exhibit F: Sejauh Mata Memandang

Tan Siuli in gossamer-thin tunic top from Sejauh Mata Memandang - the art of dressing
Last but not least… this piece is not a local label. It’s an Indonesian label called Sejauh Mata Memandang (‘As Far As The Eye Can See’), which I love to bits. Designer Chitra Subyakto works with artisans to revive traditional crafts such as weaving and batik, which are reinterpreted in contemporary motifs and silhouettes. This gossamer-thin tunic top can be worn in so many ways; I like it as a duster and often wear it over more casual separates such as a tank top and jeans to dress them up. It also keeps me covered up when I travel to places which may be a bit more conservative.

Do you have a message for our readers who miss going to art museums?

In a way, I’m glad that this period of enforced ‘lockdown’ has made us realise how much we miss places and social rituals that we have come to take for granted. Museums and art spaces will open up (fully) soon enough, but in the meantime, many have put out various digital initiatives that enable art lovers to continue engaging with art. Take this opportunity to find out more about specific objects in the museum’s collection in depth, or to learn more about past exhibitions.

Singapore Art Museum for instance has a number of virtual curator’s tours of the current and previous Singapore Biennale, including some background information on selected artworks that you wouldn’t be privy to if you were just visiting the galleries. There are many ways to enjoy art, and although nothing beats seeing it in person, there are lots of alternatives out there in the meantime!


Follow Siuli’s adventures in art at her Instagram account, @the.itinerant.curator.

All images courtesy of Tan Siuli, feature image by Alexander S., via Unsplash


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