Cover Suhanya Raffel, director of M+ in Hong Kong, believes museums should have an active and sophisticated digital presence. (Photo by Alex Maeland)

To delight, to inspire, to ask, to remember—Asia’s Most Influential museum directors and art patrons seek to spark complex thoughts and emotions from the viewing public

“Museums have the power to transform the world around us. As incomparable places of discovery, they teach us about our past and open our minds to new ideas—two essential steps in building a better future,” says the International Council of Museums. For International Museum Day, the organisation shines a light on how museums spark positive change in the spheres of sustainability, education and technology. 

The art professionals—directors, curators, patrons, art lovers—from Asia’s Most Influential list are doing just that. Through their critical eye, they shape expressions, encourage participation in art and, most importantly, give voice to Asian art. 

Suhanya Raffel, Hong Kong

“Going forward, all museums will embrace the parallel strands of digital and physical experience. At M+ we have been very clear that our digital museum has to be as active, developed and sophisticated as the physical museum,” says Suhanya Raffel to Tatler about the future of museums and art in a post-pandemic world. 

The director of the contemporary art, architecture and design museum is dedicated to expanding M+’s collection of 20th- and 21st-century visual culture, all of which are housed in 33 galleries spread across 183,000 sq ft of exhibition space. One of the many exhibitions on view now, Things, Spaces, Interactions includes more than 500 pieces, from furniture to graphic arts, that have influenced Asia in the last 70 years. True to Raffel’s vision, the works in Things and other collections can be viewed online via the M+ website.

Read Suhanya Raffel’s full profile here. 

Joven Cuanang, Philippines

Dr Joven Cuanang established the Pinto Art Museum on a two-hectare botanical garden to share his collection of contemporary art with the public. The neurosurgeon has been a patron of young Filipino artists since the 1980s, when he started supporting the local artist group Salingpusa. Today, the museum highlights surrealist, expressionist, minimalist and conceptual art, including pieces from the original members of Salingpusa, most of whom have become stars of the art world.

Until June 1, 2022, Pinto presents Our Islands/ Their People: Becoming Archipelago. The exhibition is a cross-cultural examination of “what it means to be indigenous to a place” by contemporary artists, from the Philippines to Mauritius, all of whom share a colonial past. To promote Filipino artists around the world, Cuanang also co-founded Pinto International. In New York in 2021, Pinto International presented Mother Boat, an exhibit of site-specific works meant to spark a dialogue about marine plastic pollution. 

Read Joven Cuanang’s full profile here.

Kennie Ting, Singapore

Kennie Ting, director of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), oversees one of the foremost museums in Asia that specialises in pan-Asian cultures and civilisations. Through its collection of antiquities and decorative art, which Ting builds and curates, ACM highlights the connections among the peoples of Asia and beyond. The museum notably presents the exchange of ideas and faith through the lens of Singapore’s history as an international port. 

Ting was conferred the rank of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2021. The honour recognises his work in strengthening the cultural ties between Singapore and France through ACM, specifically its Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City exhibition, which inspired the signing of a cultural agreement with France.

Until May 29, 2022, the pop-up exhibit, Apa Khabair?, showcases exquisite Peranakan masterpieces and collaborations with Peranakan communities in ACM. Ting continues his work in the arts with the re-opening of the Peranakan Museum in 2023. 

Read Kennie Ting’s full profile here. 

Maggie Weng, Taiwan

Maggie Weng is making art accessible to more people through the Fubon Art Foundation, which organizes and supports exhibitions, performances, lectures, research and forums, among others. One of its most interesting projects, The Very Fun Park, is a “museum without walls” that displays paintings, sculptures and installation art pieces in public spaces all over Taipei, including alleyways, bridges and even the busy intersection of Zhongxiao E. and Dun Hua S. Roads.

Further extending art’s reach, the foundation recently launched the Fubon Art App, a digital calendar that combines art information and cultural activities, not just in Taiwan, but from around the world. The app has featured the works of the international artists of the Fun Le Ding Contemporary Art Exhibition, which Fubon has organised through the years. 

The CEO of the Fubon Art Foundation is one of Asia’s top collectors and has built a collection of more than 600 pieces through her intuition, without guidance from advisors.

Read Maggie Weng’s full profile here.

Discover the changemakers, industry titans and powerful individuals who are making a positive impact on the region in the Asia’s Most Influential list from Tatler.

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