Coronavirus Impact: Singapore Book Council Opens an Illustrators’ Gallery

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The annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content—itself postponed to October—this year takes its illustration show online with 13 nations’ illustrators represented in the curated collection.

From ‘Kina’s Story: Kina Makes a New Friend’ (Bentag Kids/PT Bentang Pustaka) by Maudy Ayunda with illustrations, including this one, by Kathrin Honesta of Indonesia. Image: Singapore Book Council

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Close to 200 Works on Display Now
The Singapore Book Council today (June 3) is making the most of the coronavirus pandemic-driven realities by opening its digital evocation of the annual Book Illustrators Gallery.

The showcase is part of the “BIG” series (for Book Illustrators Gallery), which originated in 2014. It’s produced under the auspices of the book council’s highly regarded Asian Festival of Children’s Content, and, of course, is one of the latest efforts to move some of world publishing’s normally physical events into cyberspace during the COVID-19 emergency.

What’s now online for your inspection is a 2020 collection of close to 200 works created by 87 illustrators from 13 Asian markets.

And at a time when many in publishing are working to develop what actually meets the needs of the publishing industry in available digital formats, it’s almost a mandate that this exhibition be mounted online. The art world has been among the leading sectors in moving into the digital space, not least because profoundly valuable and/or precious artworks—if carefully photographed for the purpose—can be examined at a proximity and level of granularity not even available IRL, in real life.

This promotional video for the 2020 show will give you a sense for the range of the work on view. Its espionage-thriller music may make you think that Matt Damon is among the contributing artists. He’s not listed among the illustrators, and neither is Jason Bourne, but the work flashing by does indeed want you to take a look at what the exhibition has to offer.

‘Voyages’ We’d Like To Be Taking

The theme this year is “Voyages”—which a lot of us who are in travel-withdrawal would like to be taking about now—with an eye toward crossing boundaries, of course, “and seeking new avenues of sharing Asian stories for children and young adults.”

In the past, the exhibition has been mounted at Singapore’s beautiful, stately National Library. This year’s artworks in the Book Illustrators Gallery come not only from Singapore itself but also from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.

More than 350 pieces were submitted for consideration.

‘Reaching Out to New Audiences’

An illustration by author Rohan Chakravarty of India for his book ‘Bird Business: Illustrated Peeks Into the Daily Lives of Indian Birds’ from the Bombay Natural Histiory Society. Image: Singapore Book Council

In a prepared statement, the Singapore Book Council’s executive director William Phuan—our interview with him is here—talks of how the new digital gallery is “part of our effort to leverage digital technology to take the Asian Festival of Children’s Content online.

“Due to the pandemic, we had to postpone the festival to October and have had to quickly find ways to adapt our programs for the digital space.

“This shift opened up new possibilities and we are embracing them to explore new avenues and still engage the community, while reaching out to new audiences.”

A Digital Seminar on the Collection

An illustration by Aldy Aguirre from the Philippines for ‘Paboritong Lugar ni Nanay’ (‘Mother’s Favorite Place’) by author Weng Cahiles and published by Adarna House. Image: Singapore Book Council

And if you’d like to see an online panel discussion about the work and this year’s program, the Book Council will present one on Saturday (June 6) from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Singapore time. That’s 2 a.m. ET and 6 a.m. GMT, 7 a.m. BST, and 8 a.m. CEST.

Speaking will be:

  • Carolina Ballester from the China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair
  • Michiko Matsukata and Fumiko Uejima from the Chihiro Art Museum’s curation team
  • Singaporean illustrators Darel Seow and Ben Lai from Illo Picto

That event is to be streamed from Facebook here.

Singapore, of course, has been one of the models in response to the onset of the pandemic, although the island nation did suffer an unexpected outbreak that tested the market’s sophisticated (and some say intrusive) case-tracing capabilities.

The Singaporean caseload at this writing is 36,405 infections and 24 deaths in the city-state’s population of 5.6 million, according to the 8:32 a.m. ET update (1232 GMT) the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

A directory of all the featured illustrators in the show is included in the gallery online.

An illustration by author Ryōji Arai of Japan for ‘I Can Go Anywhere’ from NHK Publishing. Image: Singapore Book Council


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore is here, more from us on Singapore and its publishing scene is here, and more on children’s books is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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