2007/01/24 - Discours à l’occasion de la décoration de M. Robert Liew
Chevalier dans l’Ordre des arts et des lettres
Singapore, January 24, 2007
Mr Robert Liew,
It is an honor and a privilege to present you tonight with the insignia of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres - Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters. Allow me, by way of preface, to say a few words about the title being conferred upon you.
France has a long history of officially recognizing exceptional accomplishments in many domains. The Order of Arts and Letters was established in l957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, and people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Previous to the creation of this order, artists and writers could be officially recognized only through the Legion of Honor - and that in limited numbers - or the Order of Academic Palms, if they were connected with education.
Recipients of this distinction are entitled to wear the insignia of this order, a medal suspended from a colored ribbon of white stripes against a green background. For informal occasions, a discreet lapel pin may be worn in lieu of the medal.
Turning now to you, Mr Robert Liew, let me first emphasize that what my country recognizes today is not just an invaluable service to the promotion of French culture, but a lifelong commitment to the arts, to making their immense potential available to an ever-expanding public, here in Singapore. Although you are an artist in your own right – and you will grace us later with a short performance on your instrument, the guitar, a première after 25 years off stage – you chose to make art available to others. And this you did - and you still do - with utmost skill and enthusiasm.
But let us start, maybe, from the beginning. I should recall that you studied the arts, guitar as I said, and more generally, music, first at the University of Singapore, then at the London College of Music, at the New England Conservatory, and finally at Texas Tech University, where you obtained your PhD in Philosophy, in the field of Interdisciplinary Arts, in 1985.
Upon returning from America, you became the artistic director of the “Singapore Arts Festival” from 1985 till 1988, and then the managing director of “Arts Management Associates” from 1988 to the present. This did not stop you from taking on diverse responsibilities, such as, among others, the vice-chairmanship of the “Federation of Asian Cultural Promotion” and the presidency of the “Association of Concert and Event Managers” of Singapore. Your training and your experience in Singapore as well as abroad show that you have far more than one string on your bow, or guitar, I should say.
You have always, in those different capacities, been keen to bring the best of French performing arts to Singaporean audiences. You even went out of your way to convince the chairman of UOB, Mr. Wee Cho Yaw, to free his office at the 7th floor of their building in order to turn it into a landing area for a Frenchman performing a motor-cycle stunt on a tight-rope over the Singapore River. Although one could dispute whether this was an artistic performance, it certainly was for a good cause, namely the spectacular launch of the French Festival in 1992.
Ever since those early - and glorious - days you worked closely with the French Embassy, especially with our common good friend Hervé Mascarau, to bring renowned companies and artists to Singapore : the great sculptor César, the legendary Mime Marceau, Maguy Marin’s Cinderella, Philippe Genty, an other icon, Stephane Grappelli, (who came twice, in 1994 and 1997), Preljocaj and the famous “Paris Opera Ballet”, which you also received twice. Speaking of ballet, I am pleased to say that the top ballerina Sylvie Guillem will perform next June with Akram Khan in a ballet titled “Sacred Monsters” at the Esplanade for the “Singapore Arts Festival” in which, again, you played a decisive pioneering role.
Robert Liew, for your prominent contribution to the advancement of the arts, for your commitment to bringing the best of French culture to Singapore, for fostering the exchange and dialogue between our two countries, I am proud to bestow upon you this decoration, as a token of appreciation for the great work of a friend of France.
Robert Liew, au nom du Ministre de la culture et de la communication, je vous fais chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres.