Kumari Nahappan

(Klang, Selangor, Malaysia, 1953)

Work and Lives in Singapore

Kumari Nahappan Bio

Kumari is a prominent artist in Southeast Asia. Her practice encompasses inter-disciplinary genres, painting, sculpture and installations.  She has forged a reputation for effectively reconciling the language of “international contemporary art” with her own vocabulary and developing a visual identity that is decisively shaped by her cultural roots and beliefs.

Kumari is celebrated for her iconic sculptures in landmark locations in Singapore including Saga for Changi Airport, Nutmeg & Mace for the ION Orchard, Pedas-Pedas for the National Museum and Pembungaan for OUE Bayfront (the largest bronze mural in Singapore at over 45m) and other sculptures for corporate [1]developments.  Her sculptures have graced sites overseas including G Tower in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), the J.Y. Campos Centre in Manila (the Philippines), and Zongshan Park in Shanghai (China).

Kumari has received commendations in the Philip Morris ASEAN Art Awards & UOB Painting of the Year. She holds the honour of being the first foreigner and woman to be conferred the Ksatria Seni Award (2004) by the Museum Rudana in Bali. In 2011, she won the Artist of the Year Award in the 15th edition of the Shanghai Art Fair and was identified as a notable female artist in the book Women Artists in Singapore [2011].*

For more than two decades, Kumari’s artistic journey has seen her develop an extensive body of works, including paintings, sculptures and installations which have been exhibited in Asia, Europe and the United States, for example at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Seoul Art Centre in Korea, Museum Rudana in Bali, Museum der Kulturen in Basel and Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.
In 2013, she enjoyed critical and popular acclaim for her installation Anahata, a monumental work comprising of 4000kg of saga seeds for the Singapore Biennale 2013. Her works have been exhibited at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Singapore Art Museum, Seoul Art Centre in Korea, Museum Rudana in Indonesia as well as in gallery exhibitions in Sweden, Germany, London, Italy, New York, Australia, Hong Kong and China.

In her exhibition CHANTING: ROSARY at ANIMA MUNDI International Art Festival in Venice, Italy (2017), Kumari explored the rituals, iconography, and gestures related to ‘the spiritual’ through letting 59 giant fibre-glass saga seeds form a rosary bead. In 2018, the ‘journey of the saga’ continued, where 30 of her saga seeds found a permanent home at The Sanchaya, Bintan, Indonesia (Ode to Thirty).

One of Kumari’s large-scale sculpture named Talktime, was displayed for an exhibition called Personal Structures, which run parallel to the Venice Biennale and took place in The Marinaressa gardens, Venice. The sculpture was exhibited from May 2019 to November 2019. Recently, Kumari was involved in the exhibition with the Indian Heritage Center in Singapore to display her sculptures called Masala, which is an experiential spice garden, celebrating a historical and cultural blend of spices to create a fascinating journey in the spice trail.


* Monograph by T.K. Sabapathy in Kumari Nahappan Fluxion: Art and Thoughts, 2013, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore.

T.K. Sabapathy has published extensively on art and artists in Southeast Asia. His writing has inaugurated important art historical trajectories for appreciating the modern and the contemporary in Southeast Asia. His monographic studies of artists, especially in Singapore and Malaysia, have established significant benchmarks in developing the critical literature on art and artists. He is currently an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Architecture (National University of Singapore) and consultant lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Media (Nanyang Technological University), where he teaches the history of art.