“To be enlightened and to create something extraordinary, the artist must first learn to free himself from the tyranny of logic and traditions.”

Born in Singapore in 1942, Wong Keen’s prodigious talent in painting was evident since childhood. At age 19, Wong Keen held his first solo exhibition at the then National Library of Singapore and moved to America in that same year after being accepted by the prestigious Art Students League of New York. When Wong Keen departed in 1961, he was the first Singaporean to pursue art education in New York and the first Asian and Singaporean to have won the Edward G. McDowell Travelling Scholarship (1965) in the history of Art Students League.

After the 2nd World War, New York flourished as the world centre for arts. By the 1950s, what became collectively appraised as Abstract Expressionism had taken the world by storm. It was against this progressive backdrop in the early 1960s that the young Wong Keen developed his artistic sensibility. During his time at the Art Students League of New York, Wong Keen studied under influential Abstract Expressionist artists such as Morris Kantor, Sidney Gross, Vaclav Vytlacil and Hans Hoffman, gaining first-hand insights into the Colour-field theory (an essential strand in Abstract Expressionism), which emphasizes strategic placements of colours and their effective dramatization to achieve form and balance.

Some may expect fifty years in America to have demolished Wong Keen’s Chinese roots; quite on the contrary, being schooled in the Art Students League (1961 – 65) and years of living in the West in fact heightened Wong Keen’s sensitivity toward his Chinese heritage and culture. Brought up in a Chinese scholar-artist environment, a deep reverence for Chinese ink and brushwork was instilled in Wong Keen since young. At the age of 13, his creative mind was already penetrated by the idiosyncratic, gestural style of Bada Shanren, which continues to follow and shape his visual poetics across varying mediums today.

Having lived and worked in America for over fifty years, Wong Keen’s artistic style is an embodiment of cross-cultural confluences: inspired by the elegance and expressiveness of Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, as well as Abstract Expressionism. In 2007, the Singapore Art Museum celebrated his masterful repertoire with a solo exhibition. In addition to private patronage from around the world, his works are also collected by the Singapore Art Museum, The National Museum of China, Resorts World Sentosa and The Fullerton Hotel. 

Important Dates

1942 Born in Singapore

1961-1965 The Art Students League, New York, USA

1966 Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, UK

1966 Art Instructor at Fair Lawn Adult School Swarthmore, New Jersey, USA

1967 Art Director at Police Athlete Leagues, New York, USA

Solo Exhibitions

1961 National Library, Singapore

1962 Bridge Gallery, New York, USA

1964 Westerly Gallery, New York, USA

1965 Fordham University, New York, USA

1966 Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, UK

1967 The Art Students League, New York, USA

1967 Sarah Lawrence College, New York, USA

1988 El Museo de Arte Costrarricense (Museum of Costa Rica), Costa Rica

1989 Gallery Triform, Taipei, Taiwan

1994 William Whipple Gallery, Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA

1995 Carnegie Art Center, Minnesota, USA

1996 After Thirty-Five Years in New York (1961-1996), Takashima Gallery, Singapore

1997 Recent Works by Wong Keen – Lotus & Figures, Caldwell House, CHIJMES, Singapore

1998 Gallery Vinh Loi, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

1998 American Club, Singapore

1999 The DP Gallery, Singapore

2000 William Whipple Gallery, Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA

2007 A Singapore Abstract Expressionist, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

2007 Expressions by Wong Keen, Galerie Belvedere, Singapore

2012 Picture Writing: Sensuous Abstractions, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2013 Keen Variations: the Different Sides of Wong Keen's Art, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2013 A Tribute to an Artist: Masterpieces of Wong Keen, Artspace@Helutrans, Singapore

2014 Second Nature, Paintings by Wong Keen, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2015 Lotus Transformations: Paintings by Wong Keen, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2015 Wong Keen, The Substation Gallery,Singapore

2016 Wong Keen: The Orbits of Colour, artcommune gallery, Singapore


1957 8th Annual Open Exhibition, British Council, Singapore

1958 9th Annual Open Exhibition, Singapore Art Society, Singapore

1958 10th Annual Open Exhibition, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore

1960 11th Annual Open Exhibition, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore

1963 The Silvermine Guild of Artists, NewCanaan, Connecticut, USA

1964 American Watercolor Society, New York, USA

1987 The Commemoration of the Nanking Massacre, Soho, New York, USA

1989 North American Chinese Artist Association, Dziou Tai Gallery, New York, USA

1993 The Breath of Life, Keen Gallery, NewYork, USA

1994 The Breath of Life II, Keen Gallery, New York, USA

1994 New York Collection 94-95, Albright Knox Art Gallery, New York, USA

1995 New York Collection 95-96, Albright Knox Art Gallery, New York, USA

1995 KAKEJIKU/Scrolling in New York,Galleryonetwentyeight, New York, USA

1996 Scrolling in Japan (traveling exhibition), Gallery Kawafune, Gallery Kura, Tajimi City Cultural Centre, IidaCity Museum, City Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1996 A World of Art, William Whipple Gallery, Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA

1997 Xa104 Roadside Museum, Hiroshima, Japan

1997 Art Spot Gallery Marya, Osaka, Japan

1997 Gallery Guute, Hiroshima, Japan

2000 Letters from The Artists, William Whipple Gallery, Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA

2001 Moon Eclipse: Williamsburg Lunar Base Gallery, New York, USA

2002 Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, New York, USA

2003 The Pioneers 4, Singapore

2006 People of the Mind, William Whipple Gallery, Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA

2009 Exploring the Boundary, Singapore &Malaysia

2010 Galeri Seri Lukis Modern Dai Ichi

2010 The 6th National Artists Travelling, Phattalung, Thailand

2011 Ink Expressions, Singapore

2011 Exchange 2011, Singapore-China Art Showcase

2011 The 2nd Art Exhibition of International Visual Artist, Association of Thailand

2011 International Famous Artists' Paintings Exhibition

2011 Grand Masters of Art Exhibition, ION Art Gallery, Singapore

2012 Artist in Residency in Gallerie URS Meile 2012, Beijing, China

2012 Contemporary Chinese Ceramic Paintings Exhibition, The National Art Museum of China

2014 Chinese Artists in Southeast Asia, Christie's Private Selling Exhibition, Hong Kong

2016 The 15th (Japan) International Calligraphy and Painting Exchange Exhibition, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan


1963 Ford Foundation Grant, Art Students League, New York, USA

1965 Edward G. McDowell Travelling Scholarship, Art Students League, New York, USA

1967 Consul General of Japan Award, The Suni-E Society

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