“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

2017     Wong Keen: A Creative Life Unfurled, ION Art Gallery, Singapore

2018     Flesh on Loop: Wong Keen’s Solo Exhibition, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2018    Lyrical Flesh, The Culture Story, Singapore 

2018     Wong Keen: Flesh Matters, jointly presented by artcommune gallery and The Culture Story, Artspace @ Helutrans, Singapore

2019     Wong Keen | Theatre of Enigmas, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2019     Wong Keen: Flesh Matters 2.0, jointly presented by artcommune gallery and The Culture Story, Art Jakarta

2021     Wong Keen: Works on Canvas and Paper, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2022     Wong Keen: Forest, artcommune gallery, Singapore

Group Exhibitions

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

2017     Singapore Artists in the States: Wong Keen, Goh Beng Kwan, Zhuang Sheng Tao and Choy WengYang, artcommune gallery, Singapore 

2017     Black & White: Boo Sze Yang, Ben Loong, Tang Da Wu, Benny Teo, Wong Keen and ZhuangSheng Tao, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2018     Contending Boundaries: Tang Da Wu, Wong Keen and Yeo Hoe Koon, Artspace@Helutrans, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2020     The Question of Form | Cheong Soo Pieng, Wong Keen & Boo Sze Yang, artcommune gallery, Singapore

2022     All We Do is Gloss Each Other, Not Gallery, Singapore

2023     The Spatial, the Ephemeral, and the Possibility of It All | Boo Sze Yang, Milenko Prvački & Wong Keen, Artspace@Helutrans, artcommune gallery, Singapore


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

Using Format