National Gallery Singapore – new visual arts institution which oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia
The latest jewel in Singapore’s art crown, the National Gallery Singapore is a brand new visual arts institution housing an unparalleled collection of modern Singapore and Southeast Asian art. Dedicated to curating a collection that provides insights into the unique art, heritage and history of the region, this is a must-visit destination in Singapore.
The National Gallery Singapore is fittingly located in the heart of the Civic District, at the City Hall and the former Supreme Court – two iconic buildings that have played a monumental role in Singapore’s history. Utmost care has been taken to ensure that preservation guidelines for these two national monuments are being upheld even as they are being remodelled to become a state-of-the-art museum for the public.
Singapore, in particular, has always been very open to outside or external influences and references
At 64,000 square metres, this is the largest visual arts venue in Singapore and one of the largest in the region.
According to Low Sze Wee, the National Gallery’s director of curatorial and collections, Singapore has always been special due to its open culture, and the museum hopes that when visitors come and visit both permanent exhibitions they will actually see the connections for themselves.
Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery, who has curated a number of important exhibitions including the Singapore Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2006), later adds that the National Gallery’s role is not to represent Southeast Asian art history.
He also believes the museum is better positioned internationally to further the profile of art from within the region:
“We just want to tell the world that, look at Southeast Asia, there is all this incredible art that had been made here, and it’d been made here the last 150 years.”
The building, an architectural amalgamation of two colonial-style national monuments, is a highlight in itself. The former Supreme Court and City Hall are now connected with a new atrium and two link bridges.
The Southeast Asia Gallery is housed inside the restored Supreme Court buildings and exhibits are displayed in 15 rooms spanning three levels.
About 400 artworks from 10 countries – Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei – are on show, half of which are from the National Collections, and half from private and institutional lenders around the world.
The permanent exhibition on modern Southeast Asian art, billed as the biggest of its kind, includes a major section on the 19th century. All the art works – from paintings to sculptures and installations – are carefully and thoughtfully displayed. While all exhibits are treated with reverence (as they should be), the National Gallery stresses they are also for everyone to see and appreciate; admission is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.