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National Gallery Singapore Opens Groundbreaking International Co-Curated Exhibition

Update: March, 31/2016 - 17:30
Works by Lê Phổ on display in Reframing Modernism. VNS Photo Lương Thu Hương

By Lương Thu Hương

SINGAPORE (VNS) – National Gallery Singapore today launched its first international special exhibition, Reframing Modernism, co-curated and co-presented with Centre Pompidou, Paris.

The exhibition features over 200 works from some 50 artists, with approximately half from Centre Pompidou and the other half from Southeast Asia. This will also be the first time that an exhibition displays significant Southeast Asian and European artists in parallel through its study of one of the most influential artistic and intellectual drives of the 20th century – modernism – from the perspective of Southeast Asia.

Reframing Modernism challenges the existing paradigm of how modernist painting is presented. It brings to light previously unexplored perspectives that enrich the overall discourse. Taking a comparative approach, the exhibition reveals shared concerns between the artists and their bodies of work to create a new and different narrative of modernism. 

Throughout the exhibition, visitors are invited to draw their own connections and conclusions on the history of modernism and its relevance to the development of art in Southeast Asia.

The unprecedented presentation includes works by four renowned Vietnamese artists, Lê Phổ, Nguyễn Gia Trí, Bùi Xuân Phái and Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm, in addition to their other Southeast Asian counterparts, such as S Sudjojono from Indonesia, Georgette Chen from Singapore and European masters Vassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger and Pablo Picasso. 

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the work titled The Fairies by artist Nguyễn Gia Trí (1909–1993), who is considered the pioneer of modernised Vietnamese lacquer arts. Painted in 1936, the 2.9m by 4.4m painting is the largest known lacquer work by the artist.

Four paintings by Lê Phổ (1907-2001), a master 20th century Vietnamese artist in post impressionism, are also on display in Reframing Modernism, notably View From the Hilltop (1937). The oil painting set an auction record for a Vietnamese artist at Christie’s International upon being sold for HK$6.52 million (US$840,000) in Hong Kong in 2014.

“This is the first time in Singapore that visitors can view artworks from European and Southeast Asian masters in the same space. We hope the exhibition will inspire fresh and interesting perspectives of the received understanding of modernism and modern art,” Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, said.

“Along with the Gallery’s long-term exhibitions, Reframing Modernism will reinforce our aim to further the understanding of modern art from Southeast Asia within a global context,” he added.

Reframing Modernism is co-curated by Dr Tan, Senior Curator Lisa Horikawa and Curator Dr Phoebe Scott, all working for National Gallery Singapore, together with Deputy Director of Centre Pompidou’s National Museum of Modern Art–Industrial Design Centre Catherine David and Curator Dr Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov.

The collaboration gives art lovers in Singapore and Asia the opportunity to view major artworks from the Centre Pompidou, which houses the world’s largest modern and contemporary art collections,” Serge Lasvignes, President of the Centre Pompidou, said.

The exhibition will run until July 17, 2016, at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, located on level 3 of the City Hall Wing at the National Gallery Singapore. The exhibition will be open from 10am to 7pm on Sunday to Thursday and on public holidays and from 10am to 10pm on Friday to Saturday and on the eves of public holidays.

Opened in November 2015, National Gallery Singapore is a new visual arts institution that oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. The Gallery is dedicated to collaborative research, education and exhibitions, highlighting the importance of modern art in Southeast Asia in a global context. The Gallery also provides a unique visitor experience through its art presentations and innovative programming, positioning Singapore as a regional and international hub for the visual arts. — VNS

View From the Hilltop (1937) by Lê Phổ
The Builders by Filipino painter Victorio C Edades
The Fairies (1936) by Nguyễn Gia Trí

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