Singapore opens National Gallery

Update: November, 26/2015 - 17:35
A woman at the National Gallery Singapore. — VNS Photo Hang Nguyen
Hang Nguyen

SINGAPORE (VNS) — More than 8,000 visitors attended the two-week long opening celebrations of the National Gallery Singapore.

It is the first museum of such scale in the world that is dedicated to the art of Singapore as well as Southeast Asia.

The museum opened to the public on Tuesday in the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings.

Several Singaporeans, including children, looked very excited at the opening of the long-awaited museum. It took Singapore a decade to establish the museum.

Many foreign visitors too came out of curiosity to see what the gallery would offer them.

Katie Sargisson, from New Zealand, said the museum was very good and provided tourists a glimpse into the cultural history of Singapore.

A Vietnamese visitor said this was the first time she had visited such as large and well-designed gallery.

"I am here because I heard that Vietnamese artworks are part of the collection," she said.

The National Gallery Singapore at night. — Photo by National Gallery Singapore
Designed by studio Milou Architecture, in partnership with CPG Consultants (Singapore), the National Gallery Singapore occupies the City Hall and the former Supreme Court, two important heritage buildings in the heart of the Civic District. While maintaining deep respect for the original architecture and conserving the structure of these historically significant buildings, studio Milou Architecture has elegantly integrated the two interior spaces into one new visually stunning arts institution.

With a total floor area of about 64,000sq.m, it is believed to be the largest visual arts institution in Singapore, matching established museums such as Musée d'Orsay (France) and Tate Modern (UK) in size.

Chong Siak Ching, chief executive officer of the gallery, said at a media briefing held on Wednesday that it was hoped the gallery would become the leading visual art institution that inspired the people of Singapore and the region.

The Southeast Asia Gallery displays famous works of art in the Southeast Asia from the 19th century to the modern day. — Photo by National Gallery Singapore
The gallery was dedicated to collaborative research, education and exhibitions, highlighting the importance of modern art in Southeast Asia in the global context, she said.

The museum draws from the National Collection, one of the world's largest public collections of Southeast Asian artworks. Through careful nurturing over the years, the artworks the gallery draws from now number approximately 8,000 pieces from the 19th century through to the modern day.

Apart from displays within Singapore, this collection has also travelled to international museums and exhibition venues in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The collection's strength also lies in its comprehensive representation of Singapore's art and its unparalleled holding of works by major artists of Singapore such as Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang, Chua Mia Tee and Georgette Chen, besides Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Tang Da Wu.

Herons by Chen Wen Hsi, Chinese ink and colour

The collection also holds significant pieces by Southeast Asian artists of international standing, such as Nguyen Gia Tri (Viet Nam), Raden Saleh (Indonesia), Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (the Philippines) and U Ba Nyan (Myanmar), as well as Latiff Mohidin (Malaysia), Imelda Cajipe-Endaya (Philippines), Montien Boonma (Thailand) and Svay Ken (Cambodia).

A total of 52 Vietnamese works of art have been displayed at the gallery, the most famous being the 159x119cm "Landscape of Viet Nam" (1940) by Nguyen Gia Tri, who is celebrated as one of Viet Nam's most important and finest lacquer painters of the 20th century.

Another Vietnamese work entitled The Singers in the Countryside was painted with watercolour and ink on silk in 1932 by Nguyen Phan Chanh. The painting captures a moment of intimacy and concentration between two women playing a traditional game of improvised singing. Chanh trained at the Indochina School of Fine Arts in Ha Noi, and his style combined Western realism with a harmonious and poetic sensibility, using the subtle visual effects produced by painting on silk. His subject matter and sober palette of browns and blacks were inspired by his upbringing in rural Viet Nam.

Dawn on the Farm by Nguyen Duc Nung, Lacquer.

The gallery also displays the work of art entitled Dawn on the Farm, painted in 1958 by Nguyen Duc Nung, who was known for his exceptional ability to create realistic representations using the difficult technique of painting with Vietnamese lacquer. The farmer in the painting is represented as a muscular and graceful person, while the golden sunrise creates an exultant and hopeful mood. — VNS