Wednesday 25 November 2015

National Gallery Singapore opens 24 November 2015

PM Lee Hsien Loong unveils National Gallery Singapore
By Huang Lijie, Arts Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2015

The National Gallery Singapore, a vision in the works for a decade, makes history today as it opens its doors to the public.

The $532 million museum, housed in the breathtakingly restored buildings of the former Supreme Court and City Hall, is the first museum of such scale in the world dedicated to the art of Singapore and South-east Asia.

It was unveiled last night by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the opening event was attended by some 500 guests, including artists, donors and community leaders, who had a first look at the largest public collection of modern art of Singapore and South-east Asia.

The museum's DBS Singapore Gallery and UOB Southeast Asia Gallery display some 800 works of art from the 19th century through to the modern day. They include paintings by pioneer Singapore artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi, and forerunners of modern art in the region such as Indonesia's Raden Saleh and Hernando R. Ocampo from the Philippines.

In his speech, Mr Lee said that Singapore has been developing and upgrading its museums and galleries.

"But up till now, we've not had a dedicated visual arts museum on this scale like the National Gallery Singapore," he said. "A museum we can point to and say, 'This is truly a National Gallery'."

He added: "You don't find baroque capitals or gold leaf all over the place. It's quiet, it's plain and simple but it's historic and if you come in, you know this is a special place."

Last night, guests were given a preview of a light and sound display that will be a highlight of the opening festivities this weekend. The show will project animated images of iconic works, including Cheong Soo Pieng's Drying Salted Fish, across the front of the museum's buildings. There will also be a carnival that spills out of the museum and onto the Padang.

Entry to the museum's galleries and exhibitions is free for all from today to Dec 6. After that, it is free for Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged six and younger. Non-Singaporeans pay $20.

Singapore artist Choy Weng Yang, 79, said: "I don't see the National Gallery Singapore as being late in coming. It is a culmination of efforts to grow art and culture here over the years and on an ever more impressive scale."

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From historic buildings to Singapore's premier museum
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2015

The reincarnation of the historic Supreme Court and City Hall buildings as Singapore's premier museum - the National Gallery - was a journey with twists and turns.

Before the museum got the nod, the Government had seriously considered putting the buildings to commercial use, such as by turning them into a heritage hotel, like the Fullerton Hotel by the Singapore River.

Alternatively, it thought of leaving these national monuments as places "for people to walk through'', when no government agency wanted to occupy them after they were refurbished 10 years ago.This view into what the 64,000 sq m space could have been was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday when he opened the fortnight-long celebrations of what promises to be a main attraction for Singaporeans as well as visitors.

The National Gallery, with two permanent galleries, will house what is said to be the world's largest collection of South-east Asian art.

Costing $532 million, it will also have, among other things, an education facility and workshop facilities to support school visits.

Ten years went into its making and Mr Lee gave credit to two men who envisioned it. They are Dr Lee Boon Yang, who was the minister in charge of the arts from 2003 to 2009, and his deputy, the late Dr Balaji Sadasivan, who was senior minister of state."From a practical point of view, it might have been cheaper and easier to build a new museum on a greenfield site, rather than renovate these old buildings to a new purpose," PM Lee said.

But Dr Lee lobbied hard against considerable scepticism from his fellow ministers, while Dr Balaji was instrumental in overseeing the gallery's implementation in the initial stages, the PM added.

The result is "an understated but high-quality museum, in keeping with the ethos of our society", he said as he praised lead architect Jean Francois Milou for thoughtfully keeping the buildings' structure while injecting them with new life.

PM Lee noted that Dr Lee, as chairman of Keppel Corporation, continues to support the arts, with the company donating $12 million for the Keppel Centre for Art Education. Dr Lee is also chairman of Singapore Press Holdings.

Arts and culture are integral to great cities such as New York, Paris, London and Shanghai, the PM said.

While the National Gallery is "nowhere near the scale and riches" of the Louvre in Paris or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he said: "We've got a beautiful building to house the art in, which all of us can access and enjoy. When you walk through the galleries, you can't help but feel a sense of history."

The Supreme Court and City Hall buildings witnessed defining moments in Singapore's history, such as the surrender of Japanese forces in South-east Asia during World War II, and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressing a massive rally from the City Hall steps in June 1959 when Singapore attained self-government.

The gallery will be for everyone - be they art aficionados, families or children, Mr Lee said.

"The measure of success is not how many tourists come, or how our museum ranks internationally, but whether Singaporeans feel the Gallery belongs to them, visit it to enjoy what it offers, and in time come to love the Gallery," he said.

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Visitors flock to newly opened National Gallery
Museum with world's largest public collection of S-E Asian art praised by Singaporeans, tourists
By Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

Undeterred by morning showers, Singaporeans and tourists flocked to the National Gallery Singapore, which opened to the public yesterday.

Visitors whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were drawn to the museum's art collection, which is also the world's largest public collection of South-east Asian art.

Theatre actor Yong Ser Pin, 67, said he thoroughly enjoyed the works in the DBS Singapore Gallery.

"It captures how life was like in the 50s. There're so many works which I like, both by the famous and those less famous," he said, pointing out paintings by Singaporean artists such as Chua Mia Tee, Koeh Sia Yong and Seah Kim Joo.

Many museum-goers whipped out their camera phones to capture the interiors of the restored Supreme Court and City Hall buildings. The $532 million project took 10 years to complete.

The National Gallery Singapore opened its doors to the public just before 10am, And the first few visitors were welcomed by Culture, Community and Youth Minister, Grace Fu The Gallery features local and South East Asian artwork, and is free to all visitors over the next two weeks.
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Popular photography spots included the interactive electronic social table, which allows users to view and share artworks with one another, the foyer of the Supreme Court wing and its holding cells, formerly used to house defendants.

Retiree Kok Lee Chin, 61, was among many who took selfies in the Padang atrium joining the two buildings. The space used to be a carpark.

"The buildings have been beautifully restored. It was a smart idea to link the two buildings like this. It is money well spent," she said.

With the year-end school holidays in full swing, families also headed to the museum.

Civil servant Mohammed Jalees, 34, and his wife Yasmin Begum, 35, who runs a clothing business, made a trip there with their three children, aged 11 months to seven. He said: "The Gallery has that experiential, hands-on element which makes art come alive for the children."

Australian gallerist Bess O'Malley, 48, who was first in line to enter the museum, said: "I've been to museums in Australia, the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and I'd say, this is up there with the best of them. It is spectacular, combines both traditional and contemporary architecture, and is the perfect size for this city."

The museum's DBS Singapore Gallery and UOB Southeast Asia Gallery display about 800 artworks from the 19th century to the modern day.

Early birds in the line yesterday were welcomed by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who hoped that the 64,000 sq m National Gallery would be "a place where everyone, be it children or the elderly or young couples, can find something they like". She added: "I hope the Gallery can be lodged in our national conscious
ness like our hawker centres. It will be a place where people gather to talk, exchange views and admire art."

As of 6pm yesterday, 4,200 people had visited the museum.

The National Gallery Singapore's opening celebrations will run until Dec 6. Admission to most of the events is free, with registration required for some. For more information, call 6271-7000, or go to

Thousands of people joined Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam in the grand opening of National Gallery Singapore...
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National Gallery kicks off celebrations
Light and sound show featuring classic Singapore artworks and arts carnival draw crowds
By Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2015

The stately facade of the newly opened National Gallery Singapore was transformed into a massive canvas yesterday, as classic Singapore artworks were beamed onto it in a light and sound show as part of its opening weekend celebrations.

Paintings on display in the Gallery which depict Singapore life through the years, such as Liu Kang's Life By The River and Cheong Soo Pieng's Drying Salted Fish, were presented in a video montage projected onto the City Hall edifices, complete with lights and a rousing score.

A blown-up version of Cultural Medallion recipient Chua Mia Tee's painting of his wife, titled Portrait Of Lee Boon Ngan, was mounted on a giant frame on the steps of the Gallery's City Hall wing.

While many took out their camera phones and selfie sticks to capture the show, Mr Lim Su Min, 69, chose to sketch the scenes before him.

The director of a community development body said: " I liked how they animated the paintings and strung them together."

Civil servant Suriana Sulaiman, 38, who was with her four-year-old daughter Iffah Alia, said that the light show was a "good eight-minute summary of the major paintings on display".

"It helps younger Singaporeans to understand what it was like in the past. But nothing beats going inside to appreciate the paintings in person," she added.

The $532 million museum was created from the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

Many in the audience also stopped by the arts carnival at the Padang, which started at 5pm and lasted till midnight.

Some people visited the food stalls, while others watched percussion and dance performances or took part in interactive art installations, such as graffiti artist Nur Iman's Still Art, But Not On Stage, where members of the public were invited to create their own street art on a wall.

Sales manager John Boladian, 47, and his daughter, Sophia, eight, were among the festival-goers drawing on the wall.

He said: "I took time off work to take her here. It's nice that we get to participate in creating art, as everyone has different perceptions of what art is."

Others came to soak up the festive atmosphere.

Senior analyst at NTUC Enterprise Caroline Fernandez, 48, was there with her five friends. All of them were previously lawyers called to the Bar at the complex.

"We came to reminisce. It's good that they're doing this to create buzz for the opening of a museum, " she said.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who officiated the Gallery's grand opening last night, said: "The Gallery strengthens our sense of identity. It will be an attractive arts and cultural destination for not just Singaporeans, but for all."

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