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2015.11.17 Tue, by
National Gallery Singapore announces opening exhibitions

National Gallery Singapore announces opening exhibitions which will celebrate art from Singapore and Southeast Asia

13 November 2015 – National Gallery Singapore is delighted to announce its opening exhibitions which will present close to 1,000 artworks from the National Collection and key loans, weaving both chronological and thematic narratives on Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern art in two comprehensive long-term exhibitions.


The two major exhibition spaces at the Gallery will aim to tell a story which links Singapore and Southeast Asia with the rest of the world. The DBS Singapore Gallery will place an emphasis on providing the public with a critical understanding of Singaporean art and the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will explore the wider region, providing a narrative of modern art in Southeast Asia within a framework of shared historical experiences.


From left to right: DBS Singapore Gallery. UOB Southeast Asia Gallery.


The Gallery will also present two special exhibitions of work by Singaporean artist Chua Ek Kay and Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong. The exhibitions will showcase both artists’ synthesis of Chinese and Western art aesthetics.


When it opens to the public on the 24th of November, National Gallery Singapore will be the world’s first public museum with a focus on displaying, promoting and researching Southeast Asian art from the 19th century to the present day, relating this to wider Asian and international contexts, and creating a cultural dialogue between Singapore and the rest of the world. The Gallery is dedicated to strengthening and expanding its international relations and cultural exchange through its exhibition programming.


From left to right: Suri bin Mohyani. Kampong Kuchan. (Lorong 3, Geylang). 1951. Watercolour, 45.7 x 60.2 cm. Collection of National Gallery Singapore
Chua Mia Tee. National Language Class. 1959. Oil on canvas, 112.0 x 153.0 cm. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.


DBS Singapore Gallery

The DBS Singapore Gallery will open its inaugural long-term exhibition Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore since the 19th Century, which means What is Your Name? in Malay. The title of the exhibition is based on the words on the chalkboard in Chua Mia Tee’s painting ‘National Language Class’ which was created in 1959, the year Singapore gained self-governance from the British. With 400 pieces on display, the exhibition will examine Singapore’s identity and links to Southeast Asia and the rest of the world by reflecting how artists in Singapore have dealt with diverse values, ideas and tensions since the 19th century. It will allow audiences to understand and appreciate the multiple facets of art from Singapore which have come from the diverse cultural values and continuous experimentation by local artists.


Chuah Thean Teng (蔡天定) (b. 1914, China; d. 2008, Malaysia) Morning c. 1960 – 1963, batik on cloth, 112 x 173 cm Collection of National Gallery Singapore


Located in the City Hall Building, the exhibition will reflect Singapore’s art histories, exploring six important themes – ‘Tropical Tapestry’, ‘Nanyang Reverie’, ‘Real Concerns’, ‘New Languages’, ‘Tradition Unfettered’ and ‘Shifting Grounds’. These themes will present the development of Singapore’s art scene from early visual impressions in the 1900s, the emergence of the Nanyang artists in the 1930s, the rise of Singapore’s cultural identity in the 1960s, to new approaches to art in the 1980s. The exhibits will be updated periodically through new research and scholarship.

UOB Southeast Asia Gallery

Presenting artworks chronologically from the 19th century to the 1990’s, the Gallery will open its long-term exhibition Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th Century. Around 400 artworks will be on display for the exhibition presenting a comprehensive regional narrative about Southeast Asian modern art. The works will be drawn from Singapore’s National Collection as well as significant loans from private and institutional collections in the region. Breaking away from national frameworks, the exhibition will tell the story of modern Southeast Asian art.


The title Between Declarations and Dreams is taken from a 1948 poem by Indonesian author Chairil Anwar, who epitomised the modern artist as a creative individual. The phrase captures the experience of artists in Southeast Asia, working between the historical, ideological or political markers that frame their practice, and the personal, subjective, expressive and creative motivations in art-making. The Gallery will explore four main themes; ‘Authority and Anxiety’ (19th to early 20th century), ‘Imagining Country and Self’ (1900s to 1940s), ‘Manifesting the Nation’ (1950s to 1970s), ‘Re:Defining Art’ (post 1970s).


Occupying three levels of the former Supreme Court buidling, the Gallery will also present newly-acquired masterpieces by Raden Saleh, Juan Luna, Fua Haribhitak, Chuah Thean Teng, and David Medalla, to name a few.

Special Exhibitions


Wu Guanzhong

‘Wu Guanzhong: Beauty Beyond Form’ celebrates the opening of the Wu Guanzhong Gallery at the National Gallery Singapore. The Gallery aims to be a major platform for the examination of Wu’s practice within the broader context of ink aesthetics and world art history. Spanning over fifty years of Wu’s career, this show will feature both oil and ink paintings, many of which will be on display for the first time in Singapore. The show features works from the National Collection as well as generous loans from five major museums – National Art Museum of China; China Art Museum, Shanghai; Hong Kong Museum of Art; Zhejiang Art Museum and Nanjing Museum.


Chua Ek Kay

Chua Ek Kay’s ‘After the Rain’ presents the achievements of the artist and commemorates the significant donation by the artist’s family to the National Collection in 2010 – 2011. This is the first major historical survey of his career by a national museum. It examines his artistic developments as reflected by his interests in calligraphy and poetry, the Shanghai School of ink painting and Western art. The show will also cover some of the most important themes, which he revisited continuously throughout his career.

Within two decades of becoming a full-time artist, Chua Ek Kay enjoyed a level of acclaim that few other artists in Singapore had. This important exhibition will explore Chua’s encounters and experiences which led to his distinctive synthesis of Chinese and Western art aesthetics.

About National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore is a new visual arts institution which 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 collections and innovative programming, positioning Singapore as a regional and international hub for the visual arts.


Situated in the heart of the Civic District, the National Gallery Singapore has been beautifully restored and transformed from the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings – two important heritage buildings of Singapore’s nationhood – into this exciting new visual arts venue. Opening in November 2015, the Gallery will be a leading civic and cultural destination established for the enrichment, enjoyment and engagement of Singapore residents and visitors from all over the world. Information on the National Gallery is available at www.nationalgallery.sg.