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2016.10.03 Mon, by
National Gallery Singapore unveils “Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies” in first-ever collaboration with Tate

[Press Release]

Singapore, 30 September 2016 – Art and history come alive as National Gallery Singapore unveils its much-anticipated “Artist and Empire” exhibition at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery. Presented in association with London’s Tate Britain, the Singapore showcase, entitled “Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies”, looks at art associated with the British Empire and how it has been represented and contested through time.

“When we first learnt that Tate Britain was organising the Artist and Empire exhibition, we were very keen to present a version of it in Singapore. Apart from the resonance that the exhibition has to the shared colonial history which Singapore and the region had with Britain’s imperial past, it will also be a valuable counterpoint to reflect on the issues of post-colonialism and decolonisation. Unlike the London show which took on a more British-centric perspective, we took Tate Britain’s narrative as a point of departure to shift the curatorial focus and perspective to the former colonies from the Asia Pacific region, including responses to colonialism by contemporary artists,” describes Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore.

“Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies” adopts a contemporary perspective to critically examine art produced in relation to the colonial experience, and the rise of modern art in former colonies in the Asia Pacific region – particularly Australia, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. Also included in the Singapore exhibition is a special focus on Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a key colonial figure who is regarded as the founder of modern Singapore.

The Gallery’s exhibition draws upon over 200 artworks spanning diverse regional and international public and private collections, including Singapore’s National Collection. Works range from the 16th century to the present, and feature iconic works such as Lady (Elizabeth) Butler’s 1879 oil on canvas, The Remnants of an Army (pictured top left); majestic life-sized portraits of Singapore’s key colonial figures such as Sir Stamford Raffles (pictured bottom left), Sir Frank Swettenham, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II; and a selection of contemporary artworks to introduce alternative perspectives on colonialism, including special commissions by Wong Hoy Cheong (MY) and Erika Tan (SG). Artworks by contemporary artists Lee Wen (SG), Tang Da Wu (SG), Andrew Gilbert (UK), the Singh Twins (UK) and Michael Cook (AU) will also be displayed.

Mr Low Sze Wee, Director for Curatorial, Collections and Education, and curator of the exhibition, adds, “Artist and Empire opens up fresh perspectives on how we can view Singapore and our region’s colonial visual heritage. The Singapore show will offer visitors an opportunity to examine afresh our society today, and how we have built our sense of identity and place in relation to our (colonial) past.” The Singapore exhibition is curated by Mr Low, Ms Melinda Susanto, Assistant Curator and Ms Toffa Abdul Wahed, Curatorial Assistant.

Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past debuted at London’s Tate Britain in November 2015. Says Ms Caroline Collier, Director of Partnerships and Programmes at Tate, “We are delighted that National Gallery Singapore is presenting Artist and Empire. The exhibition was originally developed for Tate Britain in London. Colleagues at the Gallery have reshaped it for Singapore with new loans from British collections and other lenders, including artists. This is the first partnership between the Gallery and Tate, and we have greatly enjoyed the collaboration.”

The exhibition was made possible by lead sponsor Singtel. Says Ms Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO, “We are pleased to support Artist and Empire, the second major exhibition at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, in partnership with National Gallery Singapore and Tate Britain. Not only does this exhibition throw a spotlight on a significant period of history in Singapore and the region, it presents rarely-seen perspectives, particularly those of artists in Asia, who were there capturing an important period of change, in their own distinct voices. As a Singapore-grown telecoms company that now connects the most people across Southeast Asia, we are also big believers in the power of art to connect, engage and inspire. We hope visitors will enjoy this long-overdue understanding of the region’s rich history.”

Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies runs from 6 October 2016 to 26 March 2017 at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, Level 3, City Hall Wing. Admission is S$15 for Singaporeans and S$25 for non-Singaporeans.


Annex A Curatorial Overview

Annex B Artwork Highlights

Annex C Adult Learning and Educational Programmes/Tours

Annex D Exhibition Catalogue/Merchandise