As of November 2015, the most important gallery devoted to the arts in Southeast Asia opened its doors. At a cost of more than 530 million US dollars, the gallery houses more than 8,000 works of art in its 690,000 square feet (64,000 square meters) of prime real estate. Join us as we explore the National Gallery Singapore, its magnificent architecture and the scope of its art programs and exhibits.
The government of the small but powerful city-state of Singapore aims to establish the nation as a leading cultural tourist destination. With that premise in mind, they created—in its civic center—a stunning museum to display the most relevant works of local contemporary artists. This unique pool of talent extends beyond the borders of the country to include exceptional artists from the South East Asia region. At the same time, the institution serves to promote education, cultural exchange and the development of the arts. Two emblematic neoclassical metropolitan palaces were repurposed for this project: the old city center and the former Supreme Court building.
The architectural project that won the tender for the development of the museum was presented by the prestigious French Studio Milou. The design preserves and enhances the aesthetic heritage of the old palaces, transforming them through modern, connecting bridges, galleries, and windows to redefine circulation and offer an exquisite stylistic contrast.
An imposing entrance was created to connect the two buildings. It features a magnificent central staircase resting under several suspension bridges supported by metal columns that evoke massive trees. This splurge of modernity is crowned by a spectacular window covered by 15,000 golden perforated aluminum panels.
The old halls of both palaces were restored to highlight their original beauty and refurbished to provide the circulation, atmosphere, and temperature necessary for a museum of fine arts. The architectural ensemble is—in itself—a masterpiece worthy of a visit. One of the exhibits organized before the Museum’s opening was titled Naked Gallery. Its goal was to debut the new architectural concept without the presence of any artwork, showcasing the details and historical foundations of the new structure.
The National Gallery Singapore has an extensive permanent collection from the leading contemporary artists in Southeast Asia. It includes masterpieces such as Lee Man Fong’s Self Portrait; Wounded Lion by Raden Saleh, and Marketplace During Occupation by Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, among many others. Additionally, it displays traveling exhibitions and includes a comprehensive educational and promotional calendar of events for the development of contemporary visual arts.
The world’s greatest cities are distinguished by their exquisite modern art museums, such as MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Osaka National Museum of Art, or the Guggenheim, also in the Big Apple. The National Gallery Singapore graces the city, offering visitors one more reason to enjoy the grandeur of this Southeast Asian city-state.
As one of South East Asia’s leading artistic institutions with outstanding, innovative design and repurposing solutions, the National Gallery of Singapore is a mandatory visit on your next trip to Singapore. ■