Friday, 27 November 2015

National Gallery Singapore Opening Visit

  Big Art Deal  
From the top floor of the newly renovated National Gallery Singapore, I can see that Singapore would like to establish itself as an art centre of SE Asia, a place where art happens, and changed hands. This Gallery is a statement of that, being the art gallery that houses only SE Asian art. Its alias SE Asian Art Museum reflects that goal.

Consider this stat: Singapore has 720 private art galleries that deal in artworks. These mostly sell fine and contemporary or pop arts. There're many other arts sold in shops that aren't included in this number. That's 1 art gallery for 7695 Singaporeans. So if the same ratio is applied to a country, say Vietnam, there should be about 11,658 private art galleries in Vietnam. I doubt if Vietnam has more than 1,000 private art galleries. I suspect they have fewer galleries than Singapore.

The point is, these private art galleries mainly target overseas buyers. It's too numerous to cater for local patrons only.

Singapore want to aim so that when collectors think of buying arts in Asia, they think of Singapore.

National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
Souvenir shop entrance, St. Andrew's Rd


Singapore has been doing so for SE Asia (if not the whole of Asia) for some time. Any market Singapore set up would be leveraging - taking great advantage of - its position as a transportation hub with top-notched infrastructure. This is true for any market, but as an Alpha+ global city, this has the added advantage for a market of high-end product like arts.

The opening of NGS (National Gallery Singapore) cements and further promotes Asian art, hence contributing to the branding of Singapore as a place for art lovers and collectors.

Of course, if Singapore is aiming to be a art market centre, it would want to be a place for creating art as well, and NGS is also performing that job of nourishing burgeoning local artists.


  Old Face, New Organs  
While I visited NGS for the art exhibits, but its architecture kept my eyes just as busy, if not busier, than what's on its walls.

Like Fullerton Hotel, the Old Supreme Court where NGS is part of is a historical colonial building. And again like Fullerton Hotel, it also has exchanged hands through several owners.

National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
"Allegory of Justice" is depicted inside the pediment with Lady Justice occupied
the centre figure

Nearly all Lady Justice were depicted with sword in one hand and a scale in the other. Many are depicted with her blindfolded (like the HK's counterpart of the Old Supreme Court building), but this sculpture is depicting her with eyes wide open. There's no blind justice here.

Corinthian coulmns, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
Corinthian columns designed by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli (1888–1963) 



I'm glad that many of the existing amenities of the Old Supreme Court has been kept to remind visitors of its previous incarnation.

Holding Cells, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
2 holding cells for women. Note the cisterns outside the cells. 2 for women, 10 for men.

Holding Cell, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore Toilet, Holding Cell, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore

Wall niches, Courtroom 3, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
Wall niches, Courtroom 3, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore
Courtroom 3
Left: Nice niche.
Top: Witness stand. Would the witness stand please stand?


Hallway, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court, Singapore
Hallway


This small dome, which looks like an ET spaceship, dons the former Law Library. It's the most photographed architectural feature in this building. You can do your bit by proceeding to L5 of the Old Supreme Court building.

Dome, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court building, Singapore


The open thatched roof design diffuses the strong light, and on sunny days can cast ever-changing shadow patterns on the dome. And what's supporting the stylised thatched roof is, naturally or artificially, stylised trees. The sun-roof is provided by the symbolic tree canopy.

Dome, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court building, Singapore


Interior, Law Library, Dome, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court building, Singapore
Interior, Former Law Library, now called Rotunda

Interior, Law Library, Dome, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court building, Singapore



  New Marriage of 2 Old Buildings  
This is the Padang Atrium where the mouths of the 2 buildings - Old Supreme Court and City Hall - meet and French kiss. The Link Bridges are the tongues of these 2 buildings. The Old Supreme Court dons a green copper cap / cupola. City Hall wears no headgear. They both wear pinstriped British business suits.

Padang Atrium, Link Bridges, National Gallery Singapore
The 2 Link Bridges at Padang Atrium

Ceiling, National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court, Singapore
Padang Atrium's soaring ceiling


  The Art of Smiles  
I love how the Thai artists who, in keeping with the spirit of sanuk, bring humour into their arts. Art shouldn't be always so serious. Methink that humour is the highest form of art, and satire is the highest form of humour because it's the most difficult to make.

Shocking Pink Collection, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Shocking Pink Collection, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore
Shocking Pink Collection, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore


I would prefer to call these works - if I may - the "7 Faces of the Pink Man". Like the faces of some bodhisattvas, it's just different faces of the same being.

Another Thai artworks that put me in stitches (it's difficult to hold laughter in a gallery, and its floor is quite nice for rolling on it). The installation shows a dancing pole, and a video giving instruction on how to perform the pole dancing, demonstrated by a man.

Exotic 101, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Exotic 101, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore
Exotic 101, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore

Why can't art all be funny like this? With lots of sanuk. While dancing on the pole, one should definitely sing "Sabai sabai"! What else?



On that light note, I bid you adieu. Sawadee. Night-night.

National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore National Gallery Singapore, Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore


Trivia: why doesn't National Gallery Singapore called itself more accurately the National Art Gallery of Singapore?

Since Singapore is the most English acronym-conscious country on earth bar none, calling it the National Art Gallery of Singapore will result in the acronym of NAGS. Who wants to be called NAGS? Not me (and I'm not horsing around). Actually, I have seen it being called NAGS by various sources before the opening. Now that it's opened, they took the "Art" out of the gallery. Art's out, air's in. A member of the tripadvisor nags about the missing "Art" in the name of this fine (art?) institution. I hope this answers that nagging question.


It's free admission between 24 Nov 1015 to 6 Dec 2016. Admissions are always free for citizens and PRs.



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