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Singapore’s Huge National Gallery Will Open with Pompidou and Circumstance

Rotunda dome of National Gallery Singapore beneath the paneled roof
Rotunda dome of National Gallery Singapore beneath the paneled roof (photo by Jnzl/Flickr)

The largest public collection of modern Southeast Asian art is opening this October, and the institution that will house it just announced a collaborative exhibition with the Centre Pompidou in 2016. National Gallery Singapore (NGS) joins two historic buildings — the city-state’s former Supreme Court and City Hall — with an adaptive reuse design by studioMilou Architecture. A gold roof of 15,000 aluminum panels sweeps between the neoclassical structures, with a light-strewn courtyard constructed in the center.

Exterior of National Gallery Singapore (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)
Exterior of National Gallery Singapore (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr) (click to enlarge)

As the museum announced last week, next April one of its inaugural exhibitions will feature more than 100 pieces from the Pompidou in Paris alongside NGS collection works from 1900 to 1960. NGS Director Eugene Tan will co-curate the show with Pompidou Deputy Director Catherine David and Curator Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov. Gareth Harris at The Art Newspaper reported that this follows recently appointed Pompidou Director Serges Lasvignes’s talks with Chinese officials last month about the possibility of pop-up Pompidou installations in the country.

While this exhibition will bring significant Western art to Singapore, including works by Kandinsky and Chagall, it also could focus international attention on a place that’s not often on the art world radar. Cultural engagement within Singapore is also something that NGS hopes to foster. Chong Siak Ching, CEO of the museum, told CNN: “The understanding and appreciation of art in Southeast Asia is not deep. Art education and appreciation can start and must start with the very young, so we have a dedicated center for art education.”

Rendering of National Gallery Singapore (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)
Rendering of National Gallery Singapore (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)

A few public tours of the “naked museum” were offered this April, prior to any installation of the planned 10,000-object collection in the 64,000-square-meter space (set to be the largest visual art venue in Singapore). At a cost of $530 million, the 10-year construction has been elaborate, with rooftop ponds installed to act as skylights and the City Hall building at one point totally suspended to strengthen its foundation. (Previously, City Hall was better known as the site of Japanese surrender in World War II.) With the Pompidou initiative launching a series of collaborations with major institutions, as well as its significant collection of Southeast Asian art dating back to the 19th century, NGS could help bring Singapore into the cultural spotlight.

Rendering of National Gallery Singapore's atrium (© studioMilou Singapore 2013 / National Gallery Singapore)
Rendering of National Gallery Singapore’s atrium (© studioMilou Singapore 2013 / National Gallery Singapore)
Exterior of National Gallery Singapore during its 2010 open house (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)
Exterior of National Gallery Singapore during its 2010 open house (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)
One of the preserved cells of the courthouse (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)
One of the preserved cells of the courthouse (courtesy National Gallery Singapore, via Flickr)

National Gallery Singapore (1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore) will open in October.

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