Feast Your Eyes

Published on 4 July 2016

A quick look at what’s new at the museums.


Museum-going hasn’t always registered highly on the radar of most Singaporeans. But that has not stopped our museums from steadily putting together cutting-edge showcases of work and artefacts that explore regional and global exchanges of ideas and influences. The second half of this year sees a bumper crop of new exhibitions at old favourites like the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), as well as new heavyweights like the National Gallery Singapore.


39 Armenian Street,

If you’re Peranakan, the elaborate handicrafts of a distant ancestor just might be on display at the Peranakan Museum’s new special exhibition, Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World, which runs until March 2017. Collecting hand-hewn home decorations, handkerchiefs, purses and slippers, the exhibition turns its eye to the elaborate art of Peranakan hand-beading and embroidery. More than just pretty things, the exhibition also traces the evolving role of women’s work and tradition in keeping with regional developments over the years.



1 Empress Place

Fresh off a revamp that started in 2014, two new wings have been added on top of a rearrangement of its permanent exhibition. The ACM traces the connections between Asian cultures and, in turn, their connections to global movements. Accordingly, the revamp sees artefacts arranged according to themes like ‘Trade and the Exchange of Ideas’, collecting objects drawn from Singapore’s maritime and entreport trade history.

Other highlights include the Tang Shipwreck Collection at the Khoo Teck Puat Gallery. Located in one of the new wings, the collection features artefacts like Tang dynasty precious metals and ceramics. Also new is a contemporary art gallery housed in the new Kwek Hong Png wing. In a first for the museum, the space features contemporary artistic responses to the museum’s collection. The new wing also houses galleries exploring Asian religions, with collections examining the histories of the major religions in the region and their developments in Singapore.

Catch the ACM’s ongoing special exhibition, Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour, a massive collaboration with artwork sourced from museums all over the world, including the Musée du Louvre, Paris. An extensive look through 800 years of Christian history in Asia, from the 13th to the 20th centuries, artwork on display teases out exchanges in techniques, ideas and craft between artists in Asia and the West, as well as regional responses to Christian themes and imagery.



71 Bras Basah Road,

Two ongoing exhibitions at SAM turn the museum’s attention to the expanse of the imagination and inroads into the unknown. Odyssey: Navigating Nameless Seas, which runs till 28 August, is a collection of existing work and new commissions that explores the romance, terror and mystery of the ocean. The exhibition features the work of 11 artists such as Australian Sally Smart’s ‘The Exquisite Pirate: Odyssey’, a surreal, deconstructed ship questioning the place of women and femininity in exploration, and Pakistani artist Rashid Rana’s ‘Offshore Accounts-1’, a haunting seascape composed of smaller images of colonial seafaring and trash, turning the ocean into an elaborate metaphor for exploitation and waste.

Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea, the museum’s sixth children-focused special exhibition, also delves into watery realms with a collection of whimsical, surreal installations like food-artist Janice Wong’s ‘Underwater Labyrinth’, a magical coral-bed made from sugar and chocolate.

In August, the museum will host From Night to Light, an exhibition of work created by participating artists of the Yellow Ribbon Project under the guidance of artist mentors. The work will explore themes of hope and renewal, in keeping with the participants’ journeys of rehabillitation.



1 St Andrew’s Road,

Fresh off its first major collaboration, Reframing Modernism, a joint exhibition with Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the National Gallery Singapore will be teaming with Tate Britain to put up Artist and Empire. Beginning its survey from the 16th century, the exhibition, which opens in October, will examine work produced in the wake of colonial expansion, with a focus on Southeast Asia. It features art on loan from the Tate alongside a selection of artists from the region like British Malayan artists Abdullah Ariff and Chuah Thean Teng.

Another special exhibition, Tanah Liat Nusantara (Clay of the Malay Archipelago), spotlights the work of Singapore ceramicist Iskandar Jalil. This first major survey of his work, starting from the 1960s, will see almost 200 pieces on display, examining his contributions to modern ceramic art and investigation of connection to land through his chosen material: clay drawn from Southeast Asia. The exhibition opens 1 September and runs through February 2017.

1 Valance for a wedding bed. Image courtesy of National Museum of World Culture. 2 Virgin and Child with John the Baptist, Iran © Asian Civilisations Museum. 3 Portrait of Matteo Ricci © Patrimonio del Fondo Edifici di Culto. 4 Table cover. Image courtesy of Peranakan Museum. 5 Bureau shrine, China & India © Asian Civilisations Museum. 6 Woman’s ankle boots. Image courtesy of Peranakan Museum.

COLONIAL GLORY ‘Artist and Empire’, an upcoming exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore, will feature art on loan from Tate Britain. PHOTO National Gallery Singapore

1 ‘Adrift’ by Wyn-Lyn Tan. 2 ‘The Exquisite Pirate: Odyssey’ by Sally Smart. 3 ‘A Short History of Man and Animal’ by Richard Streitmatter-Tran. 4 ‘Una Lumino Callidus Spiritus’ by Choe U-Ram. 5 ‘Ocean’s Room’ by Ashley Yeo & Monica So-Young Moon.

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