Unveiling the National Gallery – A Gem in the City
2 December, 2015
After a decade of restoration works, the National Gallery Singapore is finally opened. Housed within two national monuments – The former Supreme Court and City Hall – the National Gallery is the latest destination for both art lovers and curious visitors looking to find out more about Singapore and Southeast Asian Art.
“Portrait of Lee Boon Ngan” by Chua Mia Tee against the backdrop of the National Gallery
The opening weekend began with the Art Carnival held from late afternoon till midnight at the Padang. The vast Padang field was transformed into a series of marquees bustling with activities attended by throngs of couples, friends and families. The interactive installations and workshops ranged from the creation of thread, yarn and rope abstract art inspired by local artists to reminiscing tough periods in our history through the hopes and struggles of survivors in the Bukit Ho Swee Fire.
The Art Carnival in full swing at The Padang
Limelight was refocused back to the collections within the walls of the National Gallery though an impressive light and sound show set against the backdrop of the building’s grandeur. Paintings by renowned local artists such as Liu Kang (Life by the River) and Cheong Soo Pieng (Drying Salted Fish) filled the walls and provided a prelude to the collections awaiting us in both Wings of the $532 million Gallery.
Light and Sound show set against the backdrop of the National Gallery
Entering the Gallery via the City Hall Wing, we were greeted by friendly staff who handed us the Gallery guide and a brochure highlighting the works available in the Permanent Galleries and Special Exhibitions. There are Dining and Retail options available too. Though the Gallery guide was helpful, it is printed on a thin sheet of A3 paper, which can be packaged better. The Galleries are named after sponsors (e.g. UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery), which is not as self-explanatory for visitors in terms of depicting the categories of collections housed in each of them.
The DBS Singapore Gallery in the City Hall Wing of the National Gallery
Nevertheless, shuffling in and out from one room into the next was seamless, and my favourite are the works on display in DBS Singapore Gallery 3 – a showcase of works from members of The Artists Village such as Amanda Heng (Another Woman) and Matthew Ngui (Points of View). The works brought me down memory lane as it depicted the resistance and growth of the local art scene since the 1990s, and reminded viewers of how Singapore’s local art scene has matured and liberalised over the last couple of decades.
Amanda Heng (Another Woman)
Matthew Ngui (Points of View)
A short walk across the lower link bridge transported us right into the sombre mood of the Chief Justice’s (CJ) Chambers and Office, that has been perfectly preserved. It provides a glimpse into the once workplace of previous CJs such as Wee Chong Jin and Yong Pung How.
Chief Justice’s Chambers and Office in the Supreme Court Wing
Entering Courtroom 1, it was like walking onto the set of a crime based TV series, just that the lawyers, defendant and witnesses were replaced by Southeast Asian artworks carefully preserved under the dim Gallery lighting. Having been to the likes of the Louvre, National Gallery (London) and Guggenheim Museum, being in a gallery retrofitted in an old courtroom was definitely a first. And it was quite an experience to behold!
Courtroom One retrofitted into a gallery
Our visit concluded with a stroll along the Ng Teng Feng Roof Garden Gallery, and we ended the evening by enjoying the cool evening breeze over a glass of nightcap at Aura, one of the F&B options on the Coleman Deck located on the 6th floor of the City Hall Wing. For those with a keen eye for art inspired by the culture and heritage of Southeast Asia, do drop by the National Gallery for a visit. However, it might be wise to plan your visit from January onwards to avoid the festive season crowd.
The Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery
The National Gallery
1 St. Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
More on the opening hours and admission fees here.
*Admission ends 30min before closing time
Kelly is a corporate employee by day and free-spirited artisan by night. Having lived abroad for more than half a decade, she enjoys travelling the world and going on new adventures. She believes that everything in life happens for a reason, and never dwells on the past. Writing and creating art are her greatest passion as they provide an avenue for her to freely express herself. The ability to perceive, create and re-define the world through her own eyes fuels her passion for writing and the arts. Her portfolio of works focuses mainly on portraits and contemporary oil on canvas creations. She draws inspiration from events, emotions and experiences in her life, and has a penchant for capturing human interactions, emotions and their physical forms.