Highlights of (Re)collect: The Making of Our Art Collection
(Re)collect: The Making of Our Art Collection shines a light on the history and key highlights of National Gallery Singapore’s collection. Many of the gallery’s seminal works are on display, accompanied by fascinating insights and insider information. This comprehensive exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to peer behind the scenes, uncover untold stories and little-known facts about this world class collection.
The artworks alone would be worth the visit. But the stories that these works tell, and the many fascinating biographies and journeys that are revealed, make for a singular experience.
One of the most noteworthy is Self-Portrait (ca. 1950) by Chuah Thean Teng, a renowned Malaysian artist who pioneered the use of batik as a fine art medium. Self-Portrait is the first artwork registered in the Gallery’s collection and is part of a donation of over 110 works from cultural philanthropist Dato Loke Wan Tho. A well-known supporter and patron of the visual arts, Dato Loke donated these artworks to the state in the hope that they would be housed in a dedicated art gallery one day. Many of the works donated by Loke are featured in the exhibition. His visionary and pioneering spirit can be seen in the diverse range of works exhibited—from works in different media, by both genders, and across various generations and regions.
How works have joined the collection is an intriguing topic, and the exhibition offers much insight. In some cases, the Gallery’s collection of an artist’s works is formed through donations from the artists, their estates and collectors. For instance, the Gallery’s collection of Singapore artist Georgette Chen, a forerunner in Singapore’s art scene and the only woman artist to have had a retrospective exhibition in the Ministry of Culture’s Pioneer Artists of Singapore series, is largely formed through donations by the artist and her estate. One of the key donations is Family Portrait (ca. 1954), portraying the family of her close family friend, Chen Fah Shin.
In other cases, the exhibition histories of a work and how it joined the collection is not at all straightforward. And Miles to go Before I Sleep (1975) by Singapore artist Cheo Chai Hiang is a conceptual sculpture with a curious past. Originally displayed at the National Museum Art Gallery in 1976, after the exhibition it was placed in the museum’s storage where it was forgotten for a decade. It was eventually rediscovered and was donated by the artist.
(Re)collect also features exciting recent acquisitions that can be seen for the very first time at the Gallery. These include a group of works by Singapore artist Kim Lim, showing the evolution of her personal artistic practice as she moves from using the medium of wood and metal to stone, Mindscape 17 by Latiff Mohidin, who is often cited as Malaysia’s leading painter and poet, and an annotated sketchbook of drawings and paintings from Indonesian artist S. Sudjojono, revealing his intimate thoughts and feelings during a transformative period of his life.
There are many more intriguing histories and anecdotes to discover in (Re)collect. It is an absolute must see for all art lovers interested in 20th and 21st century Singapore and Southeast Asian art, offering the chance to discover what it takes to develop such an exceptional collection: hard work, skill, generosity, foresight and many twists of fate.
Exhibition: (Re)collect: The making of our art collection
Dates: 11 May – 19 August 2018
Venue: National Gallery Singapore, Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery B & C,
City Hall Wing Level 3