How does an unparalleled art collection come into being? From the origins of pivotal artworks to the crucial decisions of discerning collectors, this comprehensive exhibition offers a rare opportunity to discover the compelling story behind what makes the National Collection of the National Gallery Singapore so unique. To illustrate this history, over 120 works have been carefully selected from the Gallery’s significant collection of approximately 8,600 diverse artworks, which comprise the largest national collection of modern art from Singapore and Southeast Asia in the world.
The exhibition aims to peel back the layers of the National Gallery’s collecting history, to (re)collect the untold story of its past and how it is engaging with the present and forging ahead into the future. Since the inception of the collection in the 1960s and up to the present, the Gallery’s artworks have reflected the currents of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art history, and the changing landscape of visual art institutions in Singapore over the years. By revealing the stories behind the creation of the collection, the exhibition bears witness to both the humble beginnings of the art scene in Singapore as well as its most seminal moments.
Highlighted in the exhibition is the story behind the beginnings of the collection. It originated in 1960, when Singaporean cinema tycoon and well-known patron of the arts, Dato Loke Wan Tho, donated more than 110 works from his own collection to the state. A selection from this seminal seedling collection is featured, embodying the progressive outlook of this visionary collector.
Also highlighted in the exhibition are critical support from artists, artists’ estates and patrons in the making of the Gallery’s collection through donations made over the years. This is represented particularly through the collection of works and archival materials by Georgette Chen, formed over the years through donations by the artist, the artist’s estate and a private foundation. Chen’s Family Portrait, an intimate portrayal of the family of Chen’s close friend, is displayed alongside her rarely seen personal letters and official correspondences.
The exhibition also features exciting recent acquisitions of works by Kim Lim, Latiff Mohidin and S. Sudjojono, which have not previously been exhibited at the Gallery. See for the first time a rare set of drawings by S. Sudjojono, one of the most important figures in the history of modern Indonesian art. Sudjojono was a prolific artist and writer who had a profound impact on his country’s art. His drawings offer an invaluable view into the realities as seen through the artist’s eyes. Witness also the stirring installation, Asking for Nothingness, by the contemporary artist Navin Rawanchaikul – towers carrying thousands of old empty medical bottles, half of which containing black and white photographs of anonymous village elderly, act as a monument to the lives rapidly being forgotten amidst rapid modernisation.
(RE)COLLECT, which runs from May 11th through August 19th, offers much more than simply a highlight – or ‘best of’ – the National Collection. Alongside the presentation of some of the Gallery’s most seminal works, rarely seen records of early acquisitions and a detailed current overview of the collection will also be introduced for the first time, offering visitors the opportunity to peer behind the scenes and uncover the untold stories and little-known facts about the making of this unparalleled collection.
Dates: 11 May – 19 August 2018
Venue: National Gallery Singapore, Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery B & C,
City Hall Wing Level 3