Wednesday, September 08, 2010

It's a Fine Arts future in Singapore

More than 20 years ago, at the crossroad of my teenage life, I asked a teacher if I should enter into an art vocational school.

"Don't. There is no future in art in Singapore."

When I heard the reply, I wasn't surprised. It's 20 years later and I do not think my teacher was wrong then. She answered to the best of her knowledge. She was echoing the prevailing sentiment those days, and perhaps even today.

Tonight I was at a blogger's preview for the coming Open House for the National Arts Gallery of Singapore (TNAGS).

The TNAGS folks fielded questions candidly. Questions on operating costs. Or whether TNAGS may affect the sales of private art galleries. I wanted to ask what TNAGS collections would be (later I learned their collections would focused on Asian/ Singapore and mainly on Fine Arts -- paintings, sculptures -- but would also include contemporary art works).

Former Supreme Court Building

The guided tour revealed interesting nooks within the Former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings (the two would be eventually linked by a sky bridge to become the National Art Gallery).

Former Supreme Court Building

We had a special tour to the top of the dome of the Victorian-style Former Supreme Court building...
Former Supreme Court Building

... which gave us an excellent view to the night cityscape.
View from the top of the Former Supreme Court Building View from the top of the Former Supreme Court Building

We were guided along through and into courtrooms, judges' chambers, prisoners' holding cells...
Former Supreme Court Building
Former Supreme Court Building
Former Supreme Court Building

Former Supreme Court Building Former Supreme Court Building

Former Supreme Court Building
The bar

... and venues that have been silent witnesses to history.
City Hall
City Hall

I thought it was a brilliant decision to use the Former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings for Singapore's National Art Gallery. The Corinthian-style architecture reminded me of art galleries in Vienna and London.

Tonight, although there were no art pieces on display, I had a pretty good sense how a visit to TNAGS might be like. And I'm really looking forward to the official opening (by then, maybe TNAGS might offer a tactile-experiential element...)

Seems to me that art and space are intertwined. It's not just the visual aspect of looking at an art piece but also the experience of 'being there', standing in a gallery.

The grandeur of the physical building brings a different experience to viewing the artwork. Size does matter.

But for much of the tour, what kept coming to mind were the words my teacher said to me 20 plus years ago.

Ever since my Kindergarten days, teachers have always noticed my flair for drawing and painting. My parents must have recognised it too, for they paid for my once-a-week art lessons for several years up, till I was 13.

It wasn't until the end of Secondary School that I seriously thought of continuing my education in Fine Arts. But 20 years ago, the conventional thinking was that one should take up a course of study that would put food on the table. Which meant that one should pursue a career in anything but the arts.

As an adult now, far from looking back with regrets, I'm quietly happy.

Not that I expect TNAGS to exhibit my hobby work (I have my own *ahem* online multimedia gallery for that, heh).

I'm happy because at this point I can better appreciate and value art, not as a job or work but as catharsis. And I'm happy because the National Art Gallery would be a place to further expand my enjoyment and capacity for the fine arts.

Also, I'm quietly hopeful.

That our National Art Gallery would be an inspiration for Singapore's young. Some of whom might one day stand at their own crossroad in life, and wonder if there's any future in art.

My answer to that is there is definitely one.

p.s. Hat-tip to Kevin and Walter for the invite. And to other TNAGS staff for organising this.

TNAG staff

The TNAGS Open House will be held on 9th and 10th Oct, 2010. The website for sign-ups will be up soon is here. BTW, Barcamp Singapore will also be held at TNAGS (how cool is that?!) I'm thinking of doing this as a barcamp presentation. If there are no takers for this topic, I might just sit there and... paint :)

Tag: tnags, TNAGS


  1. I want to learn painting from you, Teacher!

    Nice post :)

  2. Hello! I was there too! Wish we were introduced to each other...

  3. @Tabehodai - go borrow a book. That's what I did :)

    @eunice - maybe we'll meet at barcamp hosted at TNAGS?


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