Glass rotunda at museum to re-open with new works

The interior of the glass rotunda had a 360-degree screen (left), on which various video clips about Singapore were shown, when it opened in 2006.
The interior of the glass rotunda had a 360-degree screen (left), on which various video clips about Singapore were shown, when it opened in 2006.PHOTO: ST FILE

The National Museum of Singapore's glass rotunda will feature two new permanent installations in December

The National Museum of Singapore's glass rotunda will re-open on Dec 10, after a two-year-long revamp, with two new permanent art installations themed around natural history.

The first work that visitors will encounter as they enter the 15m-high rotunda from the top is an interactive digital art installation by the renowned Japanese digital media collective, teamLab.

The work, titled Story Of The Forest, is a special commission by the museum. It is inspired by the institution's William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.

The prized collection has 477 drawings in total and 69 of them, including drawings of the hibiscus flower and Malayan sun bear, will appear as animated illustrations in the installation.

The animated animals will respond to the presence of visitors and interact with them, for example, by accompanying them down the 80m-long spiral passage of the rotunda.

To accommodate this immersive installation, a dome-like structure had to be constructed within the space.

At the foot of the rotunda, visitors will pass through a passageway that leads to the Singapore History Gallery. It is here that the work Singapore, Very Old Tree, by Singapore artist Robert Zhao, will be shown.

The installation will feature 17 images of trees in Singapore and the stories of people's connections to these plants. It is inspired by one of the oldest postcards in the National Archives of Singapore, which is dated 1904 and depicts an unspecified tree.

The work was commissioned as part of the Singapore Memory Project, a national movement launched in 2011 to document people's memories of Singapore, and was exhibited at the National Library in May last year as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The new installations mark the first revamp of the rotunda since its launch in 2006 when the museum completed its major redevelopment and extension.

Previously, a video of life in a day in Singapore was projected 360 degrees in the rotunda space and it was set to an original musical score by composer Vladimir Martynov.

The two new works also mark the completion of the museum's $10-million revamp of its permanent galleries that began in 2014.

In a press statement, the museum's director Angelita Teo says: "We are excited to re-introduce the glass rotunda to our visitors with two new installations that reference the museum's early collections history and invite discourse and dialogue between the historical and the contemporary."

She adds: "Through both installations, we hope to offer our visitors new ways of looking at Singapore's history and culture."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Glass rotunda at museum to re-open with new works'. Print Edition | Subscribe