Istana shows off rarely publicised art collection

Above: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary discussing the ceramic works Anticipation (4), (5) and (6) with artist Oh Chai Hoo at the Istana yesterday. Right: Mr Iskandar Jalil with his ceramic creation Lagu dan Irama, also part of the Istan
Above: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary discussing the ceramic works Anticipation (4), (5) and (6) with artist Oh Chai Hoo at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO
Above: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary discussing the ceramic works Anticipation (4), (5) and (6) with artist Oh Chai Hoo at the Istana yesterday. Right: Mr Iskandar Jalil with his ceramic creation Lagu dan Irama, also part of the Istan
Above: Mr Iskandar Jalil with his ceramic creation Lagu dan Irama, also part of the Istana Art Collection.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

Artworks by Cultural Medallion recipients Ong Kim Seng and Iskandar Jalil are among 27 currently on display at the Istana.

The pieces are part of the rarely publicised Istana Art Collection - which has a total of 95 works, mainly by Singapore artists, and was opened to the media for the first time yesterday.

"The presentation of important works of art at the Istana recognises the achievements of Singaporean artists, and the significance of cultural development for our nation," said Ms Jane Ittogi, who chairs both the Singapore Art Museum and the Istana Art Collection Advisory Committee.

Yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam also hosted a tea reception for eight local artists and several members of the collection's advisory committee in recognition of their contributions to the Singapore art scene.

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Speaking to reporters, Dr Tan said showing these works in the Istana "gives us a chance to talk about Singapore art" with foreign dignitaries and members of the public.

"Art is part of our soul. It represents our heritage. It represents what we are and how we feel. This is how we build an identity for Singapore," he added.

The Istana Art Collection was established in 1994 at the request of then President Ong Teng Cheong.

The works are part of the national collection, which includes collections from museums under the National Heritage Board.

The Istana Art Collection is curated to reflect developments in Singapore's art history and the nation's cultural achievements.

The latest addition to the collection is a large-scale triptych titled Istana Garden by batik painter Sarkasi Said. The work, which was inspired by the flora in the Istana garden, was specially commissioned for the Istana Reception Room.

Mr Sarkasi, 77, took six to seven months to conceptualise the work, which symbolises the never-ending pursuit of growth in life.

"It is an honour to be approached to do work for the Istana. How many people throughout the world will come here? I feel that it's important to have something which has a very deep meaning," he said.

This work, alongside others located in the main building of the Istana and on its grounds, can be viewed by the public during Istana open house events. The next open house events are on June 25, July 30 and Oct 18, in celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, National Day and Deepavali respectively.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Istana shows off rarely publicised art collection'. Print Edition | Subscribe