National Gallery Singapore and France's Centre Pompidou to jointly curate modern art exhibition

Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery Singapore.
Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery Singapore.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Works by canonical Western painters such as Marc Chagall and Wassily Kandinsky could hang in the National Gallery Singapore next year.

These artists could feature in an art exhibition reframing the modernist movement, slated for April next year at the gallery's newly announced 20,000 sq ft Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery.

The show is jointly curated by the National Gallery and France's Centre Pompidou, under an agreement inked on Thursday by the two institutions. More than 200 artworks - about half of these on loan from the Centre Pompidou - will be on display.

Dr Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery and one of the exhibition's curators, said the as-yet-untitled show will "re-examine art development in the 20th century in different societies", with South-east Asia as a starting point.

Visitors will get to see masterpieces by the region's artists, such as Galo B. Ocampo from the Philippines and Singapore's pioneering Georgette Chen, alongside the icons of modern art from the West.

Modernism came to the fore in the late 19th century as an aesthetic and cultural movement spanning literature, music and the visual arts. Artists who subscribed to it broke with tradition, using new techniques that challenged conventional and realistic ways of depicting the world. Two such special exhibitions are expected to run every year, for about three to four months each.

At a press preview on Monday, the gallery said it will also tie up with art institutions from other countries, such as China, Vietnam and the Netherlands, in the future.

The $530-million National Gallery opens in October, at the site of the old City Hall and Supreme Court buildings. Earlier this year, it opened its doors to the public for a series of building tours.

On Monday, Singtel announced a $20-million contribution to the gallery. The special exhibitions gallery named after the telco, on the third floor, occupies a third of the gallery's space.

National Gallery chief executive, Ms Chong Siak Ching, said Singtel's contribution will support the research and presentation of special exhibitions, which "help further the understanding of art in South-east Asia in a global context".

Meanwhile, Singtel's group chief executive officer, Ms Chua Sock Koong, said the company was "proud to put home-grown and South-east Asian art on the map... as it takes its rightful place alongside more famous international counterparts".

Singtel is the latest in the National Gallery's string of corporate partners.

In August 2013, Keppel Corporation donated $12 million to set up a Centre for Art Education in the gallery.

The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) has donated $25 million along with 26 artworks from its corporate art collection, while the United Overseas Bank gave an undisclosed amount and access to more than 1,500 works from its collection. Both banks now have permanent galleries named after them.

jianxuan@sph.com.sg