National Gallery Singapore and UOB announce tie-up

South-east Asian art from the 19th century onwards gets a boost with a new partnership forged between the United Overseas Bank Group and the National Gallery Singapore, ahead of the museum's much-awaited opening in November.

The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon during a signing ceremony held at the foyer of the newly refurbished former Supreme Court building, in an exclusive first-look of the museum - parts of which are still under renovation - for the media.

The objective of the partnership with UOB is to promote the research and exhibition of the National Gallery's 8,000 modern South-east Asian works, the largest collection of such works in the world.

Over 400 of these will be displayed in the inaugural exhibition that will be held in the newly named UOB Southeast Asia Gallery come November.

It is one of the two permanent galleries in the National Gallery, the other being the DBS Singapore Gallery that will trace the development of the Singapore art scene from the 19th century to present. Admission to both permanent galleries is free for all Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The new UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will occupy three levels of the former Supreme Court building, taking up over 2,000 sq m of space.

The National Gallery Singapore occupies the City Hall and former Supreme Court buildings. Work on the interior of Supreme Court building has been completed, with gallery outfitting works currently being done.

Architectural features such as the arched windows, neo-classical columns and even wooden plaques bearing the name of past Chief Justices have been retained and restored to its old glory, with new touches such as shiny new marble and granite floorings.

Refurbishment works on the adjacent City Hall building, however, are still ongoing.

With its partnership with UOB, the National Gallery curators will also be given access to UOB's own art collection - comprising over 1,500 works including paintings by noted Singapore artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chua Ek Kay - for their shows.

A courtyard in the former City Hall building will also be named the UOB City Hall Courtyard.

Though UOB did not reveal how much it is giving to the museum, this partnership is the third high-profile donation secured by the National Gallery prior to its opening. DBS Bank donated $25 million last year, the largest single cash donation made to an arts institution by a corporate body. The National Gallery's Keppel Centre for Art Education - with Singapore's first Children's Museum - was made possible with a $12 million donation in 2013 by Keppel Corporation.

Other additions to the 64,000 sq m institution include three new basement levels that will house galleries, an auditorium and carparks, as well as a metal and glass-canopy rooftop linking the two buildings.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg