National Gallery's UOB Southeast Asia Gallery tells the history of region through art

A member of the media taking pictures of artwork in the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 6, one of two permanent galleries in the National Gallery Singapore on Oct 15, 2015.
A member of the media taking pictures of artwork in the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 6, one of two permanent galleries in the National Gallery Singapore on Oct 15, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Members of the media touring the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 6, one of two permanent galleries in the National Gallery Singapore on Oct 15, 2015.
Members of the media touring the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 6, one of two permanent galleries in the National Gallery Singapore on Oct 15, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The National Gallery Singapore opens on November 24 but the media have been getting sneak peeks of its promising gallery spaces.

This morning (Oct 27), curators walked members of the media through the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery that presents the largest South-east Asian modern art exhibition in any space.

The long-term opening exhibit, titled Between Declarations And Dreams, presents around 400 artworks. The show draws works from Singapore's National Collection and also presents loans from other museums and collections. Among the institutions which have lent works for the show are the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, the National Museum of the Philippines, and the Vietnam Fine Art Museum.

These key loans help present several key artworks documenting momentous times from the 19th century to the 1990s. Together, they tell a comprehensive story of how art evolved in the region, the various influences as well as the region's global perspectives.

In his opening address, Dr Eugene Tan, director of the Gallery, said this opening exhibit of the art of South-east Asia looks at "shared experiences and impulses amid diversity".

"While a cause for celebration, it is also a reminder of the historical, social and political context in which Singapore has been a part of. It brings to mind the commonality of experience in the region we call South-east Asia," he said.

The title of the opening exhibition is taken from a 1948 poem by Indonesian author Chairil Anwar and it allows the curators to explore a range of subjects and issues such as personal and ideological perspectives as well as personal motivations in art-making.

Several iconic artworks, such as Filipino artist Juan Luna's 1884 oil on canvas Espana y Filipinas (Spain And The Philippines), explore the impact of colonial rule in the broader region and its influence on art.

Admission to permanent galleries is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.

deepikas@sph.com.sg