Ng Teng Fong's family donates $20 million to National Gallery Singapore

The new National Gallery Singapore, located at the former City Hall and former Supreme Courts buildings. When it opens on November 24, the $530-million Gallery will house the largest public display of modern South-east Asian art in the world.
The new National Gallery Singapore, located at the former City Hall and former Supreme Courts buildings. When it opens on November 24, the $530-million Gallery will house the largest public display of modern South-east Asian art in the world.PHOTO: BT FILE

In another major boost ahead of its November opening, National Gallery Singapore has received a $20 million donation.

The family of Far East Organization founder Ng Teng Fong has become the Gallery's fifth founding partner with the donation. A roof garden exhibition space on Level 5 of the City Hall Wing will be named after the late Mr Ng. It will be called the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery.

The family's donation will also help in research, curatorial and exhibition work, with a focus on outdoor presentations of commissioned art.

Earlier, two major donations of $25 million and $12 million, by DBS Bank and Keppel Corporation respectively, to the National Gallery Singapore showed how corporate organisations are now coming forward in a bigger way to support the visual arts here. The other founding partners are Singtel, which contributed $20 million, and United Overseas Bank Group, whose donation amount is undisclosed at the moment.

In a statement, the Gallery's chief executive, Ms Chong Siak Ching, said the contribution from the Ng family will boost its efforts in engaging more visitors with inspiring art experiences.

"By taking exhibitions out of typical gallery spaces, we want to challenge talented artists to create thought-provoking pieces that will be presented against a canvas of lush greenery at the roof garden," she said.

It is one of the many ways the Gallery hopes to refresh the ways in which visitors experience art within the museum.

The first Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Commission will be created by Danh Vo, a Vietnam-born Denmark-based artist who represents Denmark in the ongoing Venice Biennale this year. His art draws on his personal experience to explore broader historical, social and political themes. Vo has seen his total sales in international auctions shoot up from about US$33,700 (S$47,178) in 2012 to $2.37 million this year.

Every year, the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery will feature a site-specific commission by a leading artist that relates to the curatorial narratives of the museum's collections and permanent galleries.

A spokesman for Mr Ng's family said: "We thank the National Gallery for naming the Gallery's roof garden and exhibition series after our late father, as a meaningful way to remember him. It is our hope that the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery and Commission will be an inspiring environment that brings art to all."

The roof garden is the result of restoration works to preserve the architectural authenticity and character of the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

Spanning 3,000 sq m, it features a 5m-tall vertical green wall and overlooks the Civic District. The first admission-free exhibition at the roof garden is scheduled to open in April next year.

When it opens on November 24, the $530-million Gallery will house the largest public display of modern South-east Asian art in the world.

deepikas@sph.com.sg