Visitors to Fort Canning Park will soon get to take in art masterpieces amid lush greenery and hilltop views of downtown Singapore, when the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris, a private museum, opens in May.
While its founder, art historian Marc Restellini, could not give a specific opening date, he unveiled details of the new museum's opening displays at a media preview on Thursday.
Mr Restellini, 50, is also the founder of the Pinacotheque de Paris in the capital of France. The Singapore Pinacotheque is its first international offshoot.
The inaugural feature exhibition here, Myth Of Cleopatra, will peel back the mysteries surrounding the ancient Egyptian queen, through a range of works ranging from archaeological artefacts to films. Plans are afoot for two or three more rotating feature exhibitions this year.
There will also be a permanent collection of about 40 to 50 masterpieces, including rarely seen 20th- century works by Italian painter-sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, French artist Chaim Soutine and American abstract artist Jackson Pollock.
He has curated these works by connecting them through common themes, through an approach he developed known as "Transversality".
"It tells the stories and explains the connections behind the artworks. In this way, we encourage understanding and emotions and inspire lively dialogue," he explained.
Such works are sourced from private collections, a formula Mr Restellini has adopted to great success with the Parisian Pinacotheque - one of his 2009 exhibitions pulled in 700,000 visitors, nearly twice that of an Italian Renaissance exhibition held at the Louvre at the same time.
Both he and Singapore Pinacotheque's chief executive Suguna Madhavan are optimistic that the museum will take off.
"We've seen more interest and awareness of art and museum-going here for some years, and it helps that there's been government support in building up the eco-system," said Ms Madhavan. "Our approach is not to be didactic, but to make art playful and accessible. We hope to reach out to everyone including groups such as schools and the silver segment."
Space has been set aside for an art academy, which will host seminars and lectures on art history, and practical art and craft classes targeted at children and adults.
For Mr Restellini, it is important that the Pinacotheque can entice younger visitors.
"We need to change their image of museums. It is happening in Europe now, the young people do not go to museums anymore, which is a pity. It is a place of knowledge and education," he said.
Spanning about 5,500 sq m, the Singapore Pinacotheque will occupy the three- storey Fort Canning Arts Centre.
When Life! toured the site on Thursday, construction was under way.
But its roots will not be forgotten. The museum will house a heritage gallery about Fort Canning as well as a cluster of food and beverage and retail tenants.
Admission to the heritage gallery will be free, but ticket prices to the museum have yet to be confirmed.
Some art lovers are already looking forward to its opening. Sales promoter Lisa Tan, 24, is keen to head down in May. She said: "I'm interested because local museums show a lot of South-east Asian art. I want to learn more about European art, especially about the similarities and differences between both genres."