Singapore Pinacotheque museum to open with Cleopatra exhibition, rare masterpieces

Founder of Singapore Pinacotheque museum Marc Restellini intends to share rarely-seen 20th century artworks, such as the paintings of Italian artist Amodeo Modigliani. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Founder of Singapore Pinacotheque museum Marc Restellini intends to share rarely-seen 20th century artworks, such as the paintings of Italian artist Amodeo Modigliani. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Singapore Pinacotheque museum founder Marc Restellini (left) and chief executive Suguna Madhavan hope the new museum will spark the interest of groups like schoolchildren and the elderly. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Singapore Pinacotheque museum founder Marc Restellini (left) and chief executive Suguna Madhavan hope the new museum will spark the interest of groups like schoolchildren and the elderly. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Singapore Pinacotheque museum founder Marc Restellini intends to share rarely-seen 20th century artworks, such as the paintings of Italian artist Amodeo Modigliani (seen on the wall behind him. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Singapore Pinacotheque museum founder Marc Restellini intends to share rarely-seen 20th century artworks, such as the paintings of Italian artist Amodeo Modigliani (seen on the wall behind him. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Visitors to Fort Canning Park will soon get to take in masterpieces from consummate 20th-century Western artists, alongside lush greenery and hilltop views of downtown Singapore, when the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris art 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 France's capital. The Singapore Pinacotheque is its first international offshoot.

The inaugural feature exhibition here, Myths 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 such rotating exhibitions this year.

There will also be a permanent collection of about 40 to 50 display pieces, including rarely-seen works by Italian Bohemian painter-sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, French expressionist painter Chaim Soutine and American abstract artist Jackson Pollock.

Mr Restellini 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 that Mr Restellini has adopted to great success with the Parisian Pinacotheque - one of his 2009 shows 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 an increase in 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," noted Ms Madhavan.

Spanning some 5,500 sq m, the Singapore Pinacotheque will occupy the three-storey Fort Canning Arts Centre, from where British officials planned a last-ditch defence against the onslaught of Japanese forces during the Second World War.

When The Straits Times toured the site on Thursday, construction was still ongoing.

Space has been set aside for an art academy, which will host seminars and lectures on art history, and practical art and craft classes.

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.