Asian Civilisations Museum opens new wings with 24-hour celebration

The newly expanded Asian Civilisations Museum will open its doors to the public on Nov 14, 2015.
The newly expanded Asian Civilisations Museum will open its doors to the public on Nov 14, 2015. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Mr Timothy Ng (left) and Mr Noor Aliff setting up one of the Changsha bowls for display in the Tang Shipwreck: Khoo Teck Puat Gallery on Nov 9, 2015.
Mr Timothy Ng (left) and Mr Noor Aliff setting up one of the Changsha bowls for display in the Tang Shipwreck: Khoo Teck Puat Gallery on Nov 9, 2015. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Museum director Alan Chong giving a briefing at the Tang Shipwreck: Khoo Teck Puat Gallery on Nov 9, 2015.
Museum director Alan Chong giving a briefing at the Tang Shipwreck: Khoo Teck Puat Gallery on Nov 9, 2015. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Singaporean artist Eng Tow with her art installation Grains of Thought inside the Contemporary Project Gallery in the museum's Kwek Hong Png Wing.
Singaporean artist Eng Tow with her art installation Grains of Thought inside the Contemporary Project Gallery in the museum's Kwek Hong Png Wing. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The Asian Civilisations Museum opens two new wings on Saturday, with an invitation to the public to get intimate with its new spaces and collection.

The museum, in a first, will keep its doors open for 24 hours, with round-the-clock programmes, including an outdoor barbecue, late-night tours and a sleepover in an events room overlooking the river, to celebrate the unveiling of the first phase of its revamp.

The $25-million makeover of the historic Empress Place building began in the third quarter of last year. The aim is to increase the exhibition space and make the place more inviting.

The 148-year-old building was last renovated in 2003, when the museum moved into the space.

The new titanium-clad Riverfront wing and Kwek Hong Png wing add more than 1,300 sq m of space to the museum, making for a total of more than 15,000 sq m. Both are designed by GreenhilLi, a home-grown architectural firm founded by Mr Nigel Greenhill and Ms Li Sau Kei.

On the contemporary material and design of the new wings, the museum's director, Dr Alan Chong, says it is in keeping with the prevailing architectural philosophy towards building extensions for heritage monuments.

"It makes for cleaner possibilities and you can still read the old building as an entity," he adds.

In a statement, the architects say: "The architecture of the new extensions does not mimic the past, rather it represents the architecture of the 21st century, while successfully complementing and integrating with the existing building."

The renewal of the museum extends to its curatorial direction.

While it continues representing the heritage cultures of Singapore, the focus has shifted from looking at the Chinese, Indian and Malay worlds as separate entities to being interconnected and the crucible for Singapore's "unique position in the world as an intersection of many cultures", says Dr Chong.

"Singapore didn't spring out of nowhere, it emerged alongside other port cities of Asia and people have often shared religions and ideas through trade, migration and pilgrimage, so we've used this as a way of curating our new galleries," he says.

The new galleries are no longer devoted to individual cultures, but organised to respond to the overarching themes of trade and the exchange of ideas, faith and belief.

This change is seen in the two galleries opening this weekend - the Khoo Teck Puat gallery, which is dedicated to study of the famous Tang Shipwreck, and the Scholar In Chinese Culture gallery, which explores the scholar in Chinese culture and its association with Confucianist beliefs.

VIEW IT/ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

WHERE: 1 Empress Place

WHEN: 10am to 7pm (Saturday to Thursday), 10am to 9pm (Friday)

ADMISSION: Free for everyone till Nov 22. Thereafter, free for Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged six and below, except special exhibitions, which are $8 for adults and $4 for students and seniors

BOOK IT/24HOURS@ACM

WHAT: The 24-hour celebration of the opening of the museum's new wings includes outdoor picnics, cultural performances, film screenings and a sleepover. After midnight, the museum's director, Dr Alan Chong, and the GreenhilLi architects will hold tours of the space and there will be a DJ party

WHERE: Asian Civilisations Museum

WHEN: Saturday, 7pm, to Sunday, 7pm

ADMISSION: Free, but the sleepover is limited to 80 people. Registration opens Wednesdayat acm.org.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe