Once the home of works by local and international artists alike, the MAD Museum of Art and Design in Tanglin Road abruptly shut its doors earlier this month, The Straits Times has learnt.
When ST visited the museum yesterday, a notice by the High Court was on display at the entrance, stating that nothing on the premises could be removed without the permission of the court.
An accompanying court order said landlord Nouveau Developer sought to recover over $1.7 million in rental owed. The museum announced its relocation in a Facebook post on March 4, though there is no closure notice on its website.
A spokesman for Hong Leong Group, of which Nouveau Developer is a subsidiary, said in response to queries that a Writ of Distress was executed by the Court Sheriff on Feb 28.
"The museum has been owing rent from April 2016 to February 2017 despite numerous reminders to pay. We are taking legal advice on this matter," said the spokesman.
Founded in 2009 by former owner and curator Jasmine Tay as a space to make art and design accessible to everyone, the MAD museum moved from Mandarin Gallery to a space six times larger in Tanglin Road in 2014.
The 19,000 sq ft gallery features a cafe, cigar bar and shop, and has housed works by artists such as Ai Weiwei and The Haas Brothers.
Ms Tay got her start as a gallery assistant before setting up Jasmine Fine Arts in 1993, specialising in Chinese contemporary art and representing artists such as Luo Zhongli and Zeng Fanzhi.
But she has run into financial trouble in recent years, and was made a bankrupt in November 2015 by one of her creditors.
According to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) records, Mr Mohamad Fandy Saaid was appointed director of the museum as well as its sales arm, MAD Art and Design, thereafter.
Ms Tay remains only as a shareholder of the museum, according to the records.
A lawyer from Salem Ibrahim LLC, representing the museum, said Ms Tay was not involved with the company or current proceedings.
Previous payment negotiations between the museum and landlord were unsuccessful, and the museum ceased operations in the first week of this month, the lawyer said.
All employees have been paid their outstanding salaries, and the museum is looking for another location to move to, she added.
Actor Andrew Seow, who left a five-star review on the museum's Facebook page last month,
expressed sadness about the museum's closure.
"It's a great place dedicated to art and art lovers that prioritises passion over profit. If they decide to relocate, I will most certainly support them again," he said.
Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.