Private art museum at Fort Canning to close amid lawsuit

The art museum's latest exhibition that traces the rise of graffiti as an art movement was meant to run till June 25.
The art museum's latest exhibition that traces the rise of graffiti as an art movement was meant to run till June 25.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
The Graffiti Walk at Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris. It is a collaboration between six graffiti artists from Brazil, France, Italy, South Africa, Singapore and New Zealand. The museum will close from Monday (April 11).ST VIDEO: LIM YAOHUI

Pinacotheque's manager cites poor visitorship, business and financial strains

Less than a year after Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris opened in Fort Canning Arts Centre with a splash, the private museum said that it will shut its doors on Monday.

Art Heritage Singapore, which manages the museum, announced in a statement yesterday that it is "disappointed that this project did not succeed due to weaker-than-expected visitorship and other business and financial challenges faced".

The closure comes as the company is being taken to court in Singapore by an Italian exhibition organiser over a sum of about €435,000 (S$667,500).

The amount was for work done by Arthemisia Group, which specialises in the organisation and holding of exhibitions in Italy, on the Myth Of Cleopatra exhibition - the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris' first exhibition, which ran from May 30 to Oct 4 last year.

In court papers, Art Heritage Singapore said Arthemisia Group had failed to fulfil all its obligations in organising the exhibition and that the exhibits were of poor quality, resulting in low ticket sales. The company is counter-claiming for damages and costs.

The Singapore museum's closure comes after the closure of the flagship museum Pinacotheque de Paris in France on Feb 15, also due to poor visitor numbers in recent years.

The Paris museum opened in 2007 and is reported to attract over one million visitors annually.

Both museums are founded by French curator and art historian Marc Restellini, who is also the chairman of Art Heritage Singapore. The Singapore gallery is its only international offshoot.

Mr Restellini did not respond to queries by press time.

In the statement, Art Heritage Singapore said that Pinacotheque de Paris "remains keen to enhance the fine art scene in Singapore" and that it "will continue to evaluate more viable options in Singapore", although it did not give more details.

The Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris housed 40 to 50 paintings by masters such as French impressionist artist Claude Monet and Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn in its permanent gallery.

Ticket prices for the museum range from $11 to $28 for adults, depending on the exhibitions.

Web designer Karen Ling, 45, a frequent museum-goer, said: "I visited the museum twice last year and was unimpressed.

"I did not think the exhibits were the best works of the old masters. It felt a bit of a letdown."

The museum's latest exhibition that traces the rise of graffiti as an art movement, Pressionism: Graffiti Masterpieces On Canvas, was meant to run till June 25.

Besides exhibitions, the museum had a free-admission heritage gallery dedicated to the history of Fort Canning and an art academy as well as food and beverage and retail tenants.

In a statement last night, the Singapore Tourism Board said it had facilitated the Pinacotheque project as part of efforts to grow Singapore's leisure offerings and expressed disappointment at the closure of the museum.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Private art museum to close amid lawsuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe