Singapore Art Museum gets $90m makeover

During SAM's (above) revamp, its programmes will continue at SAM at 8Q as well as community spaces and other cultural institutions.
During SAM's (above) revamp, its programmes will continue at SAM at 8Q as well as community spaces and other cultural institutions.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
During SAM's (above) revamp, its programmes will continue at SAM at 8Q as well as community spaces and other cultural institutions.
SAM at 8Q (above)in Queen Street will be connected to the main SAM building via a link bridge. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN, ARTIST IMPRESSION: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM
SAM at 8Q (above, left)in Queen Street will be connected to the main SAM building via a link bridge (left).
SAM at 8Q in Queen Street will be connected to the main SAM building via a link bridge (above).ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN, ARTIST IMPRESSION: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM

Revamp to add 'double-volume' spaces and enhance facilities is slated to finish in 2021

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) in Bras Basah Road will be undergoing a major $90 million revamp to enlarge and improve the space for an enhanced visitor experience.

The revamp will add "double-volume" spaces to house large-scale installations, as well as enhance facilities for technologically demanding works which use multimedia.

A link bridge is being planned to connect the main SAM building and SAM at 8Q in Queen Street. The museum will also be made more accessible to visitors with special needs.

The Government will fund up to $80 million, and SAM will get the remainder from donations and sponsorship.

An open tender for architects and consultants to manage the project will be called within the second quarter of this year, and the revamp is slated for completion in 2021.

DUE FOR A FACELIFT

Even when putting up the Singapore Biennale, we could see the challenges involved, especially for huge works of art which we had to put in the museum's (the National Museum of Singapore's) rotunda space. Some works need weight loading and suspension. SAM is an old building and we cannot be drilling and hanging random things.

MS JOYCE TOH, curatorial co-head of SAM

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), announced this yesterday at the museum at a closed-door feedback session for the recently concluded Singapore Biennale attended by artists, docents and educators.

It is time for SAM to be revamped, said artists and industry observers.

The museum was converted from the former St Joseph's Institution, which dates back to 1855.

When SAM was opened in 1996, the restoration work had cost $30 million and had taken more than two years to complete. The museum has not been upgraded since the opening.

Ms Joyce Toh, 41, the curatorial co-head of SAM, said: “Even when putting up the Singapore Biennale, we could see the challenges involved, especially for huge works of art which we had to put in the museum's (the National Museum of Singapore's) rotunda space.

"Some works need weight loading and suspension.

"SAM is an old building and we cannot be drilling and hanging random things."

Artist Fyerool Darma, 30, who was part of the recent Singapore Biennale, said: "I'm looking forward to the revamp, which is necessary. I'd like to see how the new spaces will work."

Dr Hoe Su Fern, 36, Assistant Professor of Arts and Culture Management at the Singapore Management University, said: "The revamp is much needed as the building is ageing and it needs to keep up with the times."

The main SAM building is now closed for deinstallation of the recently concluded Singapore Biennale's works of art, and will remain closed after that for the revamp.

During the revamp, programmes at SAM will continue at SAM at 8Q, which was converted from the former Catholic High School building, as well as community spaces and other cultural institutions.

In her speech, Ms Fu highlighted SAM's role in growing Singapore's visual arts scene.

Since the opening, the museum's visitorship has grown over the years, reaching a record high of 900,000 visitors in 2015.

Ms Fu said: "It (SAM) has been vital in presenting the works of home-grown, South-east Asian and international artists to audiences here... At MCCY, we are committed to developing the visual arts sector and creating more relevant spaces for our artists to showcase their works. We want SAM to remain at the forefront of contemporary art in South-east Asia."


Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity following Singapore Art Museum's request to clarify that the museum Ms Joyce Toh was referring to in her quote is actually the National Museum of Singapore. She had said,"Even when putting up the Singapore Biennale, we could see the challenges involved, especially for huge works of art which we had to put in the museum’s rotunda space."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore Art Museum gets $90m makeover'. Print Edition | Subscribe