A rare image of artist Marina Abramovic cleaning bloody cow bones in her controversial, award-winning performance at the 1997 Venice Biennale is among the highlights of a new art show opening to the public at The Parkview Museum Singapore today.
The exhibition, titled The Artist's Voice, features about 40 works from 34 contemporary artists from Europe and Asia, created in the past 50 years. It runs until March 18 and entry to the private museum is free.
At least two works were made specially for this showcase, by master artists in their 70s.
Door Of Memory, by French artists Anne and Patrick Poirier, is a wood, mirror and neon-light representation of the brain.
Luogo di Raccoglimento Multireligioso E Laico, a wood and mirror installation with literal and metaphorical reflections on religion, is based on an earlier work by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. He reworked it to include Hinduism, so it would be more relevant to viewers in multicultural Singapore.
Curator Lorand Hegyi says the exhibition was inspired by collaborative art duo Gilbert & George, who are known for their aggressive approach to art and life - "We say what we want to say."
Visitors to The Artist's Voice are greeted at the entrance by a triptych of 3m-tall mixed media works from Italy-born Gilbert Prousch and British-born George Passmore. Airs, Khilafah and Pave The Way - made in 2013 - chronicle how the London area of Spitalfields had changed with the influx of Bangladeshi migrants.
Hegyi says of the exhibition's theme: "It is simply about what the artist says. They do not merely paint a beautiful picture or make a sculpture; they say something with that.
"There is a strong message, there is something personal, something very much engaged with real life."
Hegyi is a noted Hungarian art historian and critic, who has, over the years, discovered or collaborated with the artists on display.
Famous names dot the walls and speckle the aisles: Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong's poignant oil painting Refugee 1; the incandescent, fibreglass sculpture Lightning Bolt Men of the late American artist Dennis Oppenheim and Abramovic's 1997 piece, Balkan Baroque, all tell a story.
Balkan Baroque reflects the ethnic conflict which devastated the artist's country of birth - then known as Yugoslavia. The war was such a painful subject then that political pressure was put on the artist to withdraw from the Venice Biennale. Italy intervened and her work won the top award that year.
On the other side of the gallery from Abramovic's works - her 2002 Pieta is also on display - is a hopeful image of resilience created by Sarajevo-born Sejla Kameric (pronounced "shay-la ka-me-rik"). Born 30 years after Abramovic, Kameric transforms her memories of coping with scarcity during the Balkan War into a triptych celebrating female strength and fertility.
BOOK IT / THE ARTIST'S VOICE
WHERE: The Parkview Museum Singapore, Level 3 Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road
WHEN: Today to March 17, 11am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays
INFO: Go to www.parkviewmuseum.com or call 6396-4400
As curator Hegyi says: "This is a realistic exhibition, not a pessimistic one. We all have the chance to be happy, even if we are confronted every day with violence."
Most of the art in the exhibition is from the private collection of Mr George Wong, whose father founded the Parkview Group.
He aims to start a chain of private museums in the buildings owned by the group. The museum in Singapore is the second after one opened in Beijing in 2014.
The Artist's Voice succeeds the nature-and activism-focused On Sharks & Humanity, which ended its run here in early September.
Three other exhibitions on the theme of artists' narratives are planned over the next two years.