Art gallery among new attractions at Botanic Gardens

Sited in repurposed colonial bungalow, it will showcase botanical art pieces from archives

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is putting on display art pieces - some dating back to the colonial period - in a repurposed colonial bungalow.

The National Parks Board has converted Gallop House No. 7 (Inverturret) at the gardens into the Botanical Art Gallery. It will feature watercolours and drawings from the gardens' archives, which has around 2,000 pieces.

The works of art, which include some by contemporary artists, will be rotated every six months, with about 100 pieces on display at any one time.

Dr Michele Rodda, the gardens' senior researcher and curator of exhibitions, said: "This is the first time we are making a significant amount of artwork from our archives available to the public.

"We hope to increase awareness of the importance of botanical art for research and showcase the coordination between the work of artists and botanists. The gallery is not merely a historical, closed collection, but a collection that is increasing and growing."

It was among several new features officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday morning. The features are part of the Botanic Gardens' Gallop Extension.

Aside from Inverturret, Gallop House No. 5 (Atbara) has also been repurposed. It is now the Forest Discovery Centre @ OCBC Arboretum. Built in 1898, it is the oldest-known black-and-white bungalow in Singapore that is still standing.

The Forest Discovery Centre is a centre for outreach and research, showcasing Singapore's forest ecosystems and highlighting the importance of their conservation through interactive displays.

Some exhibits in the centre complement those in the OCBC Arboretum, which houses and displays the gardens' collection of dipterocarps - a group of plants that include mostly rainforest trees.

Entry to both the discovery centre and art gallery is free and subject to current safe management measures, said NParks.

Also newly opened is the COMO Adventure Grove - a playground inspired by parts of trees found within the gardens. It includes structures such as a giant version of the pod and seeds of a saga tree which children can play on.

The completion of the 8ha Gallop Extension brings the total area of the gardens to 82ha.

The newly opened sections comprise 5ha of the extension; 3ha of it was opened in 2019.

Sites opened in 2019 include the Mingxin Foundation Rambler's Ridge and the OCBC Arboretum.

Dr Tan Puay Yok, group director of the gardens, said: "The Gallop Extension is designed for all ages.

"It allows people to get close to nature in a very immersive environment and be educated on the importance of conservation, and understand the natural and cultural heritage of this park."

Mr Heng, referring to the gardens as a success story in Singapore's push to become a City in Nature, one of the pillars of the recently announced sustainability blueprint Singapore Green Plan 2030, said: "The Botanic Gardens exemplifies Singapore's commitment to build a liveable and sustainable Singapore."

The Gallop Extension was slated to be fully opened last year, but some parts were delayed owing to preservation considerations and Covid-19 restrictions on construction.

One feature remains to be completed - the HPL Canopy Link, which will be opened next year. The 200m-long bridge will connect the Gallop Extension to the Learning Forest in the older area of the gardens.

Correction note: A previous version of this article said that Gallop House No.5 is the oldest surviving colonial building in Singapore. This is not the case. It should be Burkill Hall, also located in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 14, 2021, with the headline Art gallery among new attractions at Botanic Gardens. Subscribe