Clans showcase treasured artworks in ground-breaking exhibition

An artwork titled Galloping Horse by artist Xu Beihong, at the Treasures Of The Clans exhibition at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre on June 3, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - The prized artwork by Xu Beihong once drew an offer of $500,000 and is kept with security company Certis.

Now, the public can view Xu's Galloping Horse artwork, as well as those by other renowned international and local artists, such as Liu Kang, Pan Shou and Lim Tze Peng, at a first-of-its kind exhibition at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) from Friday (June 3).

Sixteen Chinese clan associations have come together to showcase more than 80 "heirlooms" at the Treasures Of The Clans exhibition that is on till July 31.

The event is a collaboration between SCCC and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA). The cultural centre was incorporated by the federation in 2013, and the building in Straits Boulevard was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong five years ago.

Mr Low Sze Wee, SCCC's chief executive, said each artwork tells a story of the artist's deep connection with his or her clan, and provides insights into Singapore's local art history.

At the launch of the exhibition on Friday, Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry, said: "The clans' active participation not only showcases their valuable artworks, but also their selfless contributions and sense of solidarity. This is the essence of our clans' spirit."

One of the participating clans is 99-year-old Singapore Ann Kway Association, which contributed seven art pieces, including Xu's Galloping Horse, which was gifted to the clan in 1939 by the late artist.

More commonly known as the founder of modern art in China, Xu, who was born in Jiangsu province in China in 1895, was especially well known for his Chinese ink paintings of horses and birds.

Mr Yeo Hoon Chong, chairman of the association, said the artwork was presented to its former chairman Lim Keng Lian, who was a friend of the artist. It is under the care of Certis, with a photo displayed at the association in New Bridge Road.

"More than 10 years ago, a buyer offered $500,000 for the artwork," he added. "However, this is strictly not for sale."

Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK) loaned a calligraphy by local centenarian artist Lim to the exhibition. It celebrated its 180th anniversary in 2020 with a publication Transcending Centuries: A Chronicle Of SHHK 180 Years Of Historical Articles, with the Cultural Medallion recipient coming up with a calligraphy for the title of the book.

Mr Paul Loo, SHHK's vice-president, said it was honoured to have Lim, also a Hokkien, add eminence to the momentous occasion of its anniversary with his calligraphy.

"We hope the showcasing of his work will inspire Singaporeans to persevere and pursue lifelong passions, and add colourful strokes to our collective heritage for centuries to come," he added.

Also on display are Chin Kang Huay Kuan's two calligraphy pieces by the late Malaysian calligrapher Sim Mow Yu and late Chinese calligrapher Wu Zhongshan, who were both of Chin Kang descent.

Architect Liu Thai Ker (left) and Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry, at the Treasures Of The Clans exhibition at the SCCC on June 3, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Mr Jimmy Teo, president of the 104-year-old clan, said the themes of the artworks reflect values like unity and hard work, which the clan upholds.

He added: "Besides giving the public a chance to view artworks from famous artists, we also hope to impress upon them the important role that clan associations play in transmitting and promoting traditional Chinese culture."

Mr Thomas Chua, president of SFCCA, said: "We are happy to have gathered our member associations to share with the wider Singapore community some of the most exquisite artefacts from their treasured collections. It is important to preserve and document the rich clan heritage to let our forefathers' legacies live on."

SCCC has installed closed-circuit television cameras at the exhibition area, bought insurance for all the art pieces, and deployed gallery staff to watch over the exhibits.

Treasures Of The Clans is held at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre's multipurpose hall at level 7 from Friday to July 31 from 10am to 8pm daily. It will be closing earlier at 7pm from June 9 to 12 to facilitate site works. Admission is free.

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