Closure of Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris surprises art lovers

Visitors disappointed as private museum shuts permanent gallery ahead of Monday's closing

The Graffiti Walk at Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris was still open to visitors as was its free-admission heritage museum about Fort Canning.
The Graffiti Walk at Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris was still open to visitors as was its free-admission heritage museum about Fort Canning.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

News that private art museum Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris at Fort Canning will close from tomorrow drew a small stream of visitors yesterday, but they found its permanent collection already shuttered.

Like the visitors, food-and-beverage and retail tenants in the same building had learnt about the closure from media reports on Friday night. One tenant will move out.

Most of the museum-goers yesterday wanted to catch the Pinacotheque's masterpieces by Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt and other artists at its permanent gallery but a sign said the gallery was closed for a "revamp".

The museum's latest exhibition on the rise of graffiti was open, however, as was its free-admission heritage museum about Fort Canning.

The sudden closure surprised many as the museum had opened with much fanfare in May last year, and the Singapore Tourism Board had facilitated the project.

It was the only international outpost of the Pinacotheque de Paris in France, which closed on Feb 15. The once popular museum had suffered from poor visitor numbers.

The Singapore museum too had weaker-than-expected visitorship and faced business and financial challenges, according to a Friday statement from Art Heritage Singapore, which manages the museum.

When The Sunday Times visited the museum at the Fort Canning Arts Centre around 12.30pm yesterday, the ticketing counter had a notice saying that staff would be back in an hour.

Mr Charles Quah, 30, a project manager, was disappointed that the permanent gallery was closed, but decided to view the graffiti exhibition instead with his friend. Eventually, they gave up waiting for the ticketing officer. He said: "We have not visited a private art gallery in Singapore before and wanted the experience."

The ticketing officer returned around 2.15pm and, for the next hour or so, there were close to 20 visitors, mostly locals.

Most were also surprised and disappointed that the permanent gallery was closed, but bought tickets for the graffiti exhibition. Tickets were priced at $18 for Singaporeans, permanent residents and work permit holders, and $22 for others.

After a 45-minute tour, Mr Wilfred Wong, 32, and his fiancee, Ms Corinna Choh, 29, both managers, were not very impressed. Said Mr Wong: "It's worth it only if you are into graffiti art."

Art lovers were not the only ones disappointed.

French restaurant Balzac Brasserie will close from this Saturday while the other F&B tenants are staying put for now.

Balzac's executive chef Jean- Charles Dubois said: "They never told us that they were going to close. I was supposed to get an outdoor terrace for dining, but it never happened. There is no proper signage and so there's no traffic. They said we would do catering for events, but we never did because there were no events."

On level one were Giojio Concepts, which houses Italian gelateria Giovanni L., American chowder house Seattle Pike Chow, and Arch which sells heritage gifts and collectibles. There were few customers. Fort by Maison Ikkoku, a restaurant-bar, opened only at 4pm.

In the basement, the glass cases at La Boutique Pinacotheque, the museum's boutique, which used to stock art and lifestyle curiosities, were now empty.

Myra's, a restaurant serving Mexican and North Indian fare, was also devoid of diners. Mr Chetan Kapoor, who owns Myra's, said: "We have events and wedding reception bookings till July.

"We are not sure if we can continue to run our business. We came here because of the museum."

But at Fort by Maison Ikkoku, executive chef and mixologist Ethan Leslie Leong said he will not move for now. "We don't depend on traffic to the museum. We focused on building up our dinner and drinking crowd on our own. Till today, people come for our 12-course omakase and bespoke cocktails. We will not move unless we are forced to."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 10, 2016, with the headline 'Closure of Pinacotheque surprises art lovers'. Subscribe