Exploring the National Gallery Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide

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If you’re looking for an enriching and culturally immersive experience in Singapore, a visit to the National Gallery Singapore is a must. This grand museum is located in the heart of the city and houses a stunning collection of art from Singapore and Southeast Asia.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the history of the gallery, how to get there, and what to expect when you arrive, as well as some of the highlights you simply can’t miss.

A Brief History of the National Gallery Singapore

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Image source: Deleon Chan

The National Gallery Singapore is housed in two prominent landmarks – the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings – both of which are rich in Singaporean history and were transformed into a world-class gallery in 2015. The Supreme Court was built between 1937 and 1939, and the City Hall was completed in 1929.

For almost 50 years, these buildings served as important centres for justice and governance in Singapore. In 2005, it was decided that the buildings should be repurposed to showcase the country’s art scene, and so the National Gallery of Singapore was born.

The Former Supreme Court and City Hall Buildings

The Supreme Court building is an iconic landmark that features a dome that is visible from many parts of the city. This magnificent structure, with its majestic colonnade, was built in the neoclassical style and features intricate details, such as the reliefs by Italian sculptor, Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli.

City Hall, with its classical facade, sits across the Padang from the Supreme Court. City Hall is where Singapore’s independence was declared in 1965.

The Transformation into the National Gallery

The restoration was a long and challenging process, and the result was the creation of two large glass atriums that connect the two buildings, transforming the former courtrooms into curated gallery spaces. The project took ten years to complete, and the result is a beautiful tribute to Singapore’s heritage, combining the old and the new in a harmonious blend of architecture and art.

Key Milestones and Achievements

In its short history, the National Gallery Singapore has hosted many notable art exhibitions, such as the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, which was one of the most popular exhibitions in 2017. The gallery also received international recognition in 2016, receiving the prestigious title, ‘Best Attraction Experience’ at the Singapore Tourism Awards.

The gallery has also been visited by many significant figures, such as former President Barack Obama, reflecting its importance not just in Singapore’s cultural scene but internationally too.

Navigating the National Gallery Singapore

national gallery singapore
Image source: Pitchaya Prasertwong

Getting to the National Gallery

The National Gallery Singapore is located in the Civic District in the heart of Singapore. It is within walking distance from City Hall, Bras Basah, and Clarke Quay MRT stations, making it easily accessible by public transport. Alternatively, you can also drive or take a taxi to the gallery.

Gallery Layout and Floor Plan

The National Gallery Singapore is divided into two parts, with the Supreme Court Building dedicated to Singaporean art and the City Hall building dedicated to Southeast Asian art. The museum’s layout is uncomplicated, and there are maps on every floor, so it’s easy to navigate.

The galleries are organized by theme, and each one features informative descriptions that provide context for the pieces on display.

Accessibility and Facilities

The National Gallery of Singapore is wheelchair accessible, and there are lifts throughout the building. The gallery also provides touch tours for visually impaired visitors. Additionally, there are cafes, a gift shop, and restrooms for visitors to use. If you’re planning to spend a long day at the gallery, there are also lockers available for you to store your belongings.

The Art Collections

The Singapore Collection

The Singapore Collection showcases the works of Singaporean artists and provides an insight into the transformation of art in Singapore over the years. The collection comprises over 8000 works, ranging from colonial-era art pieces to contemporary art. The collection includes works by iconic Singaporean artists, such as Georgette Chen and Chen Wen Hsi

The Southeast Asian Collection

The Southeast Asian Collection is dedicated to the works of the region’s greatest artists, spanning from the 19th century to the present day. The collection showcases works from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries within the region. Visitors can view intricate pieces of art from the region’s rich and diverse cultures.

Temporary Exhibitions and Installations

In addition to its permanent collection, the National Gallery Singapore also features temporary exhibitions and installations throughout the year. These exhibitions provide visitors with a chance to explore different themes and engage with new art forms. The gallery has hosted a broad range of exhibitions, from solo exhibitions by great Southeast Asian artists to collaborations with international organizations like Tate Britain.

Highlights and Must-See Artworks of the National Gallery Singapore

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Image source: Michael

Iconic Singaporean Art

One of the must-see pieces in the gallery is the iconic ‘National Language Class’ painting by Chen Chong Swee, one of Singapore’s most prominent artists. This painting depicts a classroom where Singaporeans are learning their national language – a beautiful tribute to Singaporean identity.

Another notable painting is ‘Evening’ by Georgette Chen, a masterpiece that captures the atmosphere of Singapore in the 1950s.

Masterpieces from Southeast Asia

If you’re interested in Southeast Asian art, be sure to visit the City Hall wing of the National Gallery Singapore. Here, you’ll find the works of great artists like Raden Saleh and Affandi. Visitors will also have the chance to view ‘Rainforest’, an interactive installation that simulates a walk through a Southeast Asian rainforest with sight, sound, and touch.

Interactive and Immersive Exhibits

The National Gallery Singapore features several interactive exhibits that immerse visitors in the world of art. One such exhibit is ‘The Enchanted Tree House’ – a pop-up installation created by Singaporean artist Mark Justiniani. Visitors can climb up into the treehouse and view the world from different perspectives.

In conclusion, visiting the National Gallery of Singapore is an exciting and enriching experience that provides visitors with a chance to learn about Singapore’s history while engaging with art. From its impressive architecture to its stunning collections, there’s something for everyone here. We hope this comprehensive guide has given you some insight into what you can expect when you visit the gallery, and we can’t wait for you to experience it firsthand.