The Singapore National Gallery is situated in the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings and has four floors of exhibition areas in the latter, with three in the former.
We started in the City Hall side, with galleries devoted to local identity across three centuries, change and conflict between new and old in SE Asia, and performance art. There were a few pieces here I liked, especially as we moved through the time to more recent and abstract work.
The floor above has the big exhibitions. Sadly one showcasing Yayoi Kusama had just ended, and the next on impressionist works from the Musee d’Orsay was yet to begin.
On the fourth floor, there is a really interesting exhibition about the history and architecture of the two buildings, followed by two galleries about Chinese art and artists, with a special feature on Wu Guanzhong, and then a Singaporean artist who inked Malay village pictures in a Chinese style, Chen Chong Swee. Not really my favourite approach, but fiancée liked it.
The fifth has a roof top area with pools (which cause a very cool lighting effect inside when the sun is shining), and there is a bar on the 6th with views over the ‘padang’, the town playing field for cricket, football, rugby and tennis.
The City Hall side also has areas devoted to kids and education on the ground floor. We were amused by the computer display which allowed children to design their own animal and then to see it walking around a virtual jungle.
I’ve spent a long time talking about the City Hall side of the gallery; however, if you share my taste in art and go more for the modern movements, then you should start at the Supreme Court end (I didn’t, and had to rush a little).
This contains works from South East Asian artists which are more modern and tend to be more provocative. The picture above shows a mixed media artwork which imagines a world where Austria is a colony of Malaysia. The fake documentary shows white Austrian immigrants who move to Malaysia to find work and are mistreated by their Malaysian hosts. Fascinating.
There is also a small section on the history of Singapore and the legal system. This includes the desk of the first prime minister. On the lowest floor there are some of the old cells from when it was a court.
Personally, I found this side of the museum to be much more interesting, but you would obviously have to judge for yourself.
One exhibit which did catch my eye was an advert in a newspaper which had a story about the Supreme Court’s construction. The advert was for Imperial Airways, and pictured a flight from Singapore to England in just – just! – 6.5 days…As I write this, I am getting ready for the return version of that flight, which I am dreading due to its excessive length at 13 hours. One twelfth of the duration. I hope they had decent hotels en route.
There are 8 restaurants and cafes in the two buildings, ranging from expensive local food to expensive international food, and expensive Michelin starred food. We didn’t visit, but they looked nice…if expensive.
The above is my favourite piece, a batik piece by Chuah Thean Teng, depicting a Malaysia rural scene in what looks to me to be a Mondrian style. I even paid for a reproduction of it from the shop. On the subject of payment, admission is free to local residents, and $20 for foreigners with $5 off for kids, students, teachers, and senior citizens.
It’s a really good gallery, and worth the money. Highly recommended. I’ll post a load of pics below to help you make up your mind, though.
Address: 1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957