The Singapore national museum had changed quite a lot since I last visited the place a few years back. The front lobby area is still left largely intact, but though seemingly nothing much has changed on the exterior, the magic comes when you enter the building. The compound now spots an extended basement exhibition hall area, effectively increasing the exhibition floor area by a substantial amount.
Decked in modern-ish white and black it’s like the perfect showground for contemporary media- whether it’s the vast open spaces for large sculptures or the high walls to deck large paintings on. The two most interesting exhibits for the day are located in these two basement level exhibition halls, namely the Singapura 1960s exhibit and Cai Guo-Qiang’s controversial art.
The 1960s Singapore showcase
This exhibit “Singapore 1960” celebrates a year on after 50 years of self-government. The display takes the form of a vibrant and colourful ‘live’ show set interjected with both noteworthy and quirky news articles throughout that year, all lined along the curved walls of time, separating the main exhibit partitions. Interesting to note are the news, advertisements and even comics shown on the papers then, some do really stood the change of time. The show features over 300 artifacts will be presented in the manner of art installations.
Featured too in the exhibit is a 100-year old Strohmenger grand piano which used used in the composing of the national anthem, sexy sarong kebayas, the Aw Boon Haw jade collection, fully sequinned Chinese opera costumes, hundreds of popular vinyl records and publications, two pairs of sweat-stained boxing gloves and a kitschy diorama; these were some of the icons that dotted post-WWII Singapore’s socio-cultural landscape.
The display is free for viewing and rather professionally done in my opinion. There are some cultural spaces familiar to Singaporeans then such as the eclectic Haw Par Villa and the defunct neon-lit ‘Worlds’ amusement parks. The whole display is rather small in my opinion and I believe could be expanded to show more of Singapore’s part than just that particular year, but that is just mostly it, would love to see more.
Exhibition Gallery 1, Basement
Thursday 3 June 2010 – Sunday 22 August 2010 10:00am – 6:00pm
Commendably, in comparison to several museums I’ve been in London, particularly the Tate, British, Natural History and Science museums, which I can vouch for are world class museums, the Singapore national museum in my personal opinion not bad on that standard, with the exception of the smaller exhibition space.
I will touch on Cai Guo-Qiang’s gallery in a separate post.