Back in June, a visit to the National Gallery in Singapore was never part of our Singapore itinerary. Our main purpose was to eat our way through Singapore. In my world, walking and eating are the best ways to see and experience a city. Of course, we’d throw in a few museums in the mix but we’re not the type who would hop from one museum to the next. I would rather explore the city and look for street art. That part excites me. But since my son and his girlfriend wanted to visit the National Gallery among the many museums they wanted to see during the trip, we had no choice but to tag along as we had nothing better to do that morning. In the end, I enjoyed the tour more than anyone.
How can you not? Just look at this massive building. The moment you enter, you would be awestruck with the stunning space and magnificent height of the structure. If the facade or the entrance were any indication of the building’s size, it’s not very obvious. From the outside, the gallery looks just about the same as any other tall building in the city. But inside, that’s where the difference lies.
FUN FACT: The time capsule pictured above contains Singapore newspapers that date back to 1937 and a few pieces of Straits Settlements coins. No one in this generation will be able to see them as it’s scheduled to be opened in the year 3000.
SIDE NOTE: In 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that City Hall and former Supreme Court buildings would be converted into the new National Gallery Singapore. As a result, the Supreme Court was moved to a new building costing the government 208 million. In 2007, the National Gallery launched an international architectural design competition. With over 100 participants, it was narrowed down to 3 and was eventually awarded to Studio Milou Architecture. Construction began in full swing in 2012 and it opened to the public in November 2015. It was truly an ambitious project…one that took almost a decade to finish.
The National Gallery Singapore houses the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian Art. When we visited, Johnny Manahan‘s exhibit was on its last week of showing. So glad to have caught his exhibit before it ended. It made me so proud that the work of a fellow Pinoy was shown there. I could tell my kids were equally proud considering they don’t really know him.
The paintings of Filipino masters Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo were on display when we visited. Artworks of Victor Edades, Botong Francisco and Galo Ocampo which are part of the National Gallery Singapore’s collection and some from private collections were also on display as well artworks of Arturo Luz, Vicente Manansala, Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Anita Magsaysay Ho from a more recent period and were on loan from various institutions and private collections.
It was certainly amazing to view the works of these Filipino artists in one venue and outside of the Philippines even. It makes you proud to be a Filipino. If you haven’t visited our National MuseumNational Museum, you should be ashamed! The National Museum houses a very vast and impressive art collection of our National artists. Well it’s not the National Museum for nothing, right?! A favorite and I think everyone’s favorite is Spoliarium of Juan Luna. That one gave me goosebumps. See it for yourself so you know what I’m talking about.
Back to the National Gallery Singapore, the entrance fee could be considered steep but is worth every SGD. There’s a separate fee to view special exhibits and collections. At the time of visit, we had the opportunity to see its first ever International special exhibition entitled “Reframing Modernism,” co-presented and co-curated by Centre Pompidou of Paris. We were lucky to see the works of modern art masters such as Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinsky, Henry Matisse and Marc Chagall alongside Southeast Asian art masters such as our very own Galo Ocampo (Philippines), Georgette Chen (Singapore), Le Pho (Vietnam), Tang Chang (Thailand), Affandi (Indonesia), Latiff Mohidin (Malaysia) and many others. It was a once in a lifetime experience especially when you can only view rare works of these European Art masters outside of our continent.
And of course, it’s not all serious inside this museum.
The National Gallery is huge, and if you’re a regular viewer just like us who don’t really stick to one painting for too long, you could still spend an average of 2 or 3 hours here. We visited in the morning and there weren’t too many people. I don’t know how big the crowd is in the afternoon.
TIP: There are restaurants inside the gallery for when you get hungry from all the walking you’ll do hopping from one exhibit to the next, but they’re on the pricey side. I would suggest that you have a hearty breakfast or lunch before visiting and wear comfortable shoes.
Not fond of DIY tours? You can join one of these tours, and don’t forget to compare hotels, vacation rentals, rooms, or even homes for your trip before you go. And never leave home without Travel Insurance!