One Fine Noon at National Gallery Singapore

I wasn’t really interested in museums until my first visit to Europe. Turned out that I really enjoyed spending time there, especially arts museums! I could spend hours looking at a painting that I really like (unfortunately I haven’t got to do that since there were usually other beautiful paintings waiting to be devoured by my eyes!).

When I was in Singapore two weeks ago, I was determined to put a visit to museum in the itinerary. While waiting for the bus, I saw the ad for Reframing Modernism, an exhibition in National Gallery Singapore. The exhibition is organized by the Gallery with Centre Pompidou, Paris. My eyes beamed with joy looking at the name of the artists: from Marc Chagall (loooove “La Joie“!), the maestro Affandi to…Picasso!

So the next day I hopped on the MRT and made my way to the City Hall stop. After taking a brief yet lovely walk passing the stunning St Andrew Cathedral, I arrived at the Gallery.

After entering, I made my way downstairs to buy the tickets. Since I’m not a Singaporean citizen nor a PR, I had to pay 25 SGD for the exhibition. To access other collections in the Gallery, they normally charge 20 SGD to Non-Singaporeans, but they have this offer in which you only have to pay an extra 5 SGD if you combine it with the exhibition. That was a good deal. So I thought…why not?

With tickets in hand, I went up to the third floor where the exhibition took place. It was divided into three different sections (or galleries) and of course I started with the first one. There were so many beautiful pieces including work of arts by names that I didn’t recognize before (since I’m still a newbie art lover!), like this beautiful painting by Japanese-French artist Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita entitled “In the Café”.


Really “Parisian-ish”, no?

There were also works by Russian artist Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova. I love the color in her painting called “A City”.


Like I said before, this exhibition exposed me to so many great artists previously unknown to me. Like Emiria Soenassa who was the first most active Indonesian female painter. Born in 1894, she actually started learning to paint when she was 40. She was inspired by Indonesian archipelago, showcasing the Indonesian people from the island of Sulawesi (where she’s from) to the indigenous people from Papua. In her work “Flute Blower and Full Moon”, she featured the landscape of Indonesia under the beam of moonlight.


Besides Soenassa, there were  other Indonesian artists in like Affandi, S. Sudjojono and I Gusti Nyoman Lempad whose works showcased.

Also in the same gallery were some of the works of Marc Chagall’s. I first came across his works when I visited Nice and went to his museum.

After spending almost an hour in the first room, I proceeded to the second gallery. The first thing that took my attention upon entering was a listening station with four headphones. The exhibition collaborated with several Singaporean music students to create several tracks inspired by some paintings. I looked at the mini paintings displayed for a while before closing my eyes while listening to the electronic music tracks. Very interesting.


On top of the listening station was a quote by Vassily Kandinsky whose works also displayed inside Gallery 2.

The highlight of my visit that day was Robert Delaunay‘s “Portrait de Madame Heim”. Displayed next to his other works (one of it was his collaboration with his wife, Sofia Delaunay), this piece made me return back to it for several times. I found the combination of pastel colors and geometric shapes very intriguing.


Robert Delauney – Portrait de Madame Heim. This picture doesn’t do justice!

Still captivated with Delaunay’s work, I hesitantly moved to the third and the last gallery of the exhibition. Upon entering, I was greeted by a very friendly museum attendant. He pointed to my camera and said that I must have taken loads of picture. Then he mentioned about how excited I must’ve been to see Picasso’s work. I’d never seen his work with my own eyes before and of course I was!

“The Cat and the Rooster” was the Picasso’s work in the exhibition. What crossed my mind when seeing it was, “Did the cat kill the rooster? Or did it find it already dead?” Such a silly thought, I know.

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Also in the same room were “Ancient Dance” made in 1968 by Nguyen Tu Nghiem and “Yellow Horse” made in 1941 by Carl Henning Pedersen.

There were also fascinating abstract paintings by Ahmad Sadali. It’s mentioned that this Indonesian painter “merged his spiritual and religious outlook with his interest in abstraction, resulting in deeply philosophical and meditative canvases” which I found true. After looking at his works (especially “Banyuwangi”), you might experience some kind of tranquility that usually comes after meditating. So, meditative is the right choice of word to illustrate them.

The works of Sadali’s concluded “Reframing Modernism”. I got out of the room feeling content that the 25 SGD I spent was worth it (hahah!). I looked at my watch and found that I still have around an hour to get back to my mother who was waiting for me in Orchard Road. So I went to see the other collections that the Gallery had in other levels of the buildings. Turned out this Gallery’s massive! It occupies the former buildings of Supreme Court and City Hall and consists of many galleries.

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Until 17 July, still got time to go there if you’re interested!

One of the works that stole my attention was this portrait of Balinese high priest by Miguel Covarrubias. Always drawn to caricature and cartoon, it’s no wonder I found this Mexican caricaturist’s work fascinating. His extensive travel to Bali yielded to his book “Island of Bali” which was first published in 1937. I might try to look for that book later 🙂

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There’s also this painting by Prayat Pongdam entitled “Feeding”. It illustrates a woman feeding four black cats. Of course it instantly reminded me to my dear mother, LOL! That’s why I found it very close to my heart.

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Mother, is that you? Oh wait, she never goes topless when feeding the cats :p

I googled Prayat Pongdam after I got back to the apartment that day and found that this late Thai painter actually liked to incorporate cats to his works (like “Cat and Fish“). I’m mesmerized by his works and fingers crossed that soon I’ll be able to visit and indulge in more of his works in Sombatperpoon Gallery, Bangkok.

Of course there weren’t only paintings in the Gallery. There were also sculpture works by artists like Edhi Sunarso and “Wayang Legenda” – a performance installation by Heri Dono.

It’s too bad that my feet were hurting and my mother was already waiting for me that I had to end my visit before I had the chance to explore the whole Gallery. It was indeed a fine noon there and I will definitely come back during my next trip to Singapore! (note to self: wear a comfortable pair of sneakers next time.)



One thought on “One Fine Noon at National Gallery Singapore

  1. […] encountered his work of art when I went to National Gallery Singapore for the exhibition “Reframing Modernism.” I really like to see his interpretation of Balinese women. Love the colors that he used […]

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