Singapore Art Museum

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Singapore Art Museum
Singapore Art Museum - 20131211.jpg
Front view of the Singapore Art Museum
Established 1995 (officially opened 20 January 1996)
Location 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore
(1°17′50″N 103°51′03″E / 1.29734°N 103.85090°E / 1.29734; 103.85090Coordinates: 1°17′50″N 103°51′03″E / 1.29734°N 103.85090°E / 1.29734; 103.85090)
Type Contemporary Art (Singapore and Southeast Asia)
Director Dr Susie Lingham[1]
Public transit access Bras Basah MRT Station
(1°17′48.987″N 103°51′2.10″E / 1.29694083°N 103.8505833°E / 1.29694083; 103.8505833)
Website Singapore Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM, Chinese: 新加坡美术馆; pinyin: Xīnjiāpō Měishùguǎn) contains the national contemporary art collection of Singapore.[2] SAM is home to the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artworks, with a growing collection of international contemporary art.[3]


Officially opened on 20 January 1996,[4] it is one of the first art museums with international standard museum facilities and programmes in Southeast Asia.[citation needed]

The museum, then known as the Fine Arts Museum, was borne out of a project by the National Museum to set up a five-museum precinct in the city. The other four museums that make up the precinct are known as the Singapore History Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, People's Museum and the Children's Museum.[5] The Fine Arts Museum project began with the restoration of the former St. Joseph's Institution building. At the same time, the appointment of artist and surgeon Dr Earl Lu to head an 11-member Fine Arts Museum Board was announced on July 18, 1992, by the Minister of State (Information and the Arts and Education) Dr Ker Sin Tze. The 11-strong Board was tasked to acquire works of art by notable painters from Southeast Asia and East Asia, and by upcoming potential artists from these regions, for the benefit of the visual arts heritage of Singaporeans in centuries to come. Low Chuck Tiew, a retired banker and prominent art collector, served as museum adviser, along with Mrs Shirley Loo-Lim, Deputy Director of the National Museum of Singapore as vice-Chairman of the Board. Dr Geh Min, Dr Ho Kok Hoe, Mr Lee Seng Tee, Dr Arthur Lim, T. K. Sabapathy, Sarkasi Said, Sum Yoke Kit, Wee Chwee Heng, Singapore Polytechnic alumni, and Dr Yap-Whang Whee Yong formed the rest of the Museum Board.[6]

The restoration work on the 140-year-old national monument took more than two years and a cost of S$30 million. It first opened its doors to the public as the Singapore Art Museum on October 20, 1995.[citation needed] Its first art installation is a S$90,000 7-m-high Swarovski crystal chandelier at the Museum main entrance, which weighs 325 kilograms and took over three months to make.[7] The Museum was officially opened by then-Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Goh Chok Tong on January 20, 1996. In his opening speech he envisioned the new museum, along with the other four museums in the Arts and Heritage District and the Arts Centre, aiding Singapore in reprising its historic role as a centre of entrepot trade for the arts, culture, civilisation and ideas to the people in the Asian region and the rest of the world.[8]

Location and facilities[edit]

Situated in the centre of Singapore’s major shopping district and Waterloo Street Arts Belt, SAM is located alongside Singapore’s major performing arts and visual arts institutions: such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts, the Stamford Arts Centre, the Selegie Arts Centre, Singapore Calligraphy Centre, YMS Arts Centre, Dance Ensemble Singapore, Sculpture Square and Action Theatre as well as the School of the Arts: an institution that offers an integrated arts and academic curriculum for youths aged 13 to 18 years of age.

Visitors to the SAM are presented with an interactive, living centre for art, using advanced museum facilities.[citation needed] Community outreach is an important area of the Museum's function through the promotion of awareness and appreciation of art within the local and regional context.[citation needed] It encourages the growth of an active and stimulating cultural environment in Singapore. This is done not only through the Museum's exhibition programmes but also through its education and public programmes which cover a diversity of art trends and practices, fringe activities and public lectures, aimed at reaching the local community at large as well as regional and international visitors to Singapore.

SAM is accessible by major public transportation systems such as the public buses, the MRT lines and cab services.[citation needed] Bras Basah MRT Station, along the new Circle Line, is next to SAM.


SAM’s galleries feature paintings, sculptures, and installations from its permanent collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art as well as touring renowned shows like the Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Museum: Scientist, Inventor, Artist.[citation needed] Taking over from the functions of the National Museum Art Gallery which was opened in 1976 with 93 artworks, its collection includes works from major local artists such as Georgette Chen, Liu Kang, Chen Chong Swee, Lim Tze Peng and Huang Yao. From 2001, the museum began acquiring works and accepting donations from around the region, including from regional artists like Affandi, Hendra Gunawan, Pratuang Emjaroen, Montien Boonma, Andres Barrioquinto, Le Plololooho and Bui Xuan Phai.

The museum has hosted a series of travelling exhibitions since its opening, including those featuring works by Liu Kang, Leonardo da Vinci, Chen Chong Swee, Fan Chang Tien, Lim Tze Peng and Chen Wen Hsi.[citation needed] Notable exhibitions have included the Singapore Biennale 2011: Open House, Negotiating Home, History and Nation (Two decades of contemporary art in Southeast Asia 1991 - 2011), Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, Cities Here and Now: Paintings and Installation Works by Lu Hao.

The museum also regularly partners with other leading art institutions to produce exhibitions, such as his collaboration with Tokyo's Museum of Contemporary Art for Trans-Cool TOKYO (showcasting works by Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Yasumasa Morimura); Video, An Art, A History with the Pompidou Center (Bill Viola, Jean-Luc Godard, Bruce Nauman) or Singapore FringeFestival in 2011 (Emmanuel Guillaud,Lim Shengen, Maki Ueda)


In 2011, following a private preview, the Singapore Art Museum removed Japanese-British artist Simon Fujiwara’s work, Welcome to the Hotel Munber (2010), which featured homoerotic content, despite appropriate advisory notices put up by the museum itself as organiser, venue provider and manager of the Singapore Biennale.[9] Under the directorship of Tan Boon Hui, this act of censorship was committed without any consultation with or notification of the artist.[10]

See also[edit]


  • Lenzi, Iola (2004). Museums of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Archipelago Press. p. 200 pages. ISBN 981-4068-96-9. 


  1. ^ May, Kim (2 July 2013). "THIRD DIRECTOR OF THE SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM APPOINTED". Press Release. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  2. ^ The Singapore Art Museum Collection
  3. ^ National Heritage Board - Singapore Art Museum
  4. ^ About the Singapore Art Museum, YourSingapore.
  5. ^ Leong, Weng Kam (1992-05-24). "Museum recruits more curators and specialists". Singapore: Straits Times. p. 16. 
  6. ^ "Work to convert old SJI into Fine Arts Museum to begin soon". Singapore: Straits Times. 1992-07-19. p. 3. 
  7. ^ "Two opening ceremonies: One for the building, one for the art". Singapore: Straits Times Life!. 1995-10-20. p. 23. 
  8. ^ Wang, Hui Ling (1996-02-21). "Vision of S'pore as entrepot for art, culture". Singapore: Straits Times. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Lingham, Susie (November 2011). "ART AND CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE: CATCH 22?". ArtAsiaPacific. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Ng, Yi-Sheng (25 March 2011). "Simon Fujiwara: Censored at the Singapore Biennale 2011 - See more at:". Fridae. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

External links[edit]