Singapore Art Museum

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Singapore Art Museum
Muzium Seni Singapura
சிங்கப்பூர் கலை அருங்காட்சியகம்
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, museum
Public transit access  CC2  Bras Basah
 DT21  Bencoolen (from 2017)

The Singapore Art Museum (Abbreviation: SAM) is a contemporary art museum focusing on art practices in Singapore, Southeast Asia and Asia.

Housed in a restored 19th century mission school, it opened its doors in 1996 as the first art museum in Singapore.

SAM has built one of the world's most important public collections of Southeast Asian contemporary artworks, with a growing component in international contemporary art. Drawing from its collection, the museum collaborates with international contemporary art museums to co-curate and present contemporary art exhibitions. Visitors can extend their SAM experience through complementary and exhibition-related education and public programmes such as tours, talks, workshops, special Curator and Artist tours, as well as downloadable activity sheets. Contemporary art of the region is also given international exposure through SAM's travelling exhibitions and collection loans.

SAM was the organiser of the Singapore Biennale in 2011, 2013 and 2016.[1]


Officially opened on 20 January 1996,[2] it is one of the first art museums with international standard museum facilities and programmes in Southeast Asia.

The museum, then known as a fine art museum, was born 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.[3] 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.[4]

The restoration work on the then 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.[5] 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.[6]

In 2013, SAM corporatised, becoming an independent company limited by guarantee. Today, SAM focuses on international contemporary art practices, specialising in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Its vision is to be pivotal among contemporary art museums in the region and on the region, inspiring humane and better futures. Through contemporary art, SAM makes infinite room for everyone to think, feel, experience and imagine.

Location and amenities[edit]

Situated in the heart of Singapore’s arts and culture district, 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 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.

SAM, which includes its annexe 8Q SAM on 8 Queen Street, is focused on curating and exhibiting SAM's permanent collection of contemporary art, as well as newly commissioned contemporary artworks from Singapore, Southeast Asia and beyond.

SAM is accessible by major public transportation systems such as the public buses, MRT and cab services. SAM is a 2-minute walk from Bras Basah MRT Station, and a 10-minute walk from Bugis, Dhoby Ghaut or City Hall MRT stations.


SAM’s approach is to present works curated from the Permanent Collection alongside changing exhibitions, to offer a well-rounded aesthetic experience of Asian contemporary art. From 2001, the museum began acquiring works and accepting donations from around the region, including regional contemporary artists like Cheo Chai Hiang, Dinh Q Le, Natee Utarit, Nge Lay, Suzann Victor and Titarubi.

The museum also regularly partners with other leading art institutions to co-curate and produce exhibitions, such as the collaboration with Deutsche Bank and the Yokohama Museum of Art for Still Moving: A Triple Bill on the Image; Tokyo's Museum of Contemporary Art for Trans-Cool TOKYO (highlighting works by Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Yasumasa Morimura); and Video, An Art, A History with the Pompidou Center (Bill Viola, Jean-Luc Godard, Bruce Nauman).

The museum organizes regularly contemporary art exhibitions and events. It has for example invited twice the French artist Stéphane Blanquet to present installations. Once for the Night Lights festival in 2012, with "Distorted Forest"[7] and once for Art Gardens in 2013, with "Glossy Dreams in Depths".[8]


SAM has had multiple censorship controversies.

In 2008, SAM hosted ARX 5 (Artists’ Regional Exchange) where Hong Kong artist and caricaturist Zunzi's work, Lee’s Garden, was removed from the museum's walls by its staff and thrown into the rubbish bin. The work consisted of a printed enlargement of a caricature of then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong wielding pest-control gear, with senior minister and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew patting him on the back. This censorship was committed without any consultation with or notification of the artist, and sparked off a diplomatic and media firestorm.[9]

In late 2011, following a private preview, SAM 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 and the Singapore Biennale, organised by the National Arts Council.[10] This censorship was again committed without any consultation with or notification of the artist.[11]

See also[edit]


Singapore Biennale 2013: If the World Changed ISBN 978-981-07-8026-5

The President's Young Talents 2013 ISBN 978-981-07-5657-4

Tomorrow, Today: Contemporary Art from the Singapore Art Museum (2009-2011) ISBN 978-981-07-1880-0

Singapore Contemporary Artists Series Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real ISBN 978-981-07-1881-7

The Singapore Show: Future Proof ISBN 978-981-07-1093-4

Singapore Contemporary Artists: Amanda Heng: Speak To Me, Walk With Me ISBN 978-981-07-0087-4

Singapore Biennale 2011 Catalogue ISBN 978-981-08-8050-7

Video, an Art, a History 1965 – 2010 A Selection from the Centre Pompidou and Singapore Art Museum Collections ISBN 9789810884932

Negotiating Home, History and Nation Two decades of contemporary art in Southeast Asia 1991 – 2011 ISBN 978-981-08-8104-7

Natee Utarit: After Painting ISBN 978-981-08-6692-1

Manit Sriwanichpoom: Phenomena and Prophecies ISBN 978-981-08-6693-8

Who's Afraid Of Contemporary Art? A Survival Kit by Dawn Ng ISBN 978-981-08-8954-8

Are You Afraid of Contemporary Art? by Natee Utarit ISBN 978-981-07-1028-6

Are You Afraid of Contemporary Art? by Vincent Leow ISBN 978-981-07-1029-3


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ About the Singapore Art Museum, YourSingapore.
  3. ^ Leong, Weng Kam (1992-05-24). "Museum recruits more curators and specialists". Singapore: Straits Times. p. 16. 
  4. ^ "Work to convert old SJI into Fine Arts Museum to begin soon". Singapore: Straits Times. 1992-07-19. p. 3. 
  5. ^ "Two opening ceremonies: One for the building, one for the art". Singapore: Straits Times Life!. 1995-10-20. p. 23. 
  6. ^ Wang, Hui Ling (1996-02-21). "Vision of S'pore as entrepot for art, culture". Singapore: Straits Times. p. 1. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Lingham, Susie. "ART AND CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE: CATCH 22?". Art Asia Pacific. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  10. ^ Lingham, Susie (November 2011). "ART AND CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE: CATCH 22?". ArtAsiaPacific. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Ng, Yi-Sheng (25 March 2011). "Simon Fujiwara: Censored at the Singapore Biennale 2011". Fridae. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

External links[edit]