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
Singapore Art Museum is located in Singapore
Singapore Art Museum
Location in Singapore
Former name Saint Joseph's Institution
Established 20 October 1995 (1995-10-20)
Location 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore
Coordinates (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
Director Dr June Yap
Curator Dr June Yap
Architect Father Charles Benedict Nain
Public transit access Bras Basah
Bencoolen (from 2017)
Website Official website

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 in 1996 as the first art museum in Singapore.[citation needed]

SAM has built an important public collection of Southeast Asian contemporary art, with a growing component in international contemporary art. Drawing from its collection, the museum collaborates with international art museums to co-curate contemporary art exhibitions. Visitors can extend their SAM experience through exhibition-related education and public programmes such as tours, talks, workshops, special curator and artist tours, as well as downloadable activity sheets.

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


Officially opened on 20 January 1996,[2][3] SAM 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.[4] 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 Earl Lu to head an 11-member Fine Arts Museum Board was announced on 18 July 1992, by the Minister of State (Information and the Arts and Education), Ker Sin Tze. The museum board was tasked to acquire works of art by notable painters from Southeast Asia and East Asia, and by upcoming artists from these regions. Low Chuck Tiew, a retired banker and prominent art collector, served as museum adviser, along with Shirley Loo-Lim, Deputy Director of the National Museum of Singapore as vice-chairman of the board. Geh Min, Ho Kok Hoe, Lee Seng Tee, Arthur Lim, T. K. Sabapathy, Sarkasi Said, Sum Yoke Kit, Wee Chwee Heng, Singapore Polytechnic alumni, and Yap-Whang Whee Yong formed the rest of the museum board.[5]

The restoration work on the then 140-year-old national monument took more than two years at a cost of S$30 million. It first opened its doors to the public as the Singapore Art Museum on 20 October 1995. Its first art installation was a S$90,000, 7 m (23 ft)-high Swarovski crystal chandelier at the museum main entrance. It weighs 325 kilograms and took over three months to make.[6] The museum was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong on 20 January 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.[7]

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: 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, Action Theatre and School of the Arts.

In addition to the main museum building, SAM maintains an annexe on 8 Queen Street, 8Q SAM, which also exhibits SAM's permanent collection of contemporary art, as well as newly-commissioned, contemporary artworks.

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; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo 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 organises regularly contemporary art exhibitions and events. For example, French artist Stéphane Blanquet was invited, twice, to present installations. Once, for the Night Lights festival in 2012, with Distorted Forest[8] and once for Art Gardens in 2013, with Glossy Dreams in Depth".[9] French artist Emmanuel Guillaud presented an in-situ version of his installation Until the sun rises in 2011[10]


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 caricature of 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.[11]

In late 2011, following a private preview, SAM removed Japanese-British artist Simon Fujiwara’s work, Welcome to the Hotel Munber. The piece, which was part of an exhibition organised by the National Arts Council in 2010, featured homoerotic content. Despite advisory notices put up by the museum and the Singapore Biennale, the work was taken down without any consultation with or notification of the artist.[11][12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Singapore Biennale
  2. ^ About the Singapore Art Museum
  3. ^ YourSingapore
  4. ^ Leong, Weng Kam (24 May 1992). "Museum recruits more curators and specialists". The Straits Times. Singapore. p. 16. 
  5. ^ "Work to convert old SJI into Fine Arts Museum to begin soon". The Straits Times. Singapore. 19 July 1992. p. 3. 
  6. ^ "Two opening ceremonies: One for the building, one for the art". Singapore: Straits Times Life!. 20 October 1995. p. 23. 
  7. ^ Wang, Hui Ling (21 February 1996). "Vision of S'pore as entrepot for art, culture". The Straits Times. Singapore. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "French artists shine at Night Lights 2012 – La France à Singapour". Retrieved 24 December 2016. 
  9. ^ "TOYSREVIL: "Glossy Dreams in Depths" by Stéphane Blanquet @ Singapore Art Museum". 27 June 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2016. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Lingham, Susie. "ART AND CENSORSHIP IN SINGAPORE: CATCH 22?". Art Asia Pacific. Retrieved 11 June 2016. 
  12. ^ Ng, Yi-Sheng (25 March 2011). "Simon Fujiwara: Censored at the Singapore Biennale 2011". Fridae. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 

External links[edit]