NAGA Sheds its Skin to Become National Gallery Singapore

Its name has been shortened to NAGS, TNAGS, and in its latest incarnation NAGA, now Singapore’s new national art gallery is shedding its name once more —we’re told for good, but time will tell — and henceforth it is to be called the National Gallery Singapore. Scheduled to open in October 2015, and 10 years in the making, the gallery will house what is generally considered the best collection of Modern Southeast Asian art in the world.

“It’s not a change really more a shortening. We want to avoid in a way the abbreviation letters, which is the Singapore habit,” explained Chong Siak Ching, CEO of National Gallery Singapore.

At a press briefing, Chong explained the new gallery aims to position art from Southeast Asia in a global context. “We see ourselves contributing to two important goals; in the area of artistic contribution our key focus will be Southeast Asian art and being a thought leader in art history on Southeast Asia; and the other equally important goal is to bring about art appreciation and art awareness to the public.” she said.

“Southeast Asian art is still a very much an un-researched area,” added Eugene Tan, director of National Gallery Singapore.

To partly address that a Southeast Asia Gallery will present art from a regional perspective organized around thematic clusters, placed chronologically to give a sense of the historical development of the region’s art. The cluster will range from “19th century: Authority and Anxiety,” reflecting on the colonial period to “1950-60s: Manifesting the Nation,” looking at how artists responded to nation building and “2000s and After” section, looking at Southeast Asian contemporary art in a global context.

Celebrating Singapore art, the DBS Singapore Gallery, named after the bank that donated S$25 million, will present key artists in Singapore’s art history, chronicling how art has developed in tandem with Singapore’s rise as British colony and nation, demonstrating how art here is a product of cross-cultural influences. Last year, DBS donated 26 artworks from its corporate collection to the gallery, including pieces by Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee, Anthony Poon, Tan Swie Hian, Ong Kim Seng, and Thomas Yeo.

The Wu Guanzhong Gallery, named after the late painter who donated 113 artworks worth an estimated S$66 million to the gallery in 2008, will open with a large showcase of his work. After the initial opening exhibition, the gallery will be dedicated to Chinese ink works, including some by Wu. Separately, the National Gallery Singapore is planning to organize international “blockbuster” exhibitions in partnership with Centre Pompidou and Musee d’Orsay in Paris and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A new logo, developed by Asylum Creative, an award-winning creative agency founded by Chris Lee, was also unveiled today. Two rectangular blocks, in charcoal gray or red, represent the new museum building, which will emerge from the renovation of the former City Hall and adjacent former Supreme Court buildings, now joined together. Lee explained the two blocks can be interpreted in several ways — two dialogue boxes, two platforms; two plinths, or simply two spaces for visual art.

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