In the 1980s when money was very scarce in the Ministry of Culture and its departments, our museum and my ernest curator friends (Choy Weng Yang and Constance Sheares) depended considerably on the foreign diplomatic missions for our shows, both art exhibitions and productions. The Australian High Commission (Don Hook, Ted Knezz) British Council (Lena Teo, now St George Sweet), French Embassy, Goethe Institut (Moh Siew Lan) and USIS (Bill Weinhold) were our greatest allies in enriching our arts calendars. Thank you all!
We enjoyed significant art exhibitions in the National Museum Art Gallery, about 1000 sq meters of space located on the second level of the National Museum annex building on side of Fort Canning Rise. Often, these shows were on a tour of the region with Singapore as part of the diplomatic circuit.
I have a sense that the diplomatic missions here now have limited budgets for such collaborations. It’s probably a combination of their turning their attention to more needy countries and our focussing more on local artists.
I have always felt the role of the official arts agency through its policies and granting schemes, is to create a balanced palette of art for our enjoyment and edification. I am not sure where the balance between local, regional and international should be, that would give us access to the rich international art panorama while recognising the merits of our own artists. Ultimately, I suppose, it’s best if we can showcase our own artists alongside the best in the world, erasing the lines between them.
It is for the curators of today to strive as we hungry art lovers take what we can from wherever we can get it. I was delighted to catch the Paul Klee retrospective at the Tate Modern, London in Dec 2013 and bowled over by the variety and depth of the art at ArtJog in June 2014. I also saw the Matisse Cut-out exhibition at the Tate in August 2014 and a Jean Miro Retrospective at the Albertina in Sep 2014. I also saw Modligliani and George Braque works up-close in Paris and Munich.
Maybe, we need more kinds of museums focusing on different kinds of art. I can’t wait for National Gallery Singapore to open later this year!