Must-See Artworks @ National Gallery Singapore

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Must-See Artworks @ National Gallery Singapore

April 04, 2017

A must-visit for art lovers, the National Gallery Singapore oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Opened in November 2015, the visual arts institution is housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, two heritage buildings that have played a monumental role in Singapore’s history.

Here are four artworks that you should not miss:

1. Boschbrand (Forest Fire), 1849, Raden Saleh
UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 2

Raden Saleh, Boschbrand (Forest Fire), 1849
Oil on canvas
Collection of National Gallery Singapore
Adopted by the Yong Hon Kong Foundation

This dramatic representation of wild animals chased by flames to the edge of a precipice is 19th-century Javanese artist Raden Saleh’s largest painting. The painting was presented as a gift to Saleh’s patron King William III of the Netherlands in 1850, one year before he was awarded the title of “King’s Painter”.

2. The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating, 1993, Montien Boonma
UOB Southeast Asia Gallery 14

Montien Boonma, The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating, 1993, reconstructed 2015
Ceramic bowls, wooden tables, cloth and brass
Collection of Singapore Art Museum
Image courtesy of National Heritage Board

A reflection of human life’s cyclical and transitory nature, this installation’s title refers to the Buddhist belief that life entails the stages of pleasure (eating) and suffering (crying), from birth (being) to death (dying), and then again in rebirth. Thai artist Montien Boonma uses ordinary objects and bodily motifs to explore his Buddhist worldview and express his personal grief over his wife’s illness and early demise. 

3. National Language Class, 1959, Chua Mia Tee
DBS Singapore Gallery

Chua Mia Tee, National Language Class, 19759
Oil on canvas
Collection of National Gallery Singapore

This painting conveys the strong nationalist feelings that were ripe in 1959 when Singapore was granted full self-government. It is an ideal example of Social Realism, a dynamic art movement that felt art should represent the concerns of the working classes. Many of such works produced during the turbulent decade of the 1950s embodied aspirations for freedom and independence. Regarded as a master of portrait painting, Chua has painted portraits of presidents and prime ministers of Singapore.

4. Artist and Model, 1954, Liu Kang
DBS Singapore Gallery 1                              

Liu Kang, Artist and Model, 1954
Oil on canvas
Gift of Shell Group of Companies, Singapore.
Collection of National Gallery Singapore
Image courtesy of National Heritage Board

This painting by Singapore artist Liu Kang depicts fellow artist Chen Wen Hsi sketching a model. Based on a sketch done in Indonesia, this is one of the earliest paintings which highlights the role of local artists in imagining, reconstructing and projecting the region.

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