Sculpted Singapore: National Gallery exhibit shows the art all around

‘Uncursed Cotton’ by Jimmy Ong. Photo: Carolyn Teo/Coconuts
‘Uncursed Cotton’ by Jimmy Ong. Photo: Carolyn Teo/Coconuts

Tombstones from a spooky cemetery and morbid interpretations of a historic statue are among an extensive exhibition of sculpture’s history in Singapore.

Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore, which runs Thursday through early February at National Gallery Singapore, features both familiar and never-seen works that trace the evolution of sculpture locally over two centuries.

“By presenting the first major local survey on sculpture in 30 years, the Gallery seeks to expand scholarship and raise awareness of Singapore’s vibrant art history,” Director of National Gallery Singapore Eugene Tan said in a news release.

Split into four sections – Power, The Spiritual, The Corporeal, and Making, Unmaking and Remaking – the exhibit shows how sculpture has changed visually and functionally over time. 

It spotlights how sculpture has shaped the city-state’s urban landscape and encourages viewers to see them in a different lens and realize that art can be found all around.

The works will range from performative to installations.  

In the New Era installation by Lim Leong Seng, air-filled plastic bags are stacked and suspended from the ceiling to show how a sculpture’s meaning changes over time. In this instance, plastic was considered revolutionary in the ‘70s when it was introduced but is now considered an environmental nuisance.

‘Entrepreneur’ (1969) by Vincent Hoisington. In the background, ‘New Era’ (1976, remade 2022) by Lim Leong Seng.

Another, by artist Jimmy Ong, interprets the nearby statue of Singapore founder Stamford Raffles. Far from the original’s colonial splendor, these are headless torsos wrapped in turquoise patchwork denim and batik cloth suspension harnesses with very dark kink vibes. They were stitched and stuffed by seamstresses in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Their backs are inscribed with stitched excerpts from Javanese Ethics, a book of fables, and tied in the style of Japanese bondage-art Shibari.

At the entrance, find funerary statues from the grave of Ong Chin Huat, which was among 3,700 graves exhumed at infamous Bukit Brown Cemetery to make way for Lornie Highway.

The Merlion national monument makes numerous appearance, whether as collectibles laid out in different sizes, to versions with varied features that is a statement on Singapore’s diversity by artist Ang Song Nian.

Cloud of ’68 by contemporary artist Tang Da Wu featuring bricks and metal wires was inspired by student riots in Paris the artist witnessed.

Several Hindu temple sculptures, donated by the Hindu Endowments Board, are also shown on shelves. 

The museum is also presenting a 360-degree interactive video installation that shows sculptures from throughout ASEAN.

The exhibition is free for all.

One of the sculptures from ‘Uncursed Cotton’ by Jimmy Ong. Photo: Carolyn Teo/Coconuts

‘Your Blank Stare Left Me at Sea’ (2013) by Ang Song Nian. Photo: National Gallery

Pair of lion figures and attendant figures from the grave of Ong Chin Huat by an unknown artist. Photo: National Gallery Singapore

‘Cloud of ’68’ (1971, remade 2022) by Tang Da Wu. Photo: Carolyn Teo/Coconuts
‘Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi on Bull’ by an unknown artist. Photo: Carolyn Teo/Coconuts
‘Mavis’ (1953) by Annaratnam Gunaratnam

FIND IT
Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore 
10am to 7pm
National Gallery Singapore’s Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery and The Spine Hall
1 St Andrew’s Rd, Level B1 Basement Concourse in the City Hall Wing

RELATED – Retrotech: Return to the analog age at Singapore National Museum

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