SINGAPORE DIGS THE ARTS –kinda…

A quick trip up to Singapore last weekend for a meeting could have actually easily been a one day turn around. But It has been a while since I caught up with old friends Peter Schoppert (once a publisher, and a dotcom wiz, he is now with McKinsey & Company looking after external relations – but his real talent is simply being a genius about everything that’s going on!) and his wife Lee Chor Lin, a mover and shaker in Singapore’s museum world and who now runs the Singapore National Museum of Singapore. Chor Lin has injected a huge dose of life into NMS, overseeing the huge renovation and additions a few years ago, bringing in all kinds of interesting and contemporary exhibits.

Up right now are two contemporary photography exhibitions which, if you are in Singapore or have some time to spend there, are absolute musts to see.dsc_2448.jpg

They are both housed in the spacious underground exhibit halls, which is very fortunate for the first one especially – Robert Wilson’s “VOOM PORTRAITS.

This exhibit has travelled and is not new, but here each portrait gets a whole large cubicle like space to itself – every photogs dream. The portraits are video stills – almost. As you stand there standing at portraits of the likes of brad pitt, suddenly they move. It’s kind of eerie and wonderful. Wilson really catches you off guard with the minimalist movement, and a smooth indiscernible looping of the tapes.

The other exhibit, Chang Chien-Chi’s “Doubleness” is three of his exhibitions put together, which again is only possible in this fantastic space. The first one, from which the title comes is about the whole scene behind arranged marriages. Many of the images are disturbing and touching at the same time. Deceptively simple, straightforward shots from the inside of the registry counter, mass wedding setups, it all speaks of quiet desperation and quick fixes. The next section is disturbing in a different take on desperation: “Chains” shows portraits of inmates at an asylum which simply chains pairs of inmates together – slightly better of ones with dificult case. The theory being one would help the other. When you look at the images you get the feeling the opposite is going on. And this in our times. The last part is off Chinese migrant workers in New York, and the families they left behind – years of separation.

What is a bit sad about these exhibits is how few people were there. Most seemed to be those who had stumbled on it on their outing to see the “new’ museum. Both exhibits warrant a lot more publicity, both (especially Taiwanese Chang Chien-chi’s) have quite a lot to say about our contemporary world. A Sunday afternoon at the NMS is worth it, plus you get these two world class exhibits! Check it out: http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/

On the ‘private’ side of Singapore’s art scene, Peter and Chor Lin took me down to the dockside were the inimitable Valentine Willy set up his latest fine art gallery (VWFA) in a warehouse – all white and huge. That is if you can find it on Keppel road inTanjong Pagar in a building called – wait for it – Distripark. (Here Valentine is seen consorting with the Grand Doyenne of singapore’s art scene, Marjorie Chu)

img_0477.jpgFilippo Sciasca (previously of Gaya) is showing a handful of his canvas takes on Carravagio. Brave of them to show just a few, and indeed that is how it should be: show only what needs to be shown. The canvas, cracked and crackled like some renaissance batik, are so thick with glue and resin that even when one of the frames broke during shipping, the canvas was so stiff that it stayed flat, so Filippo tells me. I like this collection, it does reach across the centuries. There were a lot of familiar faces down there, old Indonesia hands like Mary Edleson, and dancer Restu heavy with twins.

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Looks like it will still be awhile before the arts get really popular in Singapore. So we (Peter, Chor Lin, Meena Mylvaganam and I) wind up the evening off Cuppage Center with mexican food and then some live music. A very slick Malaysian guitarist who is close to being a genius but seems stuck at the ‘wiz’ level . We call it a night at midnight and head home. I miss color here….img_0480.jpg

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