The knight whose works enriched a “cultural desert”

16 06 2017

I have long been fascinated by Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli, the Italian sculptor who spent a better part of his life in Southeast Asia. Over a period spanning 35 years, his mastery in pre-cast decorative mouldings and finishes provided many of Singapore’s buildings with a finishing touch. All in all he would spend 42 years away from his native Italy, leaving his mark not just in Singapore, but also in Siam, Malaya and Brunei.

Collyer Quay at the end of the 1920s, a world that Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli had a hand in decorating.

Of the numerous structures Cavaliere Nolli lent a hand to in Singapore, it is on the old Supreme Court that we see his impressive works. Built in 1939, the old Supreme Court features the largest concentration of Cavaliere Nolli’s efforts now found in the city-state. His decorative and finishing touches cover the grand old dame’s exterior with the exception of the friezes on the porch and a now missing coat of arms. It is however the massive sculptural pieces that adorn its pediment that is most eye-catching. Weighing a total of 13 tons, and measuring 2.7 metres high at the apex and 11 metres wide, the sculptural depiction of the Allegory of Justice in very classical form is the grandest of works that Cavaliere Nolli has here to his name. It is not just the sheer scale of the work that will impress, but also the display of artistic mastery found in the sculptures.

Much of the exterior decorative work on the old Supreme Court (now the Supreme Court Wing of the National Gallery) can be attributed to Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli.

Cavaliere Nolli considered his efforts on the old Supreme Court to be his “proudest achievement”. They would have provided him with at least some measure of having achieved an ambition he had hoped to achieve by coming across to Asia in 1913 – to make a name as a famous sculptor. Once here, he found Singapore especially to be a “cultural desert” and most of what he did would be in a capacity as a stonework contractor.

A map showing the reach of Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli’s work in Southeast Asia (Exhibtion panel from “The Italian Connection”).

As a stonework contractor, Cavaliere Nolli worked tirelessly. He excelled in plasterwork – a skill he picked up working on the finishing on the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok – and also in casting artificial stone. There was particularly in high demand for the latter driven by the use of new building techniques such as the use of reinforced concrete. He produced artificial stone finishing tiles to clad these new edifices. These granolithic tiles, made from cement with aggregate mixed in, gave the new buildings the appearance of having been built out of solid granite without the expense involved. The lightweight tiles were made very economically through the use of moulds. This allowed both repeatability and consistency necessary for mass production.

The Billiard Room of the Singapore Club – showing the exquisite plasterwork of Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli on its barrel vaulted ceiling. The room is now the Straits Room in the Fullerton Hotel (The Fullerton Heritage).

The technique could also extended to produce stone-like ornamental pieces and other decorative elements such as crests and coats of arms. It was for such work, commissioned for the completion of the (second) Ocean Building, that drew Cavaliere Nolli from Bangkok in 1921. Cavaliere Nolli was also employed to provide similar finishes for the Union Building and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Chambers, two more additions made to Collyer Quay in the 1920s.

A close-up of the smooth granolithic finish on the exterior of the old Supreme Court.

Nolli was heavily involved in the decorations of many more of the decade’s new buildings such as the David Elias Building, Connell House and the Netherlands Trading Society Building. Castings of crests, coats of arms and semi-sculptural work were also popular and that same decade, the Edward VII College of Medcine, Elgin Bridge, Crawford Bridge, and the Fullerton Building were beneficiaries of this work. Much, much more was to follow. Granolithic finishes produced by Nolli found their way to numerous new erections, one of which was the old Supreme Court.

One of the works of Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli on the (Edward VII) College of Medicine Building – an eagle with spread wings (a symbol of protection).

Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli’s skills in casting, also extended to the production of artificial stone columns and their capitals. The Ionic capitals he produced for the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Chambers was one of the first he worked on. Also out of Cavaliere Nolli’s Scotts Road workshop were the huge columns and intricate Corinthian capitals that we see on the old Supreme Court.

Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli at the top of the old Supreme Court with a close up of the columns and the intricate Corinthian capitals that were cast by him (Lina Brunner Collection, National Archives of Singapore).

Cavaliere Nolli was bestowed with the Order of the Crown of Italy – a form of knighthood that carried with it the title Cavaliere – in 1925. While his life here may have appeared to have gone on rather smoothly, it was not without incident or setback. A motoring accident, early one Sunday morning in October 1934 at Meyer Road, left him seriously injured. Both of the sculptor’s arms were fractured and he required surgery on the right arm. A citizen of one of the Axis states, Cavaliere Nolli was also interned in Australia during the Second World War from 1941 to 1945. On his return to Singapore in 1946, he found his Scotts Road studio and workshop in a rather poor state. All that he had left in it was also missing, including a collection of over 300 art books and his set of tools.

One of the first postwar works Cavaliere Nolli produced was this precast crest for Hongkong and Shanghai Bank on MacDonald House in Orchard Road.

Cavaliere Nolli overcame that setback and received several commissions before his retirement in 1956. Among his last works in Singapore were a pair of sculptured stone lions for the Bank of China and a coloured sculptured plaque for Van Kleef Aquarium. The last large scale project he worked on before his retirement was the decorative stonework for the magnificent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei. He returned to his native Italy following his retirement and passed away in December 1963 at the age of 75. He left a daughter, the then Hong Kong based Mrs Lina Brunner, behind.

One of Cavaliere Nolli’s last works in Singapore was a pair of lions for the Bank of China. Left: Cavaliere Nolli with one of the lions in his studio (Lina Brunner Collection, National Archives of Singapore). Right: The pair of lions seen today.

To discover more on Cavaliere Nolli’s life and work and his reach outside of Singapore, do visit The Italian Connection, which I had a hand in curating for The Fullerton Hotel. Held at the East Garden Foyer of The Fullerton Hotel, the exhibition has been put up as part of the Fullerton Building’s 89th Anniversary this June. Besides providing a glance at Cavaliere Nolli’s life, the exhibition also looks at the Italian community and  its connections with modern Singapore that go back to the early 19th century. There is also that connection that the Fullerton Building has, through Cavaliere Nolli at its very beginnings and today through the illustrious General Manager of The Fullerton Heritage, Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale.

One of Cavaliere Nolli’s more obscure works – reliefs of angels made for the chapel of St. Anthony’s Convent in 1952.


More on the exhibition and the works Cavaliere Rodolfo Nolli can also be found at:


The old Supreme Court’s Allegory of Justice

Cavaliere Nolli’s Allegory of Justice in the tympanum of the old Supreme Court.

The old Supreme Court’s sculptures, which took Cavaliere Nolli more than a year to complete, are as interesting as they are impressive. Its centrepiece is Lady Justice, which alone weighs 4 tons. Quite noticeably missing is the blindfold, an attribute thought to be central to the depictions of Justice representing impartiality.

There has been many suggestions as to why this may be so, but Justice’s depiction in this manner is actually quite consistent with many classical representations through history, which Cavaliere Nolli would have drawn inspiration from. A beautifully executed example of this is Luca Giordano’s 1680s Allegory of Justice. The blindfold, the use of which was apparently popularised in the 16th century, is also missing from several well-known depictions of Lady Justice, such as in the Old Bailey.

Two other attributes of Lady Justice, a pair of scales and a sword turned downwards, are in plain sight. The scales, weighing evidence, are positioned well above the sword delivering punishment; the symbolism of this being that evidence and court takes precedence above punishment in the administration of justice.

As with many classical representations, deceit, discord and strife is counterbalanced by the order and security that the administration of the law achieves. Deceit, represented by the the two-headed snake, is seen biting a man far to Justice’s right. Legislators and the bent figure of a supplicant, begging for mercy, are also depicted and represent the administration of justice. The fruits of order and security – abundance and prosperity – can be seen in the bull and a farmer leading a rich harvest of wheat on Justice’s left.


The old Supreme Court friezes and works incorrectly attributed to Nolli

The old Supreme Court friezes, which some have attributed to Cavaliere Nolli, are the work of Alec Wagstaff. They were based on designs made by George Thomas Squires as part of a competition. The son of the illustrious Hong Kong based British sculptor W W Wagstaff, Alec was killed in action during the Second World War. Squires, who lived at the Crescent Flats in Meyer Road, as it turns out was the father of Isabel Mary Ferrie – the wife of James Westwater Ferrie. Ferrie was a well-known figure in the field of architecture as well as being an artist known for his watercolours of local seascapes. Many were painted at his house by the sea in Sembawang, His architectural firm, James Ferrie & Partners, is now run by a son Alasdair. 

A number of other prominent sculptural works have also been incorrectly attributed to Cavaliere Nolli. These include the triumphal figures on the façade of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, as well as the two lions of the Merdeka Bridge monument now hidden away in SAFTI Military Institute. Both sets of works were in fact contracted to Signor Raoul Bigazzi, a Florence based sculptor and businessman. Signor Bigazzi ran a successful marble supply and sculptural business and took on quite a fair bit of work in Asia. The railway station’s sculptures were crafted by his firm’s artistic director Professor Angelo Vannetti. The Merdeka Bridge lions were sculptured in the Philippines based on a design made by Mr L W Carpenter of the Public Works Department.

The friezes seen on the porch of the old Supreme Court are the works of Alec Wagstaff, the son of Hong Kong based sculptor W W Wagstaff.






To infinity and beyond with Yayoi Kusama

9 06 2017

Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow opens at the National Gallery Singapore today. The highly anticipated exhibition takes visitors through the preeminent Japanese contemporary artist’s seven decade long career. Even if you are not a big on her artistic expressions – which are attempts to give form to her delusions – the exhibition is worth a visit just for the opportunity to be obliterated by the artist’s mirrored installations. Admission charges apply for exhibition, which runs until 3 Sep 2017. More information, including that on talks, workshops and other exhibition related activities can be obtained at the National Gallery Singapore’s website.

A video installation, Song of a Manhattan Suicide Addict.

A must visit infinity mirrored room: Gleaming Lights of the Souls.

Reflections off a mirrored box installation, I Want to Love on the Festival Night.

A peek into I Want to Love on the Festival Night.

Another peek into I Want to Love on the Festival Night.

Invisible Life.

Another must visit mirrored room: The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens.

The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens.

The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens.

Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets.

It takes balls of steel – Narcissus Garden in the City Hall Chamber.

A view across Gallery A. The exhibition is spread across three galleries of the SINGTEL Special Exhibition Gallery on the Level 3 of the City Hall Wing.

Left-over Snow in a Dream, a soft sculpture from 1982. The artist applied sewing skills she picked up working in a parachute factory as a schoolgirl during the Second World War.

Women’s Castle.





Great fun for the young ones at the National Gallery

27 05 2017

The National Gallery Singapore’s inaugural Gallery Children’s Biennale, themed Dreams and Stories, opened to a bang last week and on offer is one of the many exciting events our very fortunate children in Singapore can indulge in this school holiday season. Great fun for the young ones, the festival features interactive art showcases, performances and activities curated for kids and the young at heart and runs until 8 October 2017. More information can be found at https://www.nationalgallery.sg/see-do/highlights/childrens-biennale-2017.

Minister Tan Chuan Jin opening the Children’s Biennale.


Some highlights

Joining the dots – Yayoi Kusama style, at The Obliteration Room.

Not water under this bridge – Mark Justiani’s ‘Firewalk: A Bridge Of Embers’.

It takes balls – TeamLab’s Homogenizing And Transforming World.

Lynn Lu’s growing mess of memories penned on ribbons – This Changed My Life.

Where participants get to pen memories on ribbons and put them up.

Head in the clouds? Lynn Lu’s Duplet.

Flowers with stories – Tran Trong Vu’s The Sonnet in Blue.

Poem / Stories on handmade flower petals.






The Singapore Biennale 2016

2 11 2016

The 5th edition of the Singapore Biennale,”An Atlas of Mirrors”,  opened last week. Running until 26 February 2017, this year’s edition features works by 63 artists and art collectives from 19 countries and territories across Southeast Asia, East and South Asia that have a strong element of history in them. Curated around nine sub-themes the works are being displayed across eight locations with the Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q as anchor venues. More information on the programmes, venues, artwork and ticketing can be found at the Singapore Biennale 2016’s website.

The Great East Indiaman by David Chan on the National Museum of Singapore's front lawn.

The Great East Indiaman by David Chan on the National Museum of Singapore’s front lawn.

Giving art a finger - Lim Soo Ngee's Inscription of the Island.

Giving art a finger – Lim Soo Ngee’s Inscription of the Island.


A selection of installations

Titarubi - History Repeats Itself at SAM. Featuring robes of gold coated nutmegs, it recalls the legacy of colonial conquest. to facilitate the control of the valuable trade in a spice said to have been worth its weight in gold.

Titarubi – History Repeats Itself at SAM. Featuring robes of gold coated nutmegs, it recalls the legacy of colonial conquest. to facilitate the control of the valuable trade in a spice said to have been worth its weight in gold.

The dreams of a Shaman's wife. Tcheu Siong, a Hmong shaman's wife has her dreams reinterpreted as 'story' clothes in which one finds the spirits she sees in her dreams, represented by the lanky figures alongside representations of mountains, humans and animals.

At SAM, the dreams of a Shaman’s wife. Tcheu Siong, a Hmong shaman’s wife has her dreams reinterpreted as ‘story’ clothes in which one finds the spirits she sees in her dreams, represented by the lanky figures alongside representations of mountains, humans and animals.

Also presented alongside are the works of Tcheu Siong's husband, Phasao Lao.

Also presented alongside are History, the works of Tcheu Siong’s husband, Phasao Lao.

Paracosmos by Harumi Yukutake at the SAM.

Paracosmos by Harumi Yukutake at the SAM.

Rubbish by Kentaro Hiroki, which features recreated items of rubbish picked by the artist.. On display at both SAM and 8Q.

Rubbish by Kentaro Hiroki, which features recreated items of rubbish picked by the artist.. On display at both SAM and 8Q.

Rubbish attrracting a crowd at SAM.

Rubbish attrracting a crowd at SAM.

Another view of Inscription of the Island, by Lim Soo Ngee.

Another view of Inscription of the Island, by Lim Soo Ngee.

Freakily leeky - Chia Chuyia's Knitting the Future at 8Q. The artist knits leeks to create a body length garment over a five week period. Leeks, as a food item, hold significance to the Teochew community to which the artist belongs.

Freakily leeky – Chia Chuyia’s Knitting the Future at 8Q. The artist knits leeks to create a body length garment over a five week period. Leeks, as a food item, hold significance to the Teochew community to which the artist belongs.

Knitting the Future.

Knitting the Future.

Rathin Barman's Home, and a Home, inspired by the experiences of the migrant Bangladeshi community in Singapore.

Rathin Barman’s Home, and a Home, inspired by the experiences of the migrant Bangladeshi community in Singapore.

Melissa Tan and her If you can dream a better world you can make a better world or perhaps travel between them.

Melissa Tan and her If you can dream a better world you can make a better world or perhaps travel between them.

Music boxes - which feature impressions made by physical features are part of teh installation.

Music boxes – which feature impressions made by physical features are part of the installation.

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The Great East Indiaman features a recreation of the whale skeleton that once hung inside the National Museum of Singapore in wood.

The Great East Indiaman features a recreation of the whale skeleton that once hung inside the National Museum of Singapore in wood.





Exploring emptiness: Kamolpan Chotvichai’s Fragility of the Self

23 09 2016

An interesting exhibition that will open at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery at Gillman Barracks this evening is emerging Thai artist Kamolpan Chotvichai’s “Fragility of the Self“. The solo exhibition features thought provoking works each of which is an image of the artist’s body with parts of her anatomy hand-cut into a ribbon like form. The works explore the concept of emptiness in Buddhism, through the process of stripping away her physical form and challenge  at the same time gender based prohibitions.

Ms. Kamolpan Chotvichai at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Ms. Kamolpan Chotvichai at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

The process to create the works is a painstaking one that starts with a sketch and involves a fair bit of detailed planning. The process of slicing parts of the images for which Ms Chotvichai uses an ordinary utility knife, takes two weeks on the average. Ms Chotvichai, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree, experimented with several techniques to achieve the desired effects prior to settling on her current methods.

Her work has been featured at Saatchi Gallery in London alongside those of renowned Thai artists Rirkrit Tiravanija, Navin Rawanchaikul and Udomsak Krisanamis and was chosen for the cover of the book accompanying the exhibition, Thailand Eye. Ms. Chotvichai was also the youngest artist to participate in Frontiers Reimagined, an exhibition of global art – a Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale.

The exhibition held in association with the 5th edition of the Singapore International Photography Festival, will run until 9 November 2016. Ms. Chotvichai, who is in town for the opening of her exhibition, will be having an Artist Talk on Saturday 24 September 24 at 3 pm for which registration is required through this email address: rsvpsg@sundaramtagore.com. More information on the exhibition can be found at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery’s website.





Dali at the REDSEA

11 09 2016

The Pierre Argillet Collection, the result of a partnership over a thirty year period between the master of surrealism Salvador Dali and his publisher Pierre Argillet, is being brought to us in Singapore for a second time in just over two years.

A selection of etchings and watercolours, and also Aubusson tapestries and porcelain that has never been seen here, will be available for viewing and acquisition at the REDSEA Gallery from 11 September to 5 October 2016 at an exhibition, “Salvador Dali & Pierre Argillet: Thirty Years of Collection”.

The exhibition will provide an opportunity to hear from Pierre Argillet’s daughter, Christine, whose summers spent in the company of Dali has allowed her to gain an intimate understanding of the artist and the works the collection. This opportunity will come through a Q&A Session on 11 September 2016 at 2 to 3 pm being held at the gallery. The gallery is also providing public guided tours on 17 and 24 September, and on 1 October, at 2 to 3 pm.


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Madame Argillet describing how two copper plates were used to produce the etching Pegasus.

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Another etching with a mythological theme, Saturn.

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Medusa, for which an octopus Dali found on the beach was used to produce the etching on a copper plate.

Women in Waves. The circular patterns were made during a public appearance at which Dali was high on LSD. He rescued the effort by adding the figure of a woman to the etching.

Women in Waves. The circular patterns were made during a public appearance at which Dali was high on LSD. He rescued the effort by adding the figure of a woman to the etching.

Theseus and Minotaurus, a combination of random splashes of acid with finely sketched etchings.

Theseus and Minotaurus, a combination of random splashes of acid with finely sketched etchings.

One from the Hippie Series, Old Hippie.

One from the Hippie Series, The Old Hippie.

Bullfight with Drawer from the Surrealistic Bullfight series, which was inspired by Picasso’s “Tauromachie” series.

Bullfight with Drawer from the Surrealistic Bullfight series, which was inspired by Picasso’s “Tauromachie” series.

Piano under Snow, in which you can see the shape of the hat and also the face of a Matador.

Piano under Snow, in which you can see the shape of the hat and also the face of a Matador.

Seen for the first time in Singapore, limited edition porcelain plates developed in 1973 and made in Limoges.

Seen for the first time in Singapore, limited edition porcelain plates developed in 1973 and made in Limoges.

Each plate is individually numbered.

Each plate is individually numbered.

An Aubusson Tapestry of Argus.

An Aubusson Tapestry based on the etching, Argus.

Two copper plates, on display for the first time ever, can be viewed at the exhibition.

Two copper plates, on display for the first time ever, can be viewed at the exhibition.






Art Stage Singapore 2016

21 01 2016

Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair, Art Stage Singapore, is back for its sixth  edition. The four day event, with an intended focus placed on contemporary Southeast Asian art, is being held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention from 21 to 24 January 2016.

The sin-full creations of Kittisak Thapkoa at Number1Gallery.

A reflection on Qin Chong’s Evolving Ink.

For 2016, Art Stage Singapore brings the Southeast Asia Forum – an extension of the Southeast Asia Platform it introduced in 2014. The forum in its inaugural year is titled Seismograph: Sensing the City – Art in the Urban Age – and has an emphasis on urbanisation and will have both an exhibition and a talk component. The projects of 19 Southeast Asian artists, which relate to issues and sentiments in the wake of rapid urbanisation in their own countries, will be brought into focus. More information on the Southeast Asia Forum can be found here.

Takeshi Haguri’s Tengu, presented by Toki-no-wasuremono.

Entang Wiharso’s Feast Table: Undeclared Perceptions presented by ARNDT.

This year’s fair, the anchor event for Singapore Art Week, features 173 galleries from 34 countries with some 75% or 133 galleries from Asia. Art Stage Singapore 2016 will also see several public artworks being exhibited at public areas, a special exhibition of photographs and oil paintings by Hannes Schmid – best known for his iconic Marlboro Man series in the 1990s, and a return of Video Stage .  The fair runs until Sunday. More information on it can be found at http://www.artstagesingapore.com/.

Yayoi Kusama’s Kei-Chan and Reach up to Heaven ‐ Dotty Pumpkin (Black) presented by Opera Gallery.

Close-up of Pink Collar by Ma Han – a public artwork.

The $170.4 million sale in 2015 of Modigliani’s “Nu Couché” to a Chinese based collector points to the rise of Asia in the International art market according to Art Stage President and founder Lorenzo Rudolf.





The National Gallery Singapore: a sneak peek

23 11 2015

After five long years, the transformation of two of Singapore most recognisable National Monuments, the former Supreme Court and City Hall into the National Gallery Singapore, is finally complete. The new cultural institution, which oversees the largest collection of modern art in Southeast Asia, will open its doors to the public tomorrow – an event that is being accompanied with a big bash.

Visitors to the gallery can expect to see a display of Singapore and Southeast Asian art drawn from Singapore’s huge National Collection in the permanent exhibitions, Siapa Nama Kamu? – featuring close to 400 works of Singapore art since the 19th Century, and Between Declarations and Dreams, which features close to 400 works of Southeast Asian art from the same period.   There will also be two special exhibitions that can be caught from 26 Nov 2015 to 3 May 2016. One, Beauty Beyond Form, features the donated works of traditional Chinese painter, Wu Guanzhong. The other After the Rain, will see 38 works of one of Singapore’s leading ink painters, Chua Ek Kay on display. Also on display will be the beautifully restored interiors of the two buildings, and the stunning impact the architectural interventions have had on them (see also : The National Gallery, Naked).

More information on the National Museum’s opening celebrations and visitor information can be found on the celebrations brochure (pdf) and also at the National Gallery Singapore’s website. Admission to the National Gallery Singapore will be free for all visitors from 24 November to 6 December 2015.


A Sneak Peek at the National Gallery Singapore

The former Supreme Court, which houses the galleries of the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery

Art in a former courtroom.

Art in a former courtroom.

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The former Courtroom No. 1.

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Manit Sriwanichpoom’s Shocking Pink Collection.

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Reflections on the Rotunda Dome.

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The former Courtroom No. 1.

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The spiral staircase to the main Supreme Court dome.

An art resource centre in the former Rotunda Library.

An art resource centre in the former Rotunda Library.

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Inside the resource centre.

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City Hall, which houses the DBS Singapore Gallery, the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, the Wu Guanzhong Gallery and several education centres

The Keppel Centre for Art Education.

The Keppel Centre for Art Education.

Chua Mia Te's Epic Poem of Malaya.

Chua Mia Tee’s Epic Poem of Malaya.

Liu Kang's Life by the River.

Liu Kang’s Life by the River.

The DBS Singapore Gallery.

The DBS Singapore Gallery.

Lots to think about ...

Lots to think about …

City Hall Chamber.

City Hall Chamber.

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The red SG50 Steinway.

The red SG50 Steinway.

Not quite a permanent display.

Not quite a permanent display.


Miscellaneous Views (see also: The National Gallery, naked)

The columns of City Hall.

The columns of City Hall.

Corridors of the former Supreme Court - the original rubber tiles, which contained asbestos, had to be replaced.

Corridors of the former Supreme Court – the original rubber tiles, which contained asbestos, had to be replaced.

Another view.

Another view.

The former City Hall Courtyard.

The former City Hall Courtyard.

Roof terrace bars at City Hall.

The roof terrace bars at City Hall …

... provides stunning views of the cityscape.

… provide stunning views of the cityscape.

The view of the Padang, the Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands from the roof terrace.

The view of the Padang, the Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands from the roof terrace.

 

 





The National Gallery, naked

7 05 2015

It has been a long four and a half years since two architectural icons of a lost age went into hiding, cloaked for a large part in a dark shroud. That was to permit a huge and costly transformation of the two, the old Supreme Court and the City Hall, to be performed, a transformation that would turn the two  into a jewel that will crown Singapore’s coming of age. The massive 64,000 square metres of floor area that the two buildings share will provide Singapore with the grandest of showcases its huge National collection as the new National Gallery Singapore. The collection numbers some 10,000 works. Composed primarily of the art of Singapore and of Southeast Asia, it is the largest collection of its kind in the world.

The restored historical lobby of the Old Supreme Court.

The restored historical lobby of the Old Supreme Court.

The re-tiled corridors of the Old Supreme Court.

The new shine of the re-tiled corridors of the Old Supreme Court.

The buildings, both National Monuments and ones that for long characterised the city-scape, hark back to the days of the empire. With significant chapters of our history written within their walls, the two are monuments not just of the nation, but also to the nation and what is nice about the transformation, although it may have altered some of the buildings’ characters, is that its does allows an  appreciation of the buildings’s historic and architectural value by providing us and our future generations with access to them and more importantly to their many conserved spaces.

My favourite space in the two buildings, the Rotunda Library, seen in a new light.

My favourite space in the two buildings, the Rotunda Library, seen in a new light.

I had a chance to look at how the transformation has been managed when the buildings made their debut as the National Gallery without the art during the recent series of Naked Museum tours. Having had a look at the two during the open house held just prior to the closure in late 2010, I was especially interested to see how the character of the many conserved spaces within the two have been preserved.

The gathering of local artists and guests at the launch of the National Gallery Open House in 2010 prior to the renovations (National Gallery photo).

The beautifully restored Foyer of the Old Supreme Court.

The beautifully restored Foyer of the Old Supreme Court.

The old stairway that now leads to a new heaven.

The old stairway that now leads to a new heaven.

One of the first things that did catch my eye however, was how the two have been made to become one. A large part of this, is seen in the interface between the two at the former open plaza. Here, we see one of the larger intervention of the architect, Mr Jean François Milou, in the large enclosed space that has been created, encased by glass panels on a framework of steel. The framework is suspended over the two monuments through the use of a rather intriguing looking tree-like support structure. The space is best seen when the sun shines. That is when it takes on an almost magical quality in the soft light that filters through the specially designed screen of perforated aluminium panels.

The atrium between the two buildings.

The atrium between the two buildings.

The moment of inspiration for the screen came on a sun baked afternoon as the architect pondered over how the buildings could be unified sitting on a plastic chair in the Padang. The play of light and shadow through the patchwork of glass and steel, its tree-like support that is also replicated up on the roof of the old Supreme Court, and the sky bridges that allow communication between the two buildings finds meaning as a whole in providing a stunning visual spectacle in which the new is very much in harmony with the old.

A view of the sky bridges between in the atrium created the two buildings.

A view of the sky bridges between in the atrium created the two buildings.

The upper level sky bridge that connects at Level 4.

The upper level sky bridge that connects at Level 4.

The interventions on the roofs of the two buildings, are also best appreciated from the inside. On the previously empty roof of the City Hall, we now see two reflecting pools over the building’s former courtyards. This, found on Level 5, will be lined with F&B outlets. The upper level (Level 6), is where one can now gaze across the Padang to where the generations before once gazed at the lights of the old harbour from a viewing deck that will be opened to the public.

The lower level (Level 5) of City Hall Rooftop will see F&B outlets lining two reflection pools.

The lower level (Level 5) of City Hall Rooftop will see F&B outlets lining two reflection pools.

The view across the reflecting pool of the City Hall Rooftop towards the new Supreme Court.

The view across the reflecting pool of the City Hall Rooftop towards the new Supreme Court.

The City Hall Rooftop viewing deck on Level 6.

The City Hall Rooftop viewing deck on Level 6.

The view through the aluminium panels of the roof.

The view through the aluminium panels of the roof.

It was the roof across the sky bridge that I found especially appealing. Previously an inaccessible are of the old Supreme Court, it is where one finds the minor dome. The skylights on the dome is what casts the delightful glow on the beautifully Rotunda Library below it. The now covered space has a roof similar in construction to the glass enclosure of the atrium between the two buildings, and it is here that in the sunshine, that we also are able to see the gorgeous play of shadow and light it can create.

The Supreme Court Terrace.

The Supreme Court Terrace.

Another view of the terrace with the rotunda dome.

Another view of the terrace with the rotunda dome.

Reflections on the Supreme Court Terrace.

Reflections on the Supreme Court Terrace.

It is under the two domes of the old Supreme Court that one finds the most wonderful of conserved spaces, including what certainly is my favourite of all spaces, the beautiful Rotunda Library. Also conserved and restored are spaces such as Courtroom No. 1, the beautiful corridors on the second level and their skylights, the main staircase, the Historical Lobby and the Grand Foyer.

The Rotunda Library.

The Rotunda Library.

The Rotunda, see from the ground.

The Rotunda, see from a lower angle.

Courtroom No. 1.

Courtroom No. 1.

The beautiful light of the Old Supreme Court main staircase.

The beautiful light of the Old Supreme Court main staircase.

A skylight.

A skylight.

The corridors now feature gleaming marble floor tiles, laid out in a pattern that mimic that of the toxic asbestos filled rubber tiles that had to be replaced. In the area to the left of the staircase one also finds two holding cells, the only ones that have been retained. In the cells, we see a hint of a very necessary sanitary fitting, its opening sealed in cement. When operational, that could only be flushed outside the cells. What would have been nice to see conserved are the narrow caged passageways along which the cells’ occupants could be led, via a trap door, to the courtrooms. These however, were nowhere to be found.

The eight sided foundation stone under which there is a time-capsule that is meant to be opened in the year 3000.

The eight sided foundation stone under which there is a time-capsule that is meant to be opened in the year 3000.

The entrance to the Holding Cells.

The entrance to the Holding Cells.

Inside one ofthe two holding cells that have been retained.

Inside one ofthe two holding cells that have been retained.

Prisoner holding area.

The caged passageway through which a prisoner would be led to the courtroom.

The caged passageway seen with indicted Japanese soldiers being tried for war crimes being led to the courtroom from the holding cells (source: Imperial War Museums © IWM (IND 4999).

The caged passageway seen with indicted Japanese soldiers being tried for war crimes being led to the courtroom from the holding cells during the War Crime trials (source: Imperial War Museums © IWM (IND 4999).

Another caged relic I would have liked to see, was the cage lift that I remember from a visit I accompanied my mother on in my childhood to a verbatim reporter friend she would sometimes have lunch with. This proved once again to be to be elusive, although I am told that the lift is still there and in working condition.

A look up to the underside of the main dome.

A look up to the underside of the main dome.

One part of the court building I did not have a chance to see previously is the underside of the empty main copper clad dome. That I got to see by special arrangement. With the ceiling that previously obscured it now removed, there is no more need to ascend the spiral staircase to have a glance at its bare underneath and the riveted steel beams that provides support. This view will be one of the treats we can look forward to when the new gallery opens its doors in November.

A voew of the distinctive copper dome from City Hall Rooftop. The dome is said to be a smaller scale version of the famous dome of London's St. Paul's Cathedral.

A view of the distinctive copper dome from City Hall Rooftop. The dome is said to be a smaller scale version of the famous dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

A view from the balcony towards the pediment. The space left by a missing coat of arms, thought to be removed during the Japanese Occupation, will be left as it is.

A view from the balcony towards the pediment. The space left by a missing coat of arms, thought to be removed during the Japanese Occupation, will be left as it is.

New galleries in the old building. The old Supreme Court wing will be used to house the South-East Asian collection.

New galleries in the old building. The old Supreme Court wing will be used to house the South-East Asian collection.

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The pediment of the old Supreme Court on which Justice is not blind in Singapore.

The pediment of the old Supreme Court on which Justice is not blind in Singapore.

A pigeon's eye view from the balcony of the old Supreme Court.

A pigeon’s eye view from the balcony of the old Supreme Court.

The City Hall also has several conserved spaces of importance, the most important of which is City Hall Chamber. Once said to be the grandest of rooms in all of Singapore, the chamber witnessed several momentous events of our past, one of which was the surrender of Japanese forces in 1945. Another significant event that took place there was the swearing in of our first Prime Minister in 1959. In its refurbished state, the chamber retains much of its character. The entrance to it is now via side doors that previously were windows to the courtyard.

City Hall CHamber, a.k.a. the Surrender Chamber.

City Hall CHamber, a.k.a. the Surrender Chamber.

The courtyard the doors now lead to had been an open-air served car park. It now finds itself under a reflecting pool (the same pool on the roof terrace) and air-conditioned. As the DBS Singapore Courtyard, it will be used for the permanent display of a collection of Singapore art from the 19th century to the present when the gallery opens.

The former courtyard of City Hall.

The former courtyard of City Hall.

The courtyard will be a new exhibition space.

Shadows from the steel framework of the glass roof over the courtyard.

Moving stairways to the new heaven.

Moving stairways to the new heaven.

The Cor­inthian columns of the former City Hall's façade.

The Cor­inthian columns of the former City Hall’s façade.

The central staircase of City Hall.

The central staircase of City Hall.

In a year during which there is much to look forward to in a Singapore that celebrates its 50th year of independence, the gallery’s opening in November is something that will certainly enhance the celebration. The gallery will by itself be a celebration, one not just of art and culture, but also of our nationhood and of our history and heritage.More information on the National Gallery and the history of the buildings can be found at the National Gallery’s website and some of my previous posts, which contain photographs of how some of the spaces looked before the refurbishment.

A last look at the Rotunda Library.

A last look at the Rotunda Library.





When the lights go out

10 02 2015

Last evening wasn’t what I would call a typical Monday evening. In some rather untypical company, after the lights went off, I stood waiting for a box containing a 15th century lady to be opened, showing little of the trepidation my irrational fears of the dark would typically have invoked; the promise the evening held was an unveiling of the lady’s exquisite beauty for her debut in Singapore.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

Delicate but yet well preserved, the beauty of the lady of nobility, is one that is beautifully captured by an associate of Leonardo da Vinci,  Ambrogio de Predis. The portrait, one of several masterpieces from the da Vinci school that is making an appearance in Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum, as part of the Da Vinci: Shaping the Future exhibition that runs until May 2015. While the highlight of the exhibition is perhaps the pages out of da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus from Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana’s collection, the masterpieces the Ambrosiana has brought over, also deserve much attention.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

The rather uninspiringly named “Portrait of a Lady” that had until the 19th century been attributed to da Vinci himself, goes on display for the first time from today. It is part of a changeover of inspiring art work and pages of the Codex at the midway point of the exhibition, made necessary by a three-month limit on exposing the original works, following which they have to be returned to the dark.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

For a opportunity to celebrate beauty as expressed  in oil and to be awed by the genius of da Vinci contained in the pages of the Codex Atlanticus, do visit this wonderful look at what the museum refers to as history’s foremost ArtScientist, Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition interestingly, also sees models of da Vinci’s innovative ideas on display.  The exhibition ends in May 2015. For more information and ticketing details, do visit the ArtScience Museum’s website.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Unwrapping the painting.

Unwrapping the painting.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Biblioteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

Examining the details.

Examining the details.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai's St. John the Baptist.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai’s St. John the Baptist.


More on the changeover (Art Science Museum Press Release):

Singapore (11 February 2015) – ArtScience Museum today unveiled its eagerly-anticipated renewal of the original masterpieces showcased at Da Vinci: Shaping the Future, as the exhibition approaches the second half of its run. The refreshed displays include a new collection of 13 original pages of the Codex Atlanticus, da Vinci’s largest notebook, and three new paintings from the School of da Vinci.

As part of the renewed collection, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view a neverbefore-seen original Codex Atlanticus page, Drawings of Two Compasses. This folio features two drawings of intricately decorated compasses, which were important tools employed by da Vinci to determine the proportions of his machines and to mark designs on paper before he applied ink to his drawings.

Another beautifully illustrated page in the renewed collection is the Giant Crossbow, one of da Vinci’s most striking and celebrated folios from the Codex Atlanticus. Drawn with elaborate details and technical skill, the folio includes precise measurements of the machine’s components and a figure atop the machine to provide an indication of the scale.

The Giant Crossbow is a prime example of how da Vinci used his artistic skills to illustrate complex technical concepts.

“More than any other figure in history, Leonardo da Vinci represents the unity of art and science. Therefore, it is a great privilege to be able to bring a new collection of da Vinci’s masterpieces to ArtScience Museum, as part of this groundbreaking exhibition. What is particularly exciting for us is that one of the pages from the Codex Atlanticus, which arrived from Italy this week, is being shown in public for the very first time. We are grateful to have been able to work so closely with Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana to realise an exhibition that vividly illustrates how da Vinci’s genius, creativity, and systems thinking continue to inspire and shape the world we live in now,” said Ms. Honor Harger, executive director of ArtScience Museum.

Dr Irene Lee, co-curator, ArtCORP Pte Ltd, adds, “It has been an honour to be a part of this project and to bring the original works by da Vinci from Milan to Singapore. Singapore, like da Vinci, is very forward-thinking, and it is only fitting to have these masterpieces displayed in this innovative city.”

One of the new original paintings that will be on display is the visually arresting Portrait of a Lady. Donated to the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in 1618, the painting was attributed to da Vinci until the 19th century. While the references to da Vinci are evident, such as the knotted golden braid on the lady’s garment, the mesmeric painting remains elusive as both its subject and author have yet to be confirmed despite generations of study by critics and scholars. While some leading scholars firmly attribute the painting to da Vinci and others favour a more prudent attribution, these controversies have never debased the work’s appeal, only increasing its mystery.

Other new paintings from the School of da Vinci that will be showcased are Christ Child with the Lamb by Bernardino Luini, the most famous Milanese painter in the early 16th century, and Adoration of the Child with Saint Roch by Giampietrino.






A glance at Art Stage Singapore 2015

22 01 2015

I love it when Art Stage Singapore comes around every January. Not only does the fair provide the opportunity to get in touch with the contemporary art scene, but it also provides hours of visual stimulation to break the monotony of the start of the year. And, from the glance I had at this year’s fair, it certainly is no different.

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Hwan Kwon Yi, Traffic Jam, Gana Art.

Hwan Kwon Yi, Traffic Jam, Gana Art.

As Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair, Art Stage Singapore, the fifth edition of which opens its doors at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre today, lends its support to the regional art scene. This year, a curated Southeast Asia platform has the works of 32 emerging artists from the region featured. In all, over 200 galleries from 29 countries – 75 percent of which are from the Asia-Pacific, are represented at this year’s fair, making it a must-visit exhibition for both the collectors and curious alike.

Kiatanan Iamchan, Oh, My Baby, Number1Gallery.

Kiatanan Iamchan, Oh, My Baby, Number1Gallery.

This year also sees video art, which is fast gaining prominence as a collectible art medium, receive an airing through Video Stage. Intended as a regular feature of the annual fair, Video Stage for Art Stage Singapore 2015 will take a look at the medium over the years, through 73 videos.

Art Stage Singapore 2015.

Art Stage Singapore 2015.

Also to look out for, are programmes being held as part of the fair including ARTnews Talk Series talks with a focus on Southeast Asia. There will also be talks given by various artists from the Southeast Asian platform, as well as performances and tours. More information these programmes can be found in the fair guide. Art Stage Singapore 2015 runs from 22 to 25 January 2015. More information on the fair is available at http://www.artstagesingapore.com.

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A scalp raising experience.

A scalp raising experience.

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Artistic Impressions by Shunji Matsuo

3 11 2014

Renowned for his artistic creations in the hair salon, hairstylist Shunji Matsuo unleashes another dimension in his creative genius in Artistic Impressions, an exhibition running until 13 November 2014, which showcases not only his contribution to hairstyles, but also some 40 paintings and over 20 sculptures and headdresses. The exhibition, curated by Steven Lim, a late bloomer in the field of art – interestingly he was a ship designer before he put himself through art school close to the age of 60, is being held at the Japan Creative Centre in Nassim Road.

A model dressed in Shunji Matsuo's happy colours at the opening of the exhibition on Friday.

A model dressed in Shunji Matsuo’s happy colours at the opening of the exhibition on Friday.

I thought that the works, which in most part have a recurring theme centered around women and hairstyles – have also been inspired by contemporary artists such as Yayoi Kusama and subjects such the Amasan in Japan, are rich in colour (yellow is said to be his happy colour) and have a rather intriguing child-like quality.

A work inspired by Yayoi Kusama.

A work inspired by Yayoi Kusama.

Matsuo at the opening.

Matsuo at the opening.

The exhibition is well worth a visit not just for Matsuo’s happy expressions of creativity, but also because it gives you an opportunity to step into the gorgeous old world house that the Japan Creative Centre is housed in. More information is available at http://www.sg.emb-japan.go.jp/JCC/invite_shunji%20matsuo.html.

The gorgeous house the Japan Creative Centre is housed in.

The gorgeous house the Japan Creative Centre is housed in.

Matsuo's contributions to 50 years of fashion evolution.

Matsuo’s contributions to 50 years of fashion evolution.

Curator, Steven Lim.

Curator, Steven Lim.

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Conversations of the lonely

15 06 2014

That sense of loneliness often creeps out on most of us whenever we find ourselves alone in a strange and foreign city, a sense that award winning Korean artist Jieun Park does quite cleverly capture in her series A Little Talk, an exhibition of works from which are currently on display at the REDSEA Gallery at Dempsey Road.

A Little Talk at REDSEA.

A Little Talk at REDSEA.

The works, which at first glance take on the appearance of pieces of calligraphy offering perhaps a glance into Park’s background in the Oriental Arts, are much more than that. It is against the base of the bold brushstrokes Park paints onto Korean paper that one finds the fine details in acrylic she has added on – intricately painted cityscapes – a means she uses to have “a little conversation” with each city she visits to overcome the loneliness that she feels.

Detail of the cityscapes in acrylic that Park juxtaposes onto calligraphy like brushstrokes.

Detail of the cityscapes in acrylic that Park juxtaposes onto calligraphy like brushstrokes.

A total of 30 pieces, which Park says takes anything between three weeks to three months to complete, have been brought in for the exhibition  featuring cities such as Paris, Lyon, Florence, Prague and Singapore. A Little Talk runs from 12 to 29 June 2014 at REDSEA Gallery at 9 Dempsey Road. More information is available at www.redseagallery.com.

There is much to ponder over.

There is much to ponder over.

Jieun Park.

Jieun Park.

Juxtapositions.

Juxtapositions.

 





Thread bare at Hermès

2 06 2014

Threads are being laid bare at Hermès Liat Towers. Fortunately, it is not on items on boutique’s racks but on the Third Floor – an art space Hermès has had since 2006, for a rather interesting exhibition of tapestries, CERTAINTY | ENTROPY. The exhibition feature the works of artist Aiko Tezuka, who presents an unusual take on the art of tapestry that has us looking at an unraveling of weaves, in a quest for stories that lie hidden in the interlacing of threads.

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The four works on display, conceptualised by Tezuka, were made through the efforts of the artist and her team of seven artisans in Holland. In them, the artists has sought to weave in a flavour inspired by Singapore’s diverse cultural mix, and mixed into the intricate patterns on the tapestries are motifs that represent Singapore’s rich flora and fauna. A closer examination does reveal more and the viewer will discover that mixed in with the symbols of Singapore, are the emblems of modern society that are in contrast with the more traditional patterns.

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Tezuka in her unconventional display of tapestries that challenge the norms of the finished state, does seem very much motivated by how she perceives the world we live in, the baring of threads so that “the woven motifs fade out gently into blurred images of what the once were, probing untold possibilities of the world we inhabit”.

The 'gentle fading of woven motifs into blurred images of what they once were' ...

The ‘gentle fading of woven motifs into blurred images of what they once were’ …

The display is one that Terzuka seeks to portray the “strength in the tension between then and now, isolation and connectivity, construction and deconstruction” with the intention to provoke the viewer to “ponder the narratives of life, and encourages them to muse upon their histories and the paths that were not taken” – a path we in Singapore do seem to have taken. CERTAINTY | ENTROPY runs until 27 July 2014 at Third Floor – Hermès, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers, Singapore.





A headless Chairman Mao

22 03 2014

Offering a fresh perspective on the great Surrealist master Salvador Dali, one that does look at him on a very personal level, SALVADOR DALI: The Argillet Collection opens its doors today at the REDSEA Gallery. The exhibition, featuring 112 of the artist’s works, a great number of which are etchings with which he collaborated with long time associate and friend Pierre Argillet on, is being brought in by Argillet’s daughter Christine and the gallery for what is the largest display of the collection as well as one that is seen for the very first time in Asia.

Madame Argillet on the Poems of Mao Zedong.

Madame Argillet on the ‘Poems by Mao Zedong’.

The works, all of which are available for private acquisition, span from traditional interpretations we see recurring in much of the artist’s work, to the ones influenced by the contemporary. In the series, Mythologie, we see works in which Dali reinterprets the symbolism in Greek mythology, often starting with a smudge. The series also sees the employment of Dali’s creative genius in which he experimented with various unconventional tools in working on the copper plates, including using a real Octopus immersed in acid in the etching for his work Medusa.

Medusa, Mythologie Series, 1963. 57 x 77 cm. Mixed-media print incorporating heliogauvre and drypoint etching. Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Medusa, Mythologie Series, 1963. 57 x 77 cm. Mixed-media print incorporating heliogauvre and
drypoint etching. Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Beside the many works from the period of the artist’s collaboration with Pierre Argillet, the exhibition also features a series of works that traces its origins back to the 1930s, The Songs of Maldoror. The work stems from a commission the artist received from Albert Skira to provide illustrations for the book Les Chants de Maldoror – a literary work by Lautreamont that serves as a source of inspiration for the Surrealist movement, for which 44 copper etchings were produced. 42 original plates were purchased by Argillet in 1971 with Dali reworking 8 of the plates – and what we do see at the exhibition will be the suite of 50 prints.

The entrance to the exhibition with an Aubusson tapestry 'Burning Giraffe'.

The entrance to the exhibition with an Aubusson tapestry ‘Burning Giraffe’.

What I did think were particularly interesting were two series being exhibited and on which Madame Argillet elaborated on at the media preview. One, the Poems by Mao Zedong, was commissioned in 1967 by Argillet and involves eight illustrations some of which were political satires. The works were executed during the cultural revolution was to include one that had told Argillet would be a portrait of Mao – what turned out to be a headless figure. Dali’s explanation for this was that the Mao was so tall that he could not be depicted in full in the illustration. The works also needed the blessings of the Chinese embassy for which Argillet was somehow able to obtain.

Portrait of Chairman Mao.

Portrait of Chairman Mao.

The Hippies, based on photographs from a visit Argillet made to India, involves an etching that had originally been worked on during a rare public appearance by Dali. As related by Madame Argillet, Dali had appeared in the presence of a huge crowd of journalists with a strange look in his eyes – producing nothing but a series of swirls on the copper plate, following which he promptly left despite Argillet’s attempts to convince him otherwise. He was to ask Agrillet for the plate a few day following that, saying that he had no recollection of the appearance as he had, at someone’s suggestion, taken LSD. From that – he was to produce Women in Waves, a etching that was to be one that would be very well received.

Madame Argillet on the Hippies series and 'Women in Waves'.

Madame Argillet on the Hippies series and ‘Women in the Waves’.

Women in the Waves.

Women in the Waves.

Beside the many striking etchings that bear many elements of the artist’s style, there are also three tapestries hand-woven in Aubusson. One, the Burning Giraffe, greets visitors at the entrance to the gallery. Despite its rather macabre depiction of a bullfight, with a burning giraffe that is depicted in several of the artist’s work, the tapestry does somehow have a rather charming quality.

Madame Argillet on 'Piano Under Snow'.

Madame Argillet on ‘Piano Under Snow’.

All works in the collection have been authenticated and signed by Salvador Dali and have never before left the Collection. The collection will be on display at the exhibition from 22 March to 20 April 2014 at the REDSEA Gallery located at Block 9 Dempsey Road.





Artistic radiators growing up with Salvador Dali

19 03 2014

Opening at the REDSEA Gallery on Saturday is an exhibition that will offer a very personal perspective of the surrealist artist, Salvador Dali. SALVADOR DALI: The Argillet Collection will feature 112 etchings, drawings, and tapestries from the renowned Pierre Argillet Collection, all of which will be available for private acquisition. Seen for the very first time in Asia, the collection provides a glimpse into the bond Dali had with Pierre Argillet,  his publisher, through their many years of collaboration and friendship.

Dali with Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Dali with Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The collection is being brought over to Singapore by Pierre Argillet’s daughter, Christine Argillet, who in growing up in the presence of the great artist, will offer a personal insight into the collection. Madame Agrillet, who was also kind enough in allowing me to put some questions to her via email (see below), had this to say about bringing the exhibition in:

“This presentation is a tribute to the work of my father, Pierre Argillet, as an extraordinary publisher of the Dada and Surrealist group. This collection reflects his constant endeavour and his close collaboration with the artists of these two movements, especially Salvador Dali. My goal is to have this collection presented in the finest galleries and museums throughout the world,”

Argus in color, Individual Etchings, 1963. 57 x 77cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Argus in color, Individual Etchings, 1963. 57 x 77cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

All works in the collection have been authenticated and signed by Salvador Dali and have never before left the Collection. The exhibition will be opened from 22 March to 20 April 2014. 

Portrait of Marguerite Faust, 1968. 38 x 28cm. Drypoint etchings with roulette, ruby & diamond Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Portrait of Marguerite Faust, 1968. 38 x 28cm. Drypoint etchings with roulette, ruby & diamond Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


An interview with Madame Christine Agrillet

Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Growing up around Dali: Dali was a very kind uncle for me, simple in his daily life, yet very inventive. Anything at home was subject to turning it into another use, another tool. Dali had a very special way of envisioning or reconsidering things. 

For instance: one day, his wife Gala had told him that their radiators were really ugly. Dali decided to hide them behind a wood panel and painted radiators over it. The most artistic radiators…

There was always this kind of light humor, this way of making fun out of everything with a gentle surrealist attitude.

Dali was at the same time a workaholic and a very free person. He would strive to paint with a one-hair brush or he would throw acid on copper plates to create uncertain smudges that would challenge him to create a very figurative subject next to these abstract shapes. We have exhibiting here in Singapore the series of the Mythology etchings that was created using this process.

Dali’s influence on her: I think both Dali’s incredible work on himself and his total freedom have impressed me and certainly have had an influence on my life.

Behind the public persona: Dali could be very eccentric in public to grab attention, but he could be totally absorbed in his paintings and forget about anything around him for hours or days. I think that the public persona he created was at the opposite of his real character.

Have her impressions of Dali been changed since childhood: No, there was a very charming Dali, elegant, simple, and creative that I knew and there was this opposite: the public persona. For me, they were two different persons. My father used to say that Dali was shy and that he was exaggerating everything while facing a public.

The collection: Many works in our collection mean a lot for me. My father had a passion for Dali’s drawings and he would often meet with Dali, speak of his projects with him. The Aubusson tapestries became something extraordinary as Dali wanted to cover the walls of his museums with this traditional technique. We have a film where we see Dali discovering these hand woven pieces in my father’s castle. There were also watercolours, drawings, sculptures, incredible telegrams between Picasso and Dali. All these constitute a part of my childhood.

On bringing the collection over to Singapore: This collection has never been seen in Singapore. My intention is to the show the wonderful collaboration of an artist and a publisher. The strong friendship between both Dali and my father allowed wonderful artworks to come to light. This is at the same time a tribute to Dali as a great etcher and a tribute to my father as a talented facilitator.

Individual Bullfight, Individual Etchings, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Colour-printed heliogravure with stencil, Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Individual Bullfight, Individual Etchings, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Colour-printed heliogravure with stencil, Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


About Pierre Argilllet:

The 1914-18 War Apollinaire (Secret Poems), 1967. 39 x 28cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint. Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The 1914-18 War Apollinaire (Secret Poems), 1967. 39 x 28cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint. Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Pierre Argillet was an avid collector of works by futurists, dadaists and surrealists, and very early on, met the major artists of the 20th century. In 1930, at the age of twenty, Argillet was deeply impressed by the “Les Chants de Maldoror” of Lautreamont. He began a spiritual journey along a path that was originated by Rimbaud and later pursued by Lautreamont, Marinetti, Andre Breton, Tzara and Chirico. He counted Duchamp and Jean Arp among his acquaintances, but when he met Dali, complicity led to a life-long friendship that lasted until the painter’s death in 1989.

Be it luck or fate, Dali’s delirious vision led to a long and fruitful collaboration between artist and publisher. They produced nearly 200 etchings. To name a few: la Mythologie (16 planches), le Christ, Sainte-Anne, l’Incantation. In 1966, Dali reworked 7 pieces of the Bullfight set of Picasso, giving them the Dali touch. In 1968, Dali illustrated “ la Nuit de Walpurgis “ of Faust (21 pieces) using rubies and diamonds as engraving tools, a technique that lent an incomparable delicacy to the design; next came the “ Poemes “ of Ronsard (18 pieces) and Apollinaire (18 pieces) . In 1969, Dali created “ Venus a la fourrure “ after Sacher Masoch (20 pieces), and between 1970-71, the Suites of Don Juan (3 pieces) and Hippies (11 pieces).

In 1974, artist and publisher parted their ways. Pierre Argillet would only accept etchings done in the traditional way, on copper, and refused to go along with Dali’s desire to make photo-based lithographs. But by using this process, Dali went on to produce a large number of works that appealed to a more widespread audience than ever before, but they were also subject to more criticism.

Piano under the snow Surrealist Bullfighter, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Heliogravures reworked in drypoint hand-coloured with stencil, Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Piano under the snow Surrealist Bullfighter, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Heliogravures reworked in drypoint hand-coloured with stencil, Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


 





Names in tofu and pigs that fly

16 01 2014

Art Stage Singapore is back! Dubbed the “flagship Asian art event of the region” and now in its fourth year, the annual art fair has a strong focus on the Asian (or as Founder and Fair Director, Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, correctly put it at a media preview – Asia-Pacific) art scene. This years sees the introduction of eight country and regional Platform, each curated by a leading international curator.

Art Stage Singapore provides an amazing array of art work to ponder over.

Art Stage Singapore provides an amazing array of art work to immerse oneself in.

The largest platform is the Southeast Asia Platform, which I must say is particularly intriguing, with some 31 works of artists from Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and Singapore being presented. Besides Myanmar’s pioneering abstract  expressionist Soe Niang’s creation of reverse sketches on the walls of a large box to attract one’s attention (see previous post: We Are Asia – Art Stage Singapore 2014), there are several eye-catching works.

The writing on the wall. The start of Myanmar artist Soe Niang's attempt to create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box.

The writing on the wall. Detail of Myanmar artist Soe Niang’s attempt to create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box.

One that I was taken by is Laotian artist Bounpaul Phothyzan’s Controlled Desire – a sphere of suspended human shaped figurines  – human shaped fruit, Na Li Phon or ‘Miracle Fruit’, which according to Hmong folklore brings good fortune. The work is an attempt on the artist’s part to bring attention to social and environmental concerns and to put the spotlight on the human desire to manipulate nature for self-satisfaction.

Controlled Desire by Bounpaul Phothyzan.

‘Controlled Desire’ by Bounpaul Phothyzan.

Another set of work that will catch the eye is that of Filipino artist Mark Justiniani, which uses reflective media to good effect in the artist’s attempt to explore the principle of Superposition. Also represented in the country/regional platforms are India, China, Taiwan, Australia, Korea, Japan, and Central Asia. One that did get a fair bit of attention at the media preview was China’s Chen Qiulin’s The Hundred Surnames in Tofu – a work that looks at Chinese culture (in its surnames and their link to lineage) and its gradual decay and decomposition through the use of tofu.

Mark Justiniani's 'Tunnel'.

Mark Justiniani’s ‘Tunnel’.

Another of Mark Justiniani's study of Superposition.

Another of Mark Justiniani’s study of Superposition.

Thai artist Maint Kantasak's 'Milky Way' - an installation of wood engravings in 194 jars.

Thai artist Manit Kantasak’s ‘Milky Way’ – an installation of wood engravings in 194 jars.

A close-up of Bounpaul Phothyzan's Miracle Fruit in 'Controlled Desire'.

A close-up of Bounpaul Phothyzan’s Miracle Fruit in ‘Controlled Desire’.

Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon's Hocus-Pocus - a table with shattered glass from Central World Plaza during the politically motivated violent protests of 2010.

Thai artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s Hocus-Pocus – a table with glass from Central World Plaza shattered during the politically motivated violent protests of 2010.

Indian artist Raghava KK's 'Redrawing the Map' in the India Platform.

Indian artist Raghava KK’s ‘Redrawing the Map’ in the India Platform. The work is a playful take on the ‘beautifully impossible India’.

India Platform curator Bose Krishnamachari (R) at the India Platform.

India Platform curator Bose Krishnamachari (R) at the India Platform.

Sakshi Gupta's take on transformation at the India Platform.

Sakshi Gupta’s take on transformation at the India Platform.

The Central Asia Platform features video installations of several Central Asian artists.

The Central Asia Platform features video installations of several Central Asian artists.

The Hundred Surnames in Tofu by China artist Chen Qiulin.

‘The Hundred Surnames in Tofu’ by China artist Chen Qiulin.

Taiwan's Tu Pei-Shih's 'Making Fantasies' which has a NC16 rating.

Taiwan’s Tu Pei-Shih’s ‘Making Fantasies’ which has a NC16 rating.

Besides the country and regional platforms, there are some 158 galleries represented at the fair, 75% of which are based in the Asia-Pacific. The galleries have, as in previous years, brought in an amazing array of work, from the works of well-known and established artists to the quirky and bizarre works of contemporary and emerging artists.

Facing-off. Emerging artist Sam Jinks' 'Divide'.

Facing-off. Emerging artist Sam Jinks’ ‘Divide’.

The most photographed work is probably that of Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa's inflatable 'Love Me'.

The most photographed work is probably that of Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s inflatable ‘Love Me’.

Scream Gallery has some rather quirky pieces including Sally Fuerst's oil on canvas work 'Robot'.

Scream has some rather quirky pieces including Sally Fuerst’s oil on canvas work ‘Robot’.

More from Scream.

More from Scream.

Also at Scream.

Also at Scream.

Art Stage Singapore 2014 runs from 16 to 19 January 2014 and is being held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Besides the fair proper, there are also lots of fringe and community events and tours to look forward to including public talks, Platform Art Tours and workshops. More information is available at the fair’s website, Art Stage Singapore, including a list of exhibitors, a guide to the fair and information on ticketing.

Opera Gallery has its usual collection of Dali's sculptural works.

Opera Gallery has its usual collection of Dali’s sculptural works.

Taiwan Platform curator Rudy Tseng speaking at the media preview yesterday.

Taiwan Platform curator Rudy Tseng speaking at the media preview yesterday, as Korea Platform’s Kim Sung Won and Japan Platform’s Mami Kataoka look on.

More photographs taken at a preview of Art Stage 2014:

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We Are Asia – Art Stage Singapore 2014

13 01 2014

An annual art fair that is always something that shouldn’t be missed in Art Stage Singapore. A platform for This year’s edition, the fourth, as with the previous editions, is very much that platform the fair has come to be in bringing together artists, galleries, curators and art curators – with that strong Asian focus.

Misdirection.

Art Stage Singapore (a photograph take at the 2012 edition), is always something to be on the look out for.

This years fair sees a format that moves away from that used in previous editions, with eight country/regional platforms: Southeast Asia, India, China, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Central Asia; showcased in a museum like exhibition layout that is curated by respective experts of each regions art scene.

Each year, the annual fair features a very strong Asia-Pacific presence - photographs is of Philippine artist  Geraldine Javier’s “Red fights back” at Art Stage Singapore 2013.

Each year, the annual fair features a very strong Asia-Pacific presence – photographs is of Philippine artist Geraldine Javier’s “Red fights back” at Art Stage Singapore 2013.

The largest Platform will be Southeast Asia, curated by Art Stage Singapore in collaboration with six country advisers. To look out for will be newly commissioned works from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, The Philippines and Thailand. The fair will also see a strong local presence with 29 Singapore based galleries participating, compared to 22 in 2013. There fair this year also sees a strong representation of galleries from the Asia Pacific with 80% of the participating galleries from the region.

Art Stage 2013 (photo: Art Stage Singapore).

Art Stage 2013 (photo: Art Stage Singapore).

Among the artists who will have feature in the Southeast Asia Platform is Soe Niang (Yone Arts), who will present an installation peice, Intermission on Stage. Soe Niang, who hails from Myanmar, is one of the country’s pioneering abstract  expressionists who had produced some 10,000 “diary sketches” in his vigil throughout Myanmar’s dark days of isolationism during the reign of the military regime. The installation will see him create a series of reverse sketches on the black coated interior walls of a huge box – the size of a shipping container, through the four days of the exhibition.

Soe Niang (photo: Yone Arts).

Soe Niang (photo: Yone Arts).

A feature from Malaysia to look out for will be Justin Lim’s (Richard Koh Fine Art) There is no other paradise, a work that the artist describes as stemming “from an on-going amalgamation of social commentary and contemporary reality within the framework of symbolism and make-believe”. The project will see work in a range of media that addresses social issues in contemporary Malaysian society, touching on the subjects of racial divide, nostalgia, ethnicity and religion including Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute. The installation borrows from “Mandi bunga” (flower bath) ritual that was also interestingly what another Malaysian based artist, Sharon Chin, borrowed from in her recent work at the Singapore Biennale 2013.

Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute 165x68x70cm Fiberglass bath tub, fabric, video projection 2013

Washing the obsolete in the arms of the absolute 165x68x70cm Fiberglass bath tub, fabric, video projection 2013(photo: Richard Koh Fine Art).

More information on Art Stage Singapore 2014, which runs from 16 to 19 January 2014 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, is available at the fair’s website, Art Stage Singapore, including a list of exhibitors, a guide to the fair and information on ticketing.


Photographs from previous editions of Art Stage Singapore on this site:






Finding a ghost in an old church

31 10 2013

Just in time for Halloween, so it may seem, a ghost awaits discovery in the old Middle Road Church.

Looking for a ghost, one might perhaps find love too at the old church.Looking for a ghost, one might perhaps find love too at the old church.

Despite the timing of the ghost’s appearance, it has actually got little to do with the silliness of Halloween in a part of the world where the celebration should really have little or no significance.

Opening Night.

Opening Night.

The ghost that we find at the de-consecrated church building, now perhaps in its third life as the Chapel Gallery of an arts centre we know as Sculpture Square, is an exhibition of art in its various forms, in which the body, as described on the exhibition’s website as “unruly, visceral, and ephemeral”, is used as a medium and “a site of resistance” returning to haunt us, unearthing “a different shape and understanding of Singapore”.

Eric Khoo's Mee Pok Man.

Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man.

The exhibition, Ghost: The Body at the Turn of the Century timed to coincide with the Singapore Biennale, sees installations by well known names which range from Amanda Heng to Eric Khoo and John Clang. One exhibit which is perhaps rather intriguing is Ray Langenbach’s Archive by Loo Zihan. Occupying a large part of the Chapel Gallery it resurrects the ghost of the infamous Artists’ General Assembly of 1993 and its fallout, featuring a collection from Ray Langenbach’s extensive archives – all connected by a web of thread woven by Loo Zihan.

The web woven by artist Loo Zihan.

The web of intrigue woven by artist Loo Zihan.

A ghost from the archives.

A ghost from the archives.

The ghost in the old church haunts Sculpture Square until 31 December 2013. More information can be found at the centre’s website.

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Free admission to Essential Eames at the ArtScience Museum this weekend!

8 08 2013

Marina Bay Sands celebrates National Day weekend with free admission to Essential Eames

More on the exhibition, Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition  – Essentially Eames

Fabrics designed by the Eames.

Fabrics designed by the Eames.

Marina Bay Sands will commemorate Singapore’s 48th birthday by offering free admission to its newest exhibition at ArtScience Museum from Friday, 9 August till Sunday, 11 August.  Over this National Day weekend, the admission price for Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition, will be waived for all visitors.  The daily operating hours for ArtScience Museum are 10am-10pm.

 “We’re pleased to extend this special offer to ring in National Day,” said ArtScience Museum Associate Director Ross Leo.  “Whether it’s the first time visiting our latest exhibition or a return trip to see it again, this is an experience not to be missed – and an opportunity we’re excited to make available.  We look forward to welcoming all visitors to ArtScience Museum this National Day weekend.”

The Essential Eames exhibition brings to life the story of design duo Charles and Ray Eames through over 100 of their works and images culled from the collections of the Eames family, Eames Office, and Herman Miller.  The exhibition showcases a number of rare and never-before-seen works and images. Highlights include a special chair designed for Pope John Paul II; the fun and educational toy House of Cards and groundbreaking films including ‘Glimpses of the USA’ and ‘Powers of Ten’.

Over the long National Day weekend, visitors to Marina Bay Sands can also look forward to an array of entertainment, leisure and dining options on property. All 300 boutiques and restaurants at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands will also be operating from 10am until midnight from 7-10 August – perfect for late-night shoppers and party-goers.

The iconic property also offers many great vantage points to view all the action from the National Day Parade on 9 August.

 The Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, located on the 57th storey of the hotel, offers an exceptional view for the public who wish to catch the fighter jets and state flag fly past, complete with fireworks display. One can also simply soak up the festivities at the outdoor Event Plaza, which offers another vantage point to view the fireworks up close while dining along the waterfront promenade.