Singapore - Where culture and commerce coalesce
Written by David Bowden
Shopping and eating are national pastimes in Singapore. The National Museum of Singapore even has permanent galleries devoted to their admiration and analysis. The food exhibition entitled Food – Eating on the Street pays homage to the vibrancy of Singapore’s famous street food from the 1940s to the 80s, and dissects ten iconic dishes as well as providing a multi-sensory and hands-on experience of local food.
In the adjoining gallery, the exhibition Fashion – Shopping for Identity places the fabric of Singapore under the microscope with displays of clothing, accessories, and beauty products used by women from the 1950s to the 70s. Traditional garments such as the body-hugging, one-piece cheongsam are displayed along with the sari and kebaya (blouse–dress combination).
However, more recent developments on the island state could see Singapore become a global city for the arts within the next decade. Now art, music, performance, and dance are being integrated into the tourism equation to ensure that those who visit with the main purpose of eating and shopping will be culturally enlightened at the same time. In coming months visitors can become acquainted with Salvador Dalí, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andrew Lloyd Webber while visiting Singapore.
Dalliance with Dalí and Van Gogh
While most visitors to Marina Bay Sands are distracted by the resort’s abundant retail, restaurant, and recreational assets, science, art, and culture have taken centre stage with the opening of the ArtScience Museum. If Dalí’s distorted sense of reality weren’t reason enough, the museum’s lotus-inspired design created justifies a visit here. With 21 gallery spaces, the artistic focus of Marina Bay Sands delivers an impressive array of influences from art, science, technology, media, design, and architecture. The museum is home to permanent displays, plus marquee exhibitions such as the current displays of the artistic genius of Salvador Dalí and Vincent Van Gogh. There are 250 works of art by the master of surrealism on display in the Dalí exhibition. These range from paintings, sculptures, cinema, jewellery, and furniture to fashion. Visitors can explore three themes: Religion and Mythology; Dreams and Fantasy; and Femininity and Sensuality.
Dance of Time 1 is one of Dalí’s iconic representations of melted clocks, that symbolise the fleeting passing of time along with the fading of beauty, vanishing youth, and unavoidable mortality.
Also under the spotlight is the sculpture Alice in Wonderland, first cast in 1984 and one of Dalí’s most delicate bronze works. This piece is a representation of the artist’s complex dreams along with the extravagant characters that appear in this fairytale, and is considered the ideal statement of surrealism. A piece that is attracting lots of attention is the 11m x 5m painting used in the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock Oscar-winning movie Spellbound. The Dalí: Mind of a Genius exhibition finishes on October 30.
In another section of the museum, 19th-century Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh and the Van Gogh Alive exhibition is making an impression with visitors. While there are no actual paintings on display, this artistically choreographed sequence of the sights and sounds of the great master provides a fascinating display of his masterpieces. Huge colourful projections of Van Gogh’s better-known works are screened across the floor and ceiling of the vast museum space to provide visitors with an insight to the genius of the great painter.
Thank you SAM
Singapore Art Museum (SAM) opened in 1996 with the aim of preserving and presenting the art histories and contemporary art practices of Singapore and Southeast Asia. Now the museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of modern and contemporary art from the region. SAM was recently the home for the annual Singapore Biennale, which welcomed almost 1 million visitors in its inaugural year.
Currently on display is the Video, an Art, a History 1965–2010 exhibition. It presents a selection of works from the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and SAM. The French travelling exhibition explores the importance of video as an art form through works created since the advent of video technology. SAM has worked closely with the travelling exhibition to ensure that elements of Singaporean and regional video are also incorporated. There will be talks as well as a family Sunday (September 18) to engage a wider audience for the exhibition, which runs until September 30.
For children, the museum’s Art Garden: Children’s Season at SAM (running until August 30) gives the young and young-at-heart the opportunity to interact and to be inspired by imaginative artworks such as the environmentally friendly installation by French artist Alexandre Dang called Dancing Solar Flowers.
Singapore’s sensational shows
Singaporeans and visitors are also queuing up for some big shows that include The Lion King and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Lion King explodes on stage until July 31 as a celebration of African life with all its magic, colour, and exuberance. The Andrew Lloyd Webber theatrical event runs from July 7 to 17 with an Australian cast of musicians and performers taking the audience on a musical journey featuring the memorable hits of this great contemporary composer.
Because food and shopping are intrinsically connected in Singapore, the Great Singapore Feast runs concurrently with the Great Singapore Sale. Organised by the Restaurant Association of Singapore, the festival showcases the nation’s culinary depths with the annual festival of all things tasty, and runs until September 30. Highlights this year are the always sold-out Master Classes, which run from July 16 to 24 and feature Executive Chef Ng Chong Guan creating his signature Singapore Chilli Crab.
The National Museum of Singapore has a history dating from 1849, when the Raffles Library and Museum was established. It was housed in several venues before moving to its permanent site on Stamford Road in 1887, and was renamed the National Museum at independence in 1965. Since then, its focus has shifted from zoological and ethnographic collections to the social and cultural history of Singapore, and was renamed the Singapore History Museum in 1993. After a three-year redevelopment – including renovating its distinctive dome of 3,000 zinc fish-scaled tiles and stained-glass panels – the gleaming new National Museum of Singapore opened in 2006.
The Great Singapore Sale 2011
Many shoppers don’t need a reason to splurge, but 70% discounts will entice even the most passive shoppers. The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) is on for eight glorious weeks from May 27 to July 24 with seemingly everything on sale. Check out the bargains in fashion, clothing, watches, jewellery, electronics, and practically everything that is in the shops, from glitzy boutiques and fashion houses along Orchard Parade to those at Marina Bay and the Southern Waterfront to the malls and stalls all over the island. Lucky draws, restaurant promotions, and hotel packages add to the retail frenzy and excitement. Visitors also receive generous benefits in many outlets by presenting their passport and Qatar Airways boarding pass. In addition, save shopping receipts for GST tax refunds claimable upon departure from Changi International Airport.