Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris was a surprise that I didn’t know about before coming to Singapore! After seeing the ads on various buses and taxis, I knew I had to pay a visit. I also realize that this is my first foray into talking about Western art on the blog, even though that’s what I mostly work on in university. For anyone interested in having the chance to view Western historical works in Singapore, this museum would be a good start. Read on for my review below. :D
Update: Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris closed in April 2016. The main branch in Paris has also closed in February 2016.
From the name, it’s telling that the first Pinacothèque de Paris is located in well, Paris, and their second branch opened in Singapore at the end of May. The museum is divided into 3 galleries: The Collections Gallery, The Features Gallery, and the Heritage Gallery.
The Collections Gallery contains a permanent collection of 40 Western and Southeast Asian artworks, ranging from 17th century European paintings to modern and contemporary works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Lucio Fontana. The Features Gallery holds themed exhibitions, its first being The Myth of Cleopatra. The Heritage Gallery contains artefacts from Southeast Asian cultures that are pertinent to Singapore, and is the only gallery with free admission.
I visited The Collections Gallery and Heritage Gallery, but decided to skip the Cleopatra exhibition due to the pretty steep price! I was really interested in checking out The Collections Gallery because of its promises of Western art and its curatorial approach of “transversality.” Head curator Marc Restellini’s focus was on combining Western and Southeast Asian artworks in the same space, crossing over cultures, time periods and mediums. I really like that idea and it’s not something you often see in most art places, so I was looking forward to what the museum had to offer.
Before going more into that, first off: the fantastic interaction panels! After buying the tickets at the fancy counter with changing graphics, you walk down the long corridors and reach these touch-screen panels with a cute talking chameleon or whatever it is. (It actually waves and goes “Hello!” when no one’s playing with it.)
It’s a long screen but you can actually stand at one spot and slide through the various artworks the green chameleon wants to talk about. Press the key icon when you want to hear more about an artwork! The green guy does talk for quite a bit, but if you’ve got the patience to hear him out, there is a lot of helpful background information and images. This is really the best interactive section I’ve seen at an art museum – fun and informative!
Claude Monet, Suzanne with Sunflowers (on view in Collections Gallery) and Water Lilies series (not on view)
I was lucky to have the whole space to myself long enough to go through all the artworks included in the interaction section. They’re taken from The Collections and The Features galleries, and I forgot how many exactly were included, but it’s probably about 10 or more.
Despite the long panel catered to allow multiple people to interact with the chameleon, I thought it best to listen while on my own. It was harder to hear what he was saying when someone else was playing his speeches, even when we were standing at opposite ends of the screen.
Jackson Pollock, Composition with cubic form (on view in Collections Gallery)
My favorite was the explanation of Modigliani’s Young Lady with Earrings that was both fun and cute, and which also well demonstrated the theme of transversality by addressing the connection to African masks in Modigliani’s painting.
Amedeo Modigliani, Young Lady with Earrings (on view in Collections Gallery)
Moving on to the Collections Gallery! The Western artworks mostly consisted of paintings, many of which were from the 17th century. Otherwise, they were from the modern and contemporary era. Southeast Asian pieces were mostly sculptures. I have to say that my bias lies in Western artworks! ;)
Note: Photography is allowed in the galleries but the modern and contemporary artworks are not allowed for photo taking. There’s a no photography indication on the wall beside these artworks.
Amedeo Modigliani, Young Lady with Earrings, 1915, oil on canvas
I was expecting this to look very flat, but it looks so much better when you see it for yourself! There are many layers to the flesh tones, and the lady’s hair is very textured in the center.
This mask was placed beside Modigliani’s Young Lady with Earrings, and I felt this was the best example of the theme of transversality in the collection. I didn’t get a good shot of the didactic, so I don’t know the details of this piece, my bad!
Antony Van Dyck, Portrait of a Gentleman, 1619/1620, oil on canvas
The gentleman’s facial features are so well painted. The rest of the background and landscape are instead sketchily painted, hehe!
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijin, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, 1640, copperplate
You wouldn’t expect that the copperplate is really small, with the amount of detail in this biblical scene. With the number of portraits in the collection though, it would have been great to see one of Rembrandt’s famous portraiture works! ;)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Georgette-Marie Malivernet, 1896, oil on canvas
I think of Renoir as a popular Impressionist artist, with his idyllic images of pretty people in fashionable clothing. I like to compare him to a modern-day person who relies on Instagram filters for pretty photos, haha! Beautiful images, but not much beyond the surface.
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Portrait of Maria Dircksdr Bogaert, 1670, oil on canvas
Now, this portrait I absolutely love! The portrait seems to glow from within, and the detailing of the lady’s curls and the lace of her gown is exquisite.
Claude Monet, Suzanne with Sunflowers, 1890, oil on canvas
This painting is huge, much larger than I was expecting. It’s even bigger than lifesize! It’s not my favorite of Monet’s… but I don’t think it was his favorite, either. Monet didn’t do many figure paintings, preferring to paint scenes of nature and water. His best figure paintings and portraits were those that his first wife, Camille Doncieux, modeled for. After her early death, Monet painted a few more figure paintings with his second wife, Alice Hoschedé, and stepdaughter, Suzanne Hoschedé, as models. In my opinion, Monet didn’t put much heart into his later figure paintings, especially since they lack the overall oomph of his paintings of Camille.
The effect doesn’t come out well in the photos, but the sunflowers seem to be the main focus of the painting despite the fact that Suzanne clearly occupies most of the painting. Suzanne however looks washed out and fades into the background, while the yellow of the sunflowers makes them pop. The sunflowers are also too long and extended, relative to the figure and the table, and their deliberate positioning around Suzanne’s head seems to bring home the idea that the sunflowers are so much nicer to look at than Suzanne herself. Ouch, right?
Gregorius Oosterlinck, A Tavern Interior with Soldiers Merrymaking Around a Table, 1637, oil on canvas
Generally, I was happy with what I saw with the Western artworks. In a small collection, it is impressive that there were a few big names included in the selection. I of course would have loved to see more, but I think I have to leave those expectations for an art trip to Europe, haha!
The Southeast Asian pieces were pretty limiting though. There wasn’t much variation with most of them seeming to belong to the ancient tribal art category, and I think there could be a lot more said about Southeast Asian art.
Overall, the theme of transversality was not well conveyed. There were way more Western pieces than Asian pieces for one, so the Western pieces were well distributed around the gallery, while the Asian pieces were scattered here and there. The crossing over time periods also wasn’t well conveyed, since I felt many of the artworks were from European 17th century painters, and the subject matter of the artworks did not differ much from the others. In that way, the connections between supposedly vastly different artworks weren’t well illustrated.
The gallery was also too dark for my taste. Spotlights shine directly onto the artworks, making them very well-lit, but the effect on photos is not great.
I don’t think the museum is well worth the high price, but I will say pay a visit if you’re keen on getting a taste of viewing Western artworks!
Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris is located at Fort Canning Arts Centre, 5 Cox Terrace.
Opening hours are as follows:
Sun – Thurs: 10 AM – 7:30 PM
Fri – Sat : 10 AM – 8:30 PM
Very important note: Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time! (I had to learn it the hard way.)
Find the ticketing info here.
View Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris’s website here.