National Gallery Singapore, The Iconic Marriage Of The Former Supreme Court And City Hall

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Singapore’s National Gallery finally opened to the public this November  after a long wait; it was in 2005 that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally Speech that the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings would be converted into the new National Gallery.

National Gallery Singapore is an absolutely stunning, iconic architectural mammoth with a rich heritage, and one that’s worth the wait. Costing S$532m (US$379.6m), the development houses the world’s largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art.

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Designed by Studio Milou Singapore, in partnership with CPG Consultants, the overall design maintains the original architecture of the two heritage buildings built between 1930s to 1950s with meticulous attention to restoration.

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The space separating the former Supreme Court and the City Hall now forms the entrance to the National Gallery, and is covered by a  concave canopy – made from gold-coloured perforated aluminium and glass – that is supported by grey tree trunk-like steel structures.

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The 2 buildings are connected by an upper and a lower link-bridges.

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The link-bridges offer picturesque views of the entrance and the canopy structure – a perfect spot for photo-taking.

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There’s opportunities to frame an interesting photo at every nook and corner.

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The stately City Hall Chamber features restored original majestic marble columns, brass decoration, chandeliers and wood panels and flooring that look brand new. This is where the then-Prime Minister Lee and members of his Cabinet took their Oaths of Allegiance and Oaths of Office on 5 June 1959, and also where the signing of the Japanese surrender documents took place.

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The former Supreme Court Terrace, with the little-known Rotunda dome, is another great photo spot.

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The little one are not forgotten – the Keppel Centre for Art Education, pocketed with quirky decorations and colourful art pieces,  offers fun activities and art programmes for young children.

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The Social Table at  the DBS Singapore Gallery is an innovative touch-screen table that allows visitors to interact with the images of the art pieces at the National Gallery; you can even curate an art  collection and email it to your friends and family.

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I managed to check out DBS Singapore Gallery’s current exhibition “Siapa Nama Kamu”, which I found very enthralling. 

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“Siapa Nama Kamu” means What’s your name? in Malay. The exhibition  invites visitors to consider how art may relate to issues of self and community, and what it means to look at Singapore through its history of art from the colonial period to present day.

The art works here also includes interactive pieces; like this chair that is deconstructed and the pieces placed strategically on the floor that when viewed from a marked spot, it  appears to be whole.

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There is also a special section entitled “Tradition Unfettered”  that surveys the Chinese ink movement from the 1940s onwards. The displayed works are very impressive.

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The night scene from the rooftop housing the bars is nothing short of spectacular; and you can get up close to the classic dome of the former Supreme Court.

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As expected of any worthy gallery, there’s a gift shop that dishes out classy souvenirs near the exit of the gallery.

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Ambitious and complex projects rarely live up to their concept. National Gallery Singapore is that very rare instance where form and substance, bonded by a strong heritage, come together beautifully to give brith to a truly iconic development that will put Singapore on the world’s map of arts and architecture. A must-do for any visitor to Singapore; or all Singaporeans for that matter.


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