The Ties That Bind

Sin­ga­pore’s grand new Na­tional Gallery has thrown open the doors to its epic col­lec­tion at a time of ris­ing global fas­ci­na­tion with the art of South­east Asia, writes Madeleine Ross

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

on­tem­po­rary art from South­east Asia has fallen into the slip­stream of its lu­cra­tive Chi­nese coun­ter­part in the past few years, cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of auc­tion houses, gal­leries and col­lec­tors around the globe. From group ex­hi­bi­tions at the Solomon R Guggen­heim Mu­seum in New York to one man shows at Beijing’s Ul­lens Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Art, the com­pelling, of­ten con­fronting and in­tensely ur­ban work from con­tem­po­rary artists in In­done­sia, Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia, Malaysia, the Philip­pines, Viet­nam and Sin­ga­pore is making head­lines and com­mand­ing soaring prices.

The in­ter­est in the re­gion’s cre­ative out­put, how­ever, is seem­ingly not re­stricted to con­tem­po­rary art. In fact, the ris­ing tide for con­tem­po­rary pieces ap­pears to be buoy­ing in­ter­est in the work of the re­gion’s mod­ern mas­ters. When Bathing in the Shower by the late In­done­sian artist Hendra Gunawan went un­der the ham­mer at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Oc­to­ber last year, the oil paint­ing sold for HK$9.7 mil­lion. That price was re­port­edly more than five times higher than the most ex­pen­sive South­east Asian paint­ing sold at Sotheby’s first auc­tion of the re­gion’s work in 1996 in Sin­ga­pore. The pub­lic, it seems, wants to know and see more.

The ground could not be more fer­tile, then, for the launch of the Na­tional Gallery Sin­ga­pore, which has the largest pub­lic col­lec­tion of mod­ern art from South­east Asia. Housed in two grand na­tional mon­u­ments, the for­mer Supreme Court and City Hall

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