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For all its ritzy Art Deco in­te­ri­ors and gin bar that’s be­come the hang­out-of-choice for the fash­ion­able set, Parkview Square is also try­ing to democra­tise con­tem­po­rary art with pos­si­bly the first free mu­seum in a com­mer­cial build­ing in Sin­ga­pore. Keng Ya

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Parkview Square is where the art is.

F or the con­tem­po­rary art afi­cionado with a love for iconic ar­chi­tec­ture, Sin­ga­pore has a new des­ti­na­tion some­what off the beaten track. Its location: the third floor of Parkview Square, bet­ter known to some as that “Gotham” build­ing on North Bridge Road.

Owned by the Hong Kong-based Parkview Group, the stately build­ing un­der­went a three-year makeover, re­launch­ing ear­lier this year. Run­ning it now is its so­phis­ti­cated yet unas­sum­ing man­ag­ing direc­tor Vicky Hwang, whose pre­vi­ous stints in­clude over­see­ing the re­con­struc­tion of a 19th cen­tury French chateau, and leas­ing at the trendy mixed-use Lon­don devel­op­ment Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion – both prop­er­ties are owned by the Parkview Group (her fam­ily is be­hind the em­pire). And new to the re­booted Parkview Square: At­las, a ’20s-style, gin-fo­cused bar/restau­rant that’s quickly be­come the place to see, be seen and In­sta­gram at; and the pri­vate con­tem­po­rary art space Parkview Mu­seum.

The lat­ter might be a some­thing of a head­scratcher, given that the build­ing’s also home to a num­ber of em­bassies and multi­na­tional com­pa­nies. Es­tab­lish­ing a mu­seum – nope, it’s not a gallery; noth­ing’s for sale – within a com­mer­cial space, how­ever, is not un­charted ter­ri­tory for the Parkview Group. Its first was launched in 2014 at the Bei­jing mega com­plex Parkview Green Fang­caodi, which also hosts a mall, bou­tique ho­tel and of­fice tow­ers on site, and has won mul­ti­ple awards for its eco­con­scious ar­chi­tec­ture.

In fact, cham­pi­oning con­tem­po­rary art (and sus­tain­abil­ity, but more on this later) is some­thing the com­pany takes very se­ri­ously. Says Hwang: “Mu­se­ums and spa­ces ded­i­cated to art in com­mer­cial spa­ces em­body (our) phi­los­o­phy of bring­ing art into daily life, with the twofold aim of cre­at­ing a bet­ter work­ing and com­mer­cial en­vi­ron­ment, while strength­en­ing the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art by the gen­eral pub­lic.”

There are dashes of art through­out Parkview Square. (Those Pi­cas­sos lin­ing the cor­ri­dor to Hwang’s of­fice? Yep, they’re real.) But it’s the mu­seum that takes – and func­tions as – cen­tre stage; a whop­ping 15,000 sq ft of un­in­ter­rupted space with 6m-high ceil­ings per­fectly de­signed to show­case art of all gen­res.

Ge­orge Wong, Hwang’s un­cle and Parkview Group’s chair­man, is the art col­lec­tor in the fam­ily – he’s the one who de­cides on the ex­hi­bi­tion themes, which are to change ev­ery four months or so. The man’s love for the arts runs deep: He re­port­edly owns the world’s largest col­lec­tion of Sal­vador Dalis out­side of Spain, and acts as a hon­orary pro­fes­sor at the Nan­jing Univer­sity of the Arts. (Hwang her­self is into the younger gen­er­a­tion of China-based con­tem­po­rary artists like sculp­tor Ren Zhe and painter Yang Kai, and says art has the abil­ity to let peo­ple “ad­dress ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions through an imag­i­nary world”.)

A highlight at Parkview Mu­seum later this year is The Artist’s Voice, which opens in Novem­ber and will fo­cus on ex­is­ten­tial­ist con­tem­po­rary art by more than 30 artists from Europe, China, Korea and the United States. The ma­jor­ity of fu­ture ex­hi­bi­tions will be cu­rated by Lo­rand He­gyi, formerly the direc­tor of Aus­tria’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art Lud­wig Foun­da­tion and France’s Musee d’Art Moderne et Con­tem­po­rain de Saint Eti­enne.

But it’s not just all about high­fa­lutin art. At press time, the mu­seum was filled with 33 large-scale mul­ti­me­dia works by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists, all with a com­mon theme: sharks. This de­but ex­hi­bi­tion On Sharks And Hu­man­ity – cu­rated by in­de­pen­dent Chi­nese cu­ra­tor Huang Du – was de­signed to raise aware­ness on the ills of shark fin con­sump­tion and en­cour­age con­ser­va­tion ef­forts for the species. Hwang shares that the con­cept and sev­eral of the works have their roots in the Oceano­graphic Mu­seum in Monaco, but her fam­ily got in­volved be­cause it “felt that it was very sci­ence-based and could be ex­panded”.

And be­sides ex­hi­bi­tions, the mu­seum or­gan­ises a whole host of ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from chil­dren’s art work­shops to doc­u­men­tary screen­ings (up next month: a late night run of the Os­car-nom­i­nated Rac­ing Ex­tinc­tion, which looks at how hu­mans are caus­ing the wide­spread ex­tinc­tion of an­i­mals). Ul­ti­mately, en­cour­ag­ing one and all to get ex­cited about – not daunted by – art is what the Parkview Group hopes to do. Says Hwang: “Our aim is to in­volve and build the com­mu­nity. This is why the mu­seum is and will al­ways be free.”

Parkview Mu­seum’s de­but ex­hi­bi­tion fo­cuses on the neg­a­tive im­pact of shark finning: (Be­low) “Tomb of Hon­our”, 2015, Zheng Lu. (Be­low left) “Seshy­oumaru – We are the World”, 2015, Yang Kai.

Vicky Hwang (and her fam­ily, who own Parkview Square) is big on mix­ing con­tem­po­rary art and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

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