Break new ground is what the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) hopes to do with Unearthed, its first exhibition under new leadership. The museum, previously run by the Government's National Heritage Board, became a corporate company last November under a new director, artist-academic Susie Lingham.
Its inaugural exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday, comes on the heels of the blockbuster Singapore Biennale show that ran from October to last month, its last outing as a heritage board museum.
Unearthed points to the museum's new push to showcase projects and practices where art converges with different disciplines and forms of presentation.
It arrays almost 30 works that range in medium from photography and video to installation, and dwells on the theme of the natural environment and how urban artists, responding differently to the subject, uncover motifs and topics that run the gamut from natural history to memory. The exhibition includes works in the museum's permanent collection as well as pieces in private hands and new commissions.
Curator Tan Siuli says the idea for the show was seeded last year when the Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore institute, which conducts research on geohazards in and around South-east Asia, approached it to exhibit works from the institute's art residency programme.
Ms Tan, who is in her 30s, says: "We were keen on showing it because of the intersection of art with other related disciplines such as earth science. And it is very topical because we face issues such as climate change and the haze."
To complement the six contemporary art projects from the research institute, which are shown in the museum's annexe in Queen Street, the exhibition Unearthed was conceived.
As she put together the show, Ms Tan says she was surprised by how aware Singapore artists are of nature and cites Singapore artist Twardzik Ching Chor Leng as an example.
She says: "Chor Leng deals with land and when we talk about land in Singapore, the first thing that comes to people's minds is property, real estate or contested sites, all these abstract, political issues.
"But she is interested in the materiality of land, its colours and texture. The physicality, however, is a starting point and it extends into a metaphor for other issues related to land."