Gift to the nation

Gift to the nation
Mrs Karen Ngui, managing director and head of group strategic marketing and communications at DBS, with Henri Chen’s painting titled, Autumn Rocks.

SINGAPORE - A 50th birthday present to the nation is how DBS Bank sees its $25-million donation to the National Gallery Singapore.

The bank had earlier gifted prized works from its corporate art collection to the museum of Singapore and South-east Asian art, slated to open in November next year - the country's 50th as an independent nation.

Mrs Karen Ngui, managing director and head of group strategic marketing and communications at the bank, explains its partnership with the gallery: "We saw it as an opportunity to be a part of the fabric of Singapore. As the nation marks 50 years, we wanted to make a significant gift to Singapore."

The bank has historical links with the country's economic development, having been established in 1968 as the Development Bank of Singapore, before growing into a regional financial services institution headquartered and listed here.

It has traditionally been a strong supporter of the arts.

In 2006, it was one of the lead partners contributing at least $1 million in sponsorship to the 2006 IMF/World Bank meetings here, during which the theatre production Diaspora, directed by Cultural Medallion recipient Ong Keng Sen, was staged.

In 2001, it had pledged more than $3 million over five years to the Singapore Repertory Theatre, leading the theatre company to name its theatre venue in Merbau Road the DBS Arts Centre.

In return for the bank's $25-million donation, the National Gallery will name one of its key spaces - on the second level of the City Hall wing - the DBS Singapore Gallery.

Last year, DBS opened the vaults of its art collection of more than 250 artworks, amassed since the bank's founding, to the gallery's curators. They selected 26 artworks, including works by prominent watercolourist Ong Kim Seng, pioneering abstract artist Anthony Poon, first- generation master Cheong Soo Pieng and major second-generation artist Thomas Yeo.

Some of these artworks will be on display at the DBS Singapore Gallery or in special exhibitions and educational outreach programmes.

Mrs Ngui, 53, says the bank believes the National Gallery can become another "Singapore icon" and that this is an opportune time to invest in the development of the visual arts.

She says as "Singapore comes of age, we find ourselves at the crossroads of a very vibrant Asia where visual arts has its own focus".

"We see this gift as a rare opportunity to cement our role as DBS and to be a part of the Singapore of tomorrow through our partnership with the arts as well."

This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.

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