Museum's first-phase revamp almost done

A striking new entrance overlooking the Singapore River, a new gallery and wing, as well as expanded permanent gallery spaces, are among the highlights of the Asian Civilisations Museum's (ACM) ongoing revamp.

After a nearly year-long facelift, during which parts of the museum were closed, some sections were unveiled to selected media yesterday afternoon, ahead of their reopening next month.

The 22-year-old museum, which has been at its Empress Place premises for 12 years, focuses on the rich cultures and civilisations of Asia.

On Nov 14, when the first phase of the revamp is complete, visitors will go through the bright new entrance that opens onto the Singapore River and see the waterfront alignment with steps leading all the way down to the river.

A new 869 sq m wing - the Kwek Hong Png Wing - has a modern design that complements the colonial neo-classical facade of the historic building.

This new wing gives more space and greater focus to the museum's Fujian collections, and is supported by donations from the Hong Leong Foundation. The light-filled, glass-walled ground floor of this wing has a space for contemporary art too, with a new installation titled Grains Of Thought by Singapore artist Eng Tow.

Over at the Khoo Teck Puat Gallery, which is also new and located just off the new riverfront entrance, the much-written-about Tang Shipwreck collection will be prominently displayed.

The treasures recovered from the ninth-century wreck, which was discovered in 1998, are significant as they do not just highlight the quality of Chinese ceramic production but also document trade ties.

Also highlighted yesterday were some new acquisitions and never-before exhibited pieces from the permanent collection that looks at South Asia and the Islamic world.

These include rare statues, such as that of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman, who has been referenced in many Asian cultures.

There is also a late 16th-century mother-of-pearl box originating from Gujarat, western India, which points to global trade ties way before globalisation. The intricately carved piece has detailed Arabic inscriptions on all sides.

ACM director Alan Chong, who led the tour through some of the revamped spaces, said: "Such rare pieces remind us that the idea of globalisation dates back across time. In unveiling these new acquisitions, together with the opening of the new spaces, we are looking at cultural dialogues. I, personally, have been intrigued by these connections."

This article was first published on Oct 8, 2015.
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