Visitors flock to newly opened National Gallery

Undeterred by morning showers, Singaporeans and tourists flocked to the National Gallery Singapore, which opened to the public yesterday.

Visitors whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were drawn to the museum's art collection, which is also the world's largest public collection of South-east Asian art.

Theatre actor Yong Ser Pin, 67, said he thoroughly enjoyed the works in the DBS Singapore Gallery.

"It captures how life was like in the 50s. There're so many works which I like, both by the famous and those less famous," he said, pointing out paintings by Singaporean artists such as Chua Mia Tee, Koeh Sia Yong and Seah Kim Joo.

Many museum-goers whipped out their camera phones to capture the interiors of the restored Supreme Court and City Hall buildings. The $532 million project took 10 years to complete.

Popular photography spots included the interactive electronic social table, which allows users to view and share artworks with one another, the foyer of the Supreme Court wing and its holding cells, formerly used to house defendants.

Retiree Kok Lee Chin, 61, was among many who took selfies in the Padang atrium joining the two buildings. The space used to be a carpark.

"The buildings have been beautifully restored. It was a smart idea to link the two buildings like this. It is money well spent," she said.

With the year-end school holidays in full swing, families also headed to the museum.

Civil servant Mohammed Jalees, 34, and his wife Yasmin Begum, 35, who runs a clothing business, made a trip there with their three children, aged 11 months to seven. He said: "The Gallery has that experiential, hands-on element which makes art come alive for the children."

Australian gallerist Bess O'Malley, 48, who was first in line to enter the museum, said: "I've been to museums in Australia, the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and I'd say, this is up there with the best of them. It is spectacular, combines both traditional and contemporary architecture, and is the perfect size for this city."

The museum's DBS Singapore Gallery and UOB Southeast Asia Gallery display about 800 artworks from the 19th century to the modern day.

Early birds in the line yesterday were welcomed by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who hoped that the 64,000 sq m National Gallery would be "a place where everyone, be it children or the elderly or young couples, can find something they like". She added: "I hope the Gallery can be lodged in our national consciousness like our hawker centres. It will be a place where people gather to talk, exchange views and admire art."

As of 6pm yesterday, 4,200 people had visited the museum.

The National Gallery Singapore's opening celebrations will run until Dec 6. Admission to most of the events is free, with registration required for some. For more information, call 6271-7000, e-mail or go to

This article was first published on Nov 25, 2015.
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