Hubert Burda Media

Art at the Fort

Singapore's first private museum — the Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris — opens this month. We find out what to expect

Art at the Fort

When it opens later this month, the country's first private museum — Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris — will add new dimension to the Singapore art scene with its permanent collection of internationally acclaimed fine art, including works the likes of Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Modigliani.
Located at the newly refurbished Fort Canning Arts Centre, the museum is the first overseas branch of Director and Founder Marc Restellini's successful Pinacothèque de Paris in France. Privately funded with artworks loaned from some of the world's most prominent collectors, it exploded onto the saturated Parisian art scene dominated by institutional giants such as the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay in 2007, and made its name with sold-out exhibitions featuring art royalty such as Jackson Pollock, Edvard Munch and Van Gogh.
Just as it was for Paris, Restellini's raison d'être for the Singapore offshoot is to share art with more people. “It is my dream to bring art to the masses, especially to make the rarest and most exceptional masterpieces readily accessible to the public,” says the Frenchman, who by training is an art historian and Modigliani scholar.
The Singapore museum has two main galleries: The Collections and The Features. The former is a permanent collection comprising 40 paintings by luminaries of the art world, which are primarily on loan from Restellini's well-guarded address book of private collectors. Visitors can expect to see masterpieces by Italian heavyweight Amedeo Modigliani, known for his modern portraits and nudes often depicted with elongated faces; French greats Chaïm Soutine (a Russian-born painter who relocated to Paris and went on to make significant contributions to the Expressionist movement) and father of French Impressionism Oscar-Claude Monet; Dutch Golden Age artists Rembrandt van Rjin and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (Rembrandt's student); and Gregorius Oosterlinck, who is recognised for his Carvaggio-inspired style.
The Features gallery will showcase two to three temporary exhibitions every year. Its first, The Myth of Cleopatra, opens on May 30, marking the museum's official opening. It will showcase paintings of the Ptolemaic Queen (including Jacopo Cestaro's 18th century Cleopatra and an Asp), authentic marble sculptures that date back to the 1st century BC, and archaeological artefacts.
The museum also has a Heritage gallery, a space which embraces Singapore's rich culture and traditions and celebrates the historical significance of its Fort Canning locale (believed to be the seat of royalty for the Malay Kingdom, Temasek in the 1300s).
Doing away with the traditional curation method of most major museums, where paintings from the same artist, movement or period are displayed together, the Pinacothèque galleries are instead organised according to Restellini's signature but unconventional curatorial technique of transversality. In this approach, pieces from across artistic styles or time periods may be juxtaposed so as to tell a story. He, has for instance, previously paired a 16th century Tintoretto with a 19th century Van Dyck on account that the works had similar inspirations despite hailing from different periods.
“When I [created] transversality, it was about making the rich, and often esoteric content of history, art and civilisation emotionally and intellectually captivating, and readily comprehensible to everyone. A visitor will only be inspired to notice, observe and enjoy if his interest is captured in the first place. That is my ultimate wish — to inspire dialogue and deepen the appreciation of the arts through everyday engagement,” Restellini explains.
In the case of The Myth of Cleopatra, the items on display hail from diverse eras but are singularly identifiable by the Egyptian Queen's legacy and influence in the last 2,000 years. “Famous and mysterious, she is a powerful figure who continues to fascinate many people across cultures, continents and time itself. From historians and artists, to the young woman who will go to a costume party tomorrow as Cleopatra, there is a point of engagement for everyone,” he says.
In line with its promise of creating immersive art experiences, the museum also employs what it calls a “Museum of the Future” approach to provide a “stimulating and playful place of interest to young and mature audiences alike,” says Suguna Madhavan, the museum's CEO. This entails utilising creative digital technologies such as interactive installations and mobile applications. Visitors may also enrol in courses ranging from studio sessions on art and craftwork, to art history studies at the Singapore Pinacothèque Art Academy.
“Through a new and compelling suite of exhibitions, educational and community activities, we aim to celebrate heritage and evoke creativity in the community,” Madhavan adds.
The Myth of Cleopatra runs from May 30-October 11, 2015 at Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, Fort Canning Arts Centre