Art often influences culture, and vice versa. And the best way to fully get to know a culture is to look at its traditional artists and their past works. With Singapore's multi-faceted cultural landscape, there's a variety of different art styles to help you deepen your appreciation for different cultures. Whether you're just visiting or a local curious about traditional art in Singapore, there's so much you can learn at a museum or gallery. Here's where you can find traditional art in Singapore.
National Gallery Singapore is home to more than 9,000 artworks across Southeast Asia spanning the 19th century to the present. In fact, the gallery is home to a part of Singapore's National Collection, managed by the National Heritage Board. The collection has borne witness to the changing landscape of art institutions in Singapore, encapsulating their complex histories and contributions made by artists, artists' estates and private individuals through donations.
You can find a large selection of works in two long-term exhibitions, Siapa Nama Kamu? and Between Declarations and Dreams, which showcases the influences and practices that have shaped and transformed Singapore art. Don't miss the works of a pioneer artist at the eponymous Liu Kang Gallery, which commemorates his role in the development of modern art in Singapore.
Delve into Malay culture at the Malay Heritage Centre. Located in the former Istana Kampong Gelam, it houses six permanent galleries showcasing stories and artefacts drawn from the National Collection and contributions from the community. Peep into the Sejarah Melayu – the earliest known literary work which mentions Singapore – at the centre's latest exhibition, Seekor Singa, Seorang Putera & Sebingkai Cermin: Reflecting and Refracting Singapura.
With a wealth of collection that showcases the rich culture and heritage of Asia, you've come to the right place. The Asian Civilisations Museum is home to seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. Start from the first floor, which charts the story of trade across the region, before heading to the second floor, which presents systems of faith and belief. Finally, the third features materials and design used in Chinese ceramics from the Han to Qing dynasty. Interested in calligraphy? Head to Living with Ink: The Collection of Dr Tan Tsze Chor, which provides a glimpse into the Singapore art world in the turbulent 20th century.
Check out the Chinese Heritage Centre, housed in a structurally stunning Administration Building of the former Nanyang University, which has been designated a national monument. Explore the questions of ethnic identity in a 6,000-square-foot permanent exhibition called Chinese More Or Less: An Exhibition on Overseas Chinese Identity. Conceptualised by Lynn Pan, author of Sons of the Yellow Emperor, this exhibition showcases the Chinese people from different eras and places and their influence on the world during the diaspora, with a special look at the identities of the Straits and Peranakan Chinese, who were much influenced by the Europeans in Asia.
You've probably heard of an important protagonist of the Nanyang aesthetic, Chen Wen Hsi. Famed for his avant-garde Chinese paintings, his works often depict the nature and animals and include abstract and figurative Chinese ink paintings. While his former residence is sometimes open to the public, you can also see his illustrious works with your own eyes at Merlin Gallery.