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Fresh Perspectives: Modernism in South-east Asia

by Justin Cheong
12.04.2016
National Gallery Singapore and Centre Pompidou Paris launch their first international exhibition entitled Reframing Modernism, resulting in exciting, unexplored dialogues and juxtapositions.

The French have a saying: “Qui n’avance pas, recule.” Translated, it means “whoever does not move forward, recedes”. How representative it is not only of this fast-paced world we live in, but also of the tenets that spawned and shaped the Modernist movement – a reaction to the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities. In art, Modernism challenged aesthetic conventions, and championed what was new and original as having inherent value.

That the National Gallery Singapore has collaborated with the Centre Pompidou, Paris for its first international exhibition entitled Reframing Modernism is, therefore, most timely. A showcase of more than 200 works by 40 artists from Singapore, Southeast Asia and Europe, it seeks to re-examine the paradigm of Modernism, and what it means in today’s context.

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Robert Delaunay, Portrait de Madame Heim, 1926 – 1927. Oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm. Collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris
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Georgette Chen, Tin Mine (Ipoh), c. 1953. Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm. Gift of the Lee Foundation. Collection of National Gallery Singapore. Image courtesy of National Heritage Board
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Vassily Kandinsky, Impression V (Parc), 1911. Oil on canvas, 106 x 157.5 cm. Collection of Centre Pompidou, Paris
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Vicente Do Rego Monteiro, The Hunt, 1923. Oil on canvas, 202 x 259.2 cm. Purchased by the French government, 1959. Acquired 1959. Collection of Centre Pompidou Paris, MNAM-CCI. Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
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Le Pho, Harmonie Verte: Les Deux Soeurs, c. 1938. Gouache on silk, 54 x 45 cm. Collection of National Gallery Singapore. Image courtesy of National Heritage Board

“This is the first time in Singapore that visitors can view artworks from European and Southeast Asian masters in the same space. We hope the exhibition will inspire fresh and interesting perspectives of the received understanding of modernism and modern art,” says Dr Eugene Tan, Director at National Gallery Singapore. “Along with the Gallery’s long-term exhibitions, Reframing Modernism will reinforce our aim to further the understanding of modern art from Singapore and Southeast Asia within a global context.”

Adds Serge Lasvignes, President of Centre Pompidou, “The collaboration also gives art lovers in Singapore and Asia the opportunity to view major artworks from the Centre Pompidou, which houses one of the world’s two largest modern and contemporary art collections.”

"This co-curated exhibition is an excellent opportunity for us to learn more about modern Southeast Asian art and how modernism was perceived in this part of the world." SERGE LASVIGNES, President of the Centre Pompidou

Bodies of work drawn from critical periods in the practice of artists such as Le Pho, Georgette Chen, Cheong Soo Pieng and Latiff Mohidin are juxtaposed alongside those by Vassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. The result? New dialogues, fresh connections and unexplored perspectives – another step forward.

 

Reframing Modernism is a component of the Voilah! French Festival Singapore 2016, a vibrant calendar of more than 40 programmes celebrating the best of French culture, creativity and innovation in Singapore over seven weeks.

The exhibition runs from 31 March to 17 July 2016 at the National Gallery Singapore. For more information, visit www.nationalgallery.sg.

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