Eight Immortals 八仙, Ren Bonian 任伯年. LIVING WITH INK – THE COLLECTION OF DR TAN TSZE CHOR 《水。墨。情 – 又逢香雪庄》@Asian Civilisations Museum. This National Treasure-tier collection was given to us by the family of the late Dr Tan Tsze Chor. It features ink paintings from the late 19th c / early 20th c Mainland Chinese Ink masters.
I’m almost there.
I can feel it.
…clarity on what I want, who I am, who I will be in the years I come – what I will pursue, creatively, intellectually, socially, perhaps even romantically…
I’ve been going around in concentric, iterative circles, reflecting hard and painfully on the reality I’m in. Thankfully the circles articulate a gyre, or spiral, rather than a closed route.
Divine RAPTURE – Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Gallery of Ancient Religions. Asian Civlisations Museum. Exhibition designers for our 2nd floor galleries: Gallagher & Associates.
Experiencing RAPTURE when I encounter a rare and beautiful work of art in our collection. Cabinet, 18th century, owned by a family in Macao. Christian Art Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum.
What I love doing most at the museum is talking about our collection. Here I am recording a video which explains the art, craft and history behind one of my favourite pieces – the 18th century Safavid Iranian ‘alam.
Members of the press responding with awe at the monumental Batak granary in our Ancestors and Rituals Gallery. And this was BEFORE we even finished the lighting for the piece.
At the museum, I’ve been known to describe the museum experience and the process of exhibition design as akin to approaching RAPTURE, by which I mean a combination of the Sublime (divine rapture) as well as the Sensual (orgasmic rapture).
Good exhibition design edges itself precariously towards, and then throws itself headlong into, Rapture.
I’ve been known to actually tell our designers that I expect our gallery and exhibitions designs to build to a climax; to build to orgasm, not to limp… well, you get the drift.
Yes, at the risk of sounding rude – I do, literally, say it in these terms.
[I learnt that design must attain the Sublime and the Sensual from my “design mentors”: one a jewellery designer, and the other a couturier, both Singaporean, living abroad and at the very top of their game, internationally.]
Experiencing (sensual) RAPTURE when one enters our special exhibitions: GUO PEI – CHINESE ART AND COUTURE, Asian Civilisations Museum. Exhibition designer: GSM Project.
GUO PEI – CHINESE ART AND COUTURE, Asian Civilisations Museum.
The ENRAPTURED crowds… The galleries were HEAVING during the weekends in the last month of the exhibition, as word finally got out (on social media), and as we were finally not blocked off any more by National Day Rehearsals (6 weekends of them!!) at the Padang.
RAPTURE… SOUTHEAST ASIA IN THE WORLD Permanent Galleries Opening.
RAPTURE… the GUO PEI – CHINESE ART AND COUTURE Exhibition Opening.
RAPTURE… LIVING WITH INK – THE COLLECTION OF DR TAN TSZE CHOR 《水。墨。情 – 又逢香雪庄》 Exhibition Opening. Yes, clearly, I love confetti. LOL.
[On a separate note, our exhibition openings are also known for their being rapturous affairs – deliriously joyous, inspirational, psychedelic, full of life – and they always climax with a burst of confetti, because, I mean… why not?]
Rapture, when attained, is infectious.
Witness just how the GUO PEI – CHINESE ART AND COUTURE exhibition was plastered all over Instagram, through no effort of mine – except insofar as my demanding that it should be the most ravishing, rapturous exhibition anywhere on earth for the duration of its run.
Experiencing great beauty is akin to rapture. It makes one do irrational, unexplainable things like take and post photos copiously all over Instagram. I’ve done it myself.
[P.S.: Our audiences now know that ACM does the most BEAUTIFUL exhibitions (and has the most beautiful permanent galleries) in Singapore, if not in the world. I mean, I demand that our galleries and exhibitions are the most beautiful in the world. I will accept nothing less. For this, I have to thank our curators and our brilliant exhibition designers, Gallagher & Associates, GSM Project and Kingsmen Exhibits, for their infinite patience with me and their exceptionally hard work.]
Our GUO PEI – CHINESE ART AND COUTURE exhibition this Summer, plastered all over the Instagram-verse. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Instagram was instrumental in driving crowds to the exhibition – particularly since we don’t have much money at all for marketing.
Close-up of flowers in the LIVING WITH INK 《水。墨。情。》exhibition ongoing at the ACM. I did some promotion on Instagram for the exhibition, focusing on the many flowers featured in the exhibition. Totally random.
We are also known for having some of the most RAVISHING exhibition catalogues anywhere. These are the catalogues for the 3 exhibitions I helmed as Director this year – all three have been a great success. =)
View into LIVING WITH INK exhibition – for the best view in the exhibition, see the last image in this post.
The exhibition design for our presently running LIVING WITH INK – THE COLLECTION OF DR TAN TSZE CHOR 《水。墨。情 – 又逢香雪庄》exhibition is also extremely beautiful.
Stepping into the special exhibition gallery is like having an epiphany. A cloud lifts from your mind’s eye, and suddenly you see everything before you with ethereal clarity.
You gasp in wonder. Your breath stops.
Completely ENRAPTURED by Guo Pei 郭培老师 and overjoyed at doing our first ever Press Conference in Beijing this March. I can’t BELIEVE we actually managed to do this exhibition. It was a kind of wild shot that came through!!
So pleased with the RAFFLES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA – REVISITING THE SCHOLAR AND STATESMAN exhibition, for which we brought the Royal Regalia of the former Johor-Riau-Lingga Sultanate. The Regalia is rapturously beautiful and imbued with symbolism and tragedy. The exhibition – and the fact that we brought the Regalia here – was controversial – Yay!!
My first Mandarin lecture ever – accompanying the RAFFLES exhibition – to packed crowds at the National Library Singapore and in partnership with Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报。This was in January. I have since given 4 other Mandarin lectures – with the latest one being in Shanghai last week! – and gotten completely fluent in Mandarin, able to give lectures off-the-cuff, without a script.
I’m happiest when I’m in the Galleries. But I’m not in the galleries enough – I spend so much of my time entertaining people in order to raise much needed funds for our special exhibitions and acquisitions; and also being a cultural diplomat. I wish I could spend much more time in the galleries and with the collections – I wish I could write a book on the collections – but I just don’t know how I’m going to. If I’m not out there asking for $$ and convincing partner museums to loan us their masterpieces, who will?
Epiphany, like Beauty, also precipitates Rapture.
And just as I demand beauty and epiphany in our museum exhibitions, I’ve also demanded beauty and epiphany in my own personal life journey.
Beauty I have in surfeit.
It gives me joy – and drives me to give others joy in return – so that I’ve made tremendous effort, these few months, to surround myself with it.
Epiphany, I’m working towards. I’ve been working hard.
And I’m thrilled because I can feel epiphany coming on. I can feel myself just on the brink…
Soon, very soon… I will hurtle headlong.
In the meantime, I edge…
Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car, William Blake, 1824-27. Tate Britain. One of my favourite exhibitions this year.
Majapahit Queen, 14th c, National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta. She was presented in the RAFFLES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA exhibition in January. I simply LOVED this piece – it was imbued with so much POWER… This was an EMPRESS.
A DREAM, Luke Alarcon, 2019. Oil on canvas. A piece I bought recently. I recently started buying art again – I’m not a collector AT ALL – I buy just to fill my walls. And I don’t have many, so I guess I’m almost done.
Me, looking so happy at a restaurant in Lahore, overlooking the Badshahi Masjid. I’m happiest also when I’m Grand Tour-ing: wandering the streets of Port and Imperial Cities of Asia with my camera, taking photos of the historic architecture and streetscapes.
ACM and Singapore’s contemporary skyline – my second home, literally. I’m almost always there. That has been a huge challenge for me this past year – my never being around for friends and family.
View towards THE EIGHT IMMORTALS by Ren Bonian. LIVING WITH INK – THE COLLECTION OF DR TAN TSZE CHOR 《水。墨。情 – 又逢香雪庄》. My exhibition design brief was to have the works of art floating in a sea of white. The exhibition designers (Kingsmen) have done a brilliant job!! This is ethereal and rapturous. On till March 2020.