[Interview] Every Painting Tells a Story: National Gallery Singapore X Samsung Art Store Partnership Introduces World to Southeast Asian Art
Art is a reflection of a region’s history, providing valuable insights into the direction society is headed. This is especially true for National Gallery Singapore, which oversees the world’s largest public collection of modern Singapore and Southeast Asian art — acting as a “melting pot” of art from the region.
Samsung Art Store is an art subscription service that began in 2017 for The Frame, the company’s lifestyle TV. In partnership with more than 50 museums and galleries worldwide, the service provides more than 2,000 pieces of artwork, ranging from famous paintings to unique pieces from emerging artists. Through this service, users can access various works of art in 4K resolution from the comfort of their own homes.
Since April 2022, Samsung Art Store has been partnering with National Gallery Singapore to bring consumers a curated selection of prominent artworks by Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists. A leading visual arts institution, the Gallery is a custodian of over 8,000 works that form Singapore’s National Collection, which capture the changing landscape of this dynamic region.
Samsung Newsroom sat down with Jason Ong, Director, Partnership Development at National Gallery Singapore to discuss how the Gallery and its partnership with Samsung Art Store are redefining the role of art galleries and its role in fostering diversity and accessibility.
Q: National Gallery Singapore’s partnership with Samsung Art Store is fairly recent, having been announced in April 2022. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this partnership?
National Gallery Singapore is committed to making our collection more accessible as well as to deepen the public’s engagement with our artworks. Collaboration with like-minded partners, such as Samsung, help us to achieve this goal. We are especially heartened to know that though this partnership, artworks from our collection can reach an international audience in the comforts of their home.
As the first Southeast Asian museum represented in the Art Store, our presence on the Art Store allows us to showcase some of our key artworks to a global audience; we hope that this will enhance awareness and appreciation of our region’s rich art history.
Through technology, visitors are able to have a glimpse of the diversity of art and narratives showcased through the selected artworks. We hope this partnership will ignite more interest not only for works from our collection but also for Singapore and Southeast Asian art in general.
Q: Can you tell us more about the Gallery’s goal to foster and inspire a creative and inclusive society? What does this look like?
The Gallery is working towards expanding the hearts, perspectives and horizons of the public through art. We have been steadfast in our ambition to deepen art appreciation in our audiences. Our desire to develop the Gallery as a space for dialogue and discovery also extends to the exhibitions we present. By sharing the magic of storytelling with all, our exhibitions and programs can add to, adapt or remake age-old tales. Our critically acclaimed exhibitions are curated to promote conversations and encourage fresh perspectives on the art of Singapore, Southeast Asia and the world.
Q: Samsung Art Store recently updated its selection from the Gallery’s diverse collections to include pieces from renowned artists such as You Khin, John Turnbull Thomson and Raden Saleh. How were these works chosen?
We display a unique transnational approach towards our collection as we aim to rewrite the art histories of this region. The works selected for Samsung — varying in medium, subject matter and social concerns — demonstrate the diversity of art from the region. You will find a wide range of works drawn from various countries in the region from the 19th to 20th century, varying in medium and artistic style.
Q: Which three would you recommend for users to display on The Frame?
Kampong Pasir Panjang was painted by Singaporean artist, Idris Ali, in 1965. Idris Ali’s paintings of Singapore are important as they serve as visual documentation of our national heritage. We hope that this painting provides an insight into the local landscape of early post-independence Singapore.
You Khin’s Untitled (Doha Scene: Pakistani Bakers) records the local Pakistani bakery that Cambodian artist, You Khin often visited with his children during his years in Doha and offers insights into how he passed the time in his adopted home. This painting also demonstrates how other regions of the world are interpreted in Southeast Asia’s modern art through artists who travelled widely like You Khin.
Boschbrand (Forest Fire) is one of the most iconic artworks of the Gallery represented in the Art Store since the inception of the partnership in April. While this piece isn’t one of the latest additions to the Art Store, it is a remarkable artwork with a dramatic representation of wild animals chased by flames to the edge of the precipice. The work was presented as a gift by Indonesian artist Raden Saleh to his patron King Willem III of the Netherlands in 1850. It is monumental in scale; we are glad that this masterpiece can be displayed and appreciated by The Frame owners from the comforts of their homes.
Q: You’ve worked on digital projects ranging from NFTs to the Web3 universe to make art more interactive and accessible. How do you foresee technology bridging the accessibility gap for consumers and artists in the coming years?
We must continue to harness this ability as we press towards the digital realm alongside everyone else. It is not enough to replicate the experience of visiting our galleries. Instead, visitors will have the opportunity to craft their own unique museum experience through modes of online engagement centered on interaction. Through video tutorials, games and livestreams, individuals can query artists; children can make art with their parents; and students can tour our exhibitions with their teachers.
As part of this initiative, the Gallery has recently created a private blockchain for “Adopt Now,” a public crowdfunding initiative that allows anyone to adopt part of an artwork from its art collection for as little as 50 Singapore Dollars. We are thrilled to report that this micro-giving initiative has received an encouraging response.
Q: Do you have any other upcoming exhibitions or projects you can tell us about? Do you have plans for any more digital art projects in the future?
As an innovative museum, National Gallery Singapore continues to innovate and explore emerging technologies to see what is possible in creating more opportunities for art appreciation among our visitors. To make art even more accessible, the Gallery launched ARText in September, an interactive platform that lets users learn about Southeast Asian art through daily conversations on common messaging apps.
ARText is built on the concept of micro-learning and delivers bite-size and interactive art learning experiences to mobile devices. The Gallery is also looking at personalizing the experience by integrating artificial intelligence text recognition software.
To see more artwork from National Gallery Singapore, head to Samsung Art Store in The Frame.
Products > TV & Audio