Art History of Singapore


Visual art has always been considered as of western origin as far as paintings and sculptures are concerned. Though visual art forms the main topic of discussion for modern day art scenario yet, we should not forget about religious art, colonial architecture and craft practices which shaped a part of artistic heritage of Singapore.

It is interesting to study the art history of Singapore and it will be clear if expressed in proper sequence:

Chinese migrant culture influenced Singapore art a lot. Modern art emerged in 1950 in Singapore.It is modern in the sense of a departure from past when the earlier tension between Chinese nationalism and Nanyang regionalism was resolved after the Second World War.

This period witnessed the growth of innovative artists like Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng.

They can be termed as Moderns in the art history of Singapore according to the 1960s version by Modern Art Society. They really marked a departure from the mainstream Chinese migrant art. But at this juncture, it should be noted that the meaning of modern art changed in 1970, emphasizing on the formalistic aspects of art in the light of internationalism and multiculturalism. Later on , it changed again to refer to abstract art.

Before 1950, there was no art gallery in Singapore. A study of the art history of Singapore reveals that Singapore art is not a derivative of any specific international art trend rather its origin can be traced back to a fine interplay of art practice and infrastructural evolution of visual arts.

Commercial galleries, exhibitions, art promoters and art patrons came into prominence after mid 20th century. The reason behind this change in the art history of Singapore is the exhibition organized by Singapore Art Society in 1950.

278 works by 76 local artists were sold and the sales totaled $3,363. This figure prompted the patrons to go for an art market.

1950s and 1960s witnessed a cross influence of Singapore realistic art and Chinese woodcut and caricature of social themes and thereby Social Realist trend took its birth.

1980s- Women artists like Eng Tow and Chng Seok went for mixed media pieces and experimented with paint, fabric and paper pulp and plaster.
1987- Tang and his The Artists Village brought a sea change in the concept of usage of materials and space in art.
Art history of Singapore seems to have been evolved through a slow process of evolution in both the commercial and aesthetic aspects of art.



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