The Singapore National Gallery Stinks!


By: B Goode

First, a disclaimer. I am not the arty-farty type.

Unless something smells good, feels good and tastes good, I am not interested.

So you will never find me spending hours sitting in an auditorium listening to a group of people rubbing their violins and violas, blowing their bugles and trombones and clashing their cymbals all the while pretending to follow the intructions given by the clearly agitated, mad person wildly waving his baton.

You mean to say that all those professional musicians wouldn’t know their C minors from their F majors without being told by the conductor? Yeah right.

That is why I am so perplexed as to why people could spend hundreds of millions of dollars on paintings by Le Rouche, or Gutzman or Pierre Le’Tard or Boritini.

I made all those names up. And I can bet that most of you didn’t know that I did.

So in order to experience the finer things in life other than eating the prata at Bukit Purmei (go try it. Damn shiok!), I decided one day to pay a visit to the newly opened Singapore National Gallery.

As if it was a precursor of what were inside, I was hit by a powerful smell of shit as I was walking towards the building. For some inexplicable reasons, the Nparks decided to put manure on the newly planted shrubs around the building. Cow dung. But as there are no cows in Singapore except for the one in Coney Island, I suspect that it could be human shit.

Shouldn’t they have used compost instead of manure? I don’t know. As I said, I am not the arty-farty type.

When I got into the building, what greeted me was the inside of Kim Kardashian’s head. Nothing.

I’d expect to see some pictures or drawings hanging from the walls. This is after all, The National Gallery. The walls and the pillars are all bare. I was momentarily lost in the emptiness.


Although I am not the sort who appreciate art, I have been to many galleries overseas. Because they came with the tour package. Ok ok they were free.

When I entered those galleries, like the one in London fronting that place with a lot of pigeons, I was greeted by paintings. Lots of paintings. Paintings by Sir Burghley, Russell, John Humphrey and of course Lord Dalton.

I made those names up too. And of course you didn’t know.

And I immediately knew where I was. An art gallery.

But for the case of Singapore , I thought I’ve entered a Town Council office.

The problem with the National Gallery is identity crisis. They seemed to be unsure of what they wanted to do with that imposing building. Should it be a Supreme Court museum? Or should it be an Arts gallery?

You cannot have both simply because there is nothing artistic about an institution that puts people to death.

And the layout is so haphazard.

You tell me. What is this actually? Is it an exhibition of an antique cabinet or of the pictures inside?


And they even displayed a chair used by the janitor. I think. Because there is nothing to state otherwise.


And they have plenty of rooms. One for each series of exhibit. That’s fine. But must there be doors to every room? One for entrance and one for exit. Or is it because of our national obsession that every room must have a door and a lock and a padlock and a gate?

A good gallery should be free flowing. Visitors should be lulled in wonderment and move from one exhibit to another without worrying about exit doors.

And let’s talk about the exhibits. In fact, the less I talk about it, the better.

Let’s just say that a lot of the paintings could be found in the rooms in Hotel 81.


And after spending an hour or so looking at the paintings but mostly looking for the exit doors, I came out with the sensation that I had just visited a gallery in Jakarta.

Or a stay in Hotel 81.

So I left. More cynical than ever. And less appreciative of the art.

So I left and had some real food for the soul. The prata from Bukit Purmei. Damn shiok and satisfying.

And no. I didn’t make that up.

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