Singapore Art Museum, Singapore

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is a contemporary art museum focusing on art practices in Singapore, Southeast Asia and Asia Housed in a restored 19th century mission school, it opened in 1996 as the first art museum in Singapore

SAM has built an important public collection of Southeast Asian contemporary art, with a growing component in international contemporary art Drawing from its collection, the museum collaborates with international art museums to co-curate contemporary art exhibitions Visitors can extend their SAM experience through exhibition-related education and public programmes such as tours, talks, workshops, special curator and artist tours, as well as downloadable activity sheets

Officially opened on 20 January 1996, SAM is one of the first art museums with international-standard museum facilities and programmes in Southeast Asia

SAM was the organiser of the Singapore Biennale in 2011, 2013 and 2016

SAM’s approach is to present works curated from the permanent collection alongside changing exhibitions, to offer a well-rounded aesthetic experience of Asian contemporary art From 2001, the museum began acquiring works and accepting donations from around the region, including regional contemporary artists like Cheo Chai Hiang, Dinh Q Le, Natee Utarit, Nge Lay, Suzann Victor and Titarubi

The museum also regularly partners with other leading art institutions to co-curate and produce exhibitions, such as the collaboration with Deutsche Bank and the Yokohama Museum of Art for Still Moving: A Triple Bill on the Image; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo for Trans-Cool TOKYO (highlighting works by Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Yasumasa Morimura); and Video, An Art, A History with the Pompidou Center (Bill Viola, Jean-Luc Godard, Bruce Nauman)

The museum organizes regularly contemporary art exhibitions and events For example, French artist Stéphane Blanquet was invited, twice, to present installations Once, for the Night Lights festival in 2012, with Distorted Forest and once for Art Gardens in 2013, with Glossy Dreams in Depth”

The Singapore Art Museum focuses on international contemporary art practices, specialising in Singapore and Southeast Asia SAM has built one of the world’s most important public collections of Southeast Asian contemporary artworks, with a growing component in international contemporary art SAM draws from its collection and collaborates with international contemporary art museums to co-curate and present contemporary art exhibitions Contemporary art of the region is also given international exposure through SAM’s travelling exhibition programme and collection loans

The museum, then known as a fine art museum, was born out of a project by the National Museum to set up a five-museum precinct in the city The other four museums that make up the precinct are known as the Singapore History Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum, People’s Museum and the Children’s Museum The Fine Arts Museum project began with the restoration of the former St Joseph’s Institution building At the same time, the appointment of artist and surgeon Earl Lu to head an 11-member Fine Arts Museum Board was announced on 18 July 1992, by the Minister of State (Information and the Arts and Education), Ker Sin Tze The museum board was tasked to acquire works of art by notable painters from Southeast Asia and East Asia, and by upcoming artists from these regions Low Chuck Tiew, a retired banker and prominent art collector, served as museum adviser, along with Shirley Loo-Lim, Deputy Director of the National Museum of Singapore as vice-chairman of the board Geh Min, Ho Kok Hoe, Lee Seng Tee, Arthur Lim, T K Sabapathy, Sarkasi Said, Sum Yoke Kit, Wee Chwee Heng, Singapore Polytechnic alumni, and Yap-Whang Whee Yong formed the rest of the museum board

The restoration work on the then 140-year-old national monument took more than two years at a cost of S$30 million It first opened its doors to the public as the Singapore Art Museum on 20 October 1995 Its first art installation was a S$90,000, 7 m (23 ft)-high Swarovski crystal chandelier at the museum main entrance It weighs 325 kilograms and took over three months to make The museum was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong on January 20, 1996 In his opening speech he envisioned the new museum, along with the other four museums in the Arts and Heritage District and the Arts Centre, aiding Singapore in reprising its historic role as a centre of entrepot trade for the arts, culture, civilisation and ideas to the people in the Asian region and the rest of the world