Bringing Contemporary Art to the Common Man

According to Director, Angelita Teo of the National Museum of Singapore, “History inspires art, and art develops our understanding of history and ourselves.” Keeping this in mind, the National Museum brings in a new exhibition that includes more than 30 thought-provoking international artworks to Singapore. The show is curated in collaboration with the network of French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC), and it is for the first time that this collection is being presented in Asia Pacific.

National Museum of Singapore, Director, Angelita Teo at the media preview of What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

However, contemporary art is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially in Singapore, as Ms Teo points out rightly, the exposure to contemporary art has been limited. Therefore, the museum has taken special steps and measures to ensure that art does not stay restricted to a select group, but is accessible to all. These measures include, explaining the art pieces better in the form of longer introductions that are included along with the expected title and name of the artist. This ensures that the art novices will be able to enjoy the pieces as much as the seasoned art enthusiasts.

Titled, ‘What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible,’ the show broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary, and takes visitors on an experiential and progressive journey of the mind and senses, using unconventional approaches in art-making, and multi-media. The title and the design of What is Not Visible is Not Invisible takes inspiration from the artwork of the same title by French artist Julien Discrit, which walks the line between physical and philosophical. At first glance, three infrared lightbulbs are strung from the ceiling in front of an unassuming blank wall. When triggered by the viewer’s presence, the bulbs light up to reveal the ultraviolet text on the wall: “What is not visible is not invisible”. Speaking at the media preview yesterday, Julien explained his interest in astrophysics and his inspiration for the artwork that originated from the idea that physical universe is bigger than the visible universe.

What is not visible is not invisible, 2008. Julien Discrit (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

This visual paradox sets the premise for the themes and artworks at the exhibition. Artworks such as Grass Grows by Hans Haacke where a mound of grass greets visitors, and Repulse Bay by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, where a beach is recreated indoors instantly captures the audiences’ attention through the displacement of what is expected to be outdoors, suddenly appearing indoors. The recreation of environments in unassuming spaces creates new perspectives and transports visitors into a new state of mind. Most of the artwork invites individual perspectives. As curator, Imam Ismail points out, “Audience participation completes the works.”


Here are few of my favourite pieces and few moments of artistic interactions from the media preview of the exhibition:

Repulse Bay
Repulse Bay, 1999. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)
Plus de lumiere, 1998. Claude Leveque (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)
Les oiseaux de Celeste, 2008. Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel. Video. (Source: Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel)
Freak star, 2005. Ann Veronica Janssens. (Photo coutesy of National museum of Singapore)
Artist, Julien Discrit, whose work What is not visible is invisible, inspires the title of the exhibition, seen here with artwork, Major Tom, 2009, created by artist, Edith Dekyndt. In the background is After DM, 2012 by Philippe Decrauzat. (Photo: Prionka Ray)
Imam Ismail (National Museum of Singapore) and Laurence Gateau (FRAC and Platform), explaining space and audience interaction. Work n°262, 2001 Martin Creed Collection FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon. (Photo: Prionka Ray)


The exhibition certainly forced me to think beyond what is usual. Just before I walked out, I was amazed to see cat faces on wooden pallets. Titled, Photomatou, artist Alain Sechas has created 14 posters for visitors to take home.

Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

These posters were adorned with his usual iconic sidekicks: cat motifs. Every visitor, according to the artist will identify with one expression and bring back the poster, which most resembles him or her. I brought one back too though I am still trying to interpret the expression.

The cat motif that came home with me!!! Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible will be on display from 7 October 2016 to 19 February 2017. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 7pm, except Thursdays when it opens from 1pm to 7pm. Details on admission and guided tours are available on


Meanwhile,  the museum will also be hosting few of the film screenings of the 27th Singapore International Film Festival. The film festival will be casting a Spotlight on Three Singapore Filmmakers in its Silver Screen Awards Shortlist and Festival Line-Up.

  • Singapore filmmaker K. Rajagopal’s first feature film, A Yellow Bird, shortlisted as one of the competition films in the Silver Screen Awards.
  • SGIFF pays tribute to Singapore independent filmmaker, the late Abdul Nizam, and will screen a collection of 12 of his works
  • SGIFF’s commissioned short film by Singapore filmmaker Gladys Ng will make its world premiere during the Festival opening.

As an internationally-recognised platform in Southeast Asia for the discovery of independent cinema, the SGIFF is committed to champion the art and innovation of film making in telling the stories of Asia and the world.

The 27th edition of SGIFF, which runs from 23 November to 4 December 2016, will take place across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Gallery Singapore Auditorium, The Arts House Screening Room, Filmgarde Bugis+ and Objectifs Chapel Gallery. Ticket sales for SGIFF will begin on 28 October 2016.

The SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).








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