Saturday, April 16, 2011

Van Gogh Alive! For everyone!

Photo courtesy of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. 
This is a photo of the projection at CATHEDRALE D’IMAGES, France, Provence.

Be moved, be dazzled and be inspired by the images of the masterpieces by one of the most famous artists in history, Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890). This was my experience when I was at an exclusive preview of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition", right here in Singapore.

When I first found out that the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands will be presenting "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" from 16 Apr - 6 Nov 2011, I knew that this would be the exhibition that I must make time to go for. After my visit to this multi-media art installation-cum-show, I dare say that this is the exhibition meant for everyone. 

In this exhibition, over 40 high definition projectors are used to project more than 3000 images in super large format onto surfaces of the gallery. Drawing inspirations from the concept of "Image Totale" (Total Image) by Albert Plecy in which the spectator is intergrated in the work of art, visitors to "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" will be able to discover new angles and perspective to viewing Van Gogh's masterpieces while immersing ourselves in a brilliant world of colour, movement and light.

 Photo courtesy of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. 
This is a photo of the projection at CATHEDRALE D’IMAGES, France, Provence.

Being inside "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" was a beautiful sensory experience for me. The countless beautiful images of Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces told the story of the passionate and visionary artist who had so lovingly painted them. "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" can be described as an immersive show that traces Van Gogh's artistic journey from Arles to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to Auvers-sur-Oise, which were some of the most important places where he had created many of his masterpieces.

Admittedly, Vincent van Gogh is one of my favourite artists. I love his artworks for their originality, highly personal style, and for the passionate enthusiasm that radiated from them. At "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition", I was touched by artistically choreographed sequence of images and beautifully played classical music which were thoughtfully chosen to evoke the emotive essence of the artworks.

Vincent van Gogh is one of the artists that I think everyone ought to make time to experience his masterpieces. His works are highly personal, intensely creative and original. What I have found worthy of respect was his clear sense of devotion and passion in bringing beauty to the world through his paintings. His artworks are the expressions of his love for life and beauty, I would think.

Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait" (Sep 1889).
Photo courtesy of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 - 1890), also known by most people as Vincent van Gogh, was born in Groot-Zundert, The Netherlands. The son of a Calvinist pastor, he was brought up in religious and cultured atmosphere. When he finally decided to become an artist, he was determined to give happiness by creating beauty.

In 1886, Vincent van Gogh went to Paris to join his younger brother, Theo van Gogh, manager of Goupil's gallery. It was in Paris that Vincent van Gogh studied with Cormon, and met artists such as Pissaro, Monet and Gauguin. The move to Paris exposed Van Gogh to artists associated with the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, influencing Van Gogh to lighten his previously very dark palette (choice of colours). Since his move to Paris, Vincent van Gogh adopted brighter and more vibrant colours that most people associate with his highly personal style of painting.

Van Gogh's "Vincent's Bedroom in Arles" (Sep 1889).
Photo courtesy of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

 Projection of images from Van Gogh's "Vincent's Bedroom in Arles" (Sep 1889).
Taken at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands during the media preview on 14 Apr 2011.

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to Arles with the aim of creating a school of art. As the year of 1888 came to an end, he travelled to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where he committed himself to an asylum. In May 1890, he went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise under the watchful eye of Dr Gachet, a physician, before Van Gogh died on 29 Jul 1890 from a wound after an attempt to shot himself.

After you have learnt about the major events of Van Gogh's life, it is worth highlighting that "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" showcases images of Van Gogh’s art works from his most prolific decade from 1880 to 1890. The pleasure and delight of seeing the images of Van Gogh's masterpieces from the most prolific period of his practice as an artist is surely one good reason why I think it is worth catching "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" at least once.

Suggestions that could enhance everyone's experience of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition"

1. For visitors who are new to Vincent van Gogh, please take a look at the write-ups found on the walls of the corridors before entering the gallery where "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" takes place. These write-ups provide a good background of Van Gogh's life, key influences and style of painting.

2. For visitors who would like to learn more about some of Van Gogh's masterpieces, there are static panels inside the gallery to provide more information.

Taken at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands during the media preview on 14 Apr 2011.

3. For visitors who enjoy multi-media installations and want to experience every second of it, you may wish to know that each sequence of the projections last approximately 30 minutes. You would know that it is the end of the sequence when you see Vincent van Gogh's signature against the dark walls. The suggestion by the Artistic Director of this exhibition was to experience at least two sequences so as to optimise your chance to catch a glimpse of most of the 3000 images.

4. For visitors who prefer to appreciate the artistic direction behind this entire immersive show, it helps to read the Artistic Direction by Artistic Director, Annabelle Mauger. It is found in the gallery, near the static panels.

5. For visitors who are going with children, please know that it is alright for your children to touch the gallery walls and the projected images of Van Gogh's masterpieces. "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" offers children the opportunity to immerse themselves in Van Gogh's artworks and be fascinated by the play of light and colour. If your children were to sing along gently with the music, please take it as a good sign that your children are enjoying themselves. Let them be.

To help make the experience equally enjoyable for other visitors, please guide the children to be considerate while they are having fun.

6. For the budget-conscious visitors, stretch the value of your admission ticket by also visiting the other exhibitions held at the ArtScience Museum, for example "Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds".

7. Finally, for visitors who are seasoned museum-visitors, please go to "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" with an open mind and heart. This exhibition is a sensory experience that is better enjoyed with an open mind and heart. It may help to perceive "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" as an immersive art show rather than a regular art exhibition with actual paintings or an interactive multi-media installation.

Taken at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands during the media preview on 14 Apr 2011.

Suggestions for the ArtScience Museum

1. I urge that the ArtScience Museum could please consider having a family admission-package to offer a very affordable admission rate for visitors visiting the ArtScience Museum as a family unit. This will help to encourage more visitors to enjoy "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" with their loved ones.

2. While I understand from the Artistic Director of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition", Annabelle Mauger, that visitors are encouraged to walk about the gallery spaces, I think it would still help for the ArtScience Museums to consider offering a limited number of portable and foldable chairs for visitors who prefer a seat.

3. One of my friends, Belinda Tan, has a great idea. She suggested that a pyjamas party be organised in the gallery spaces of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition". During the pyjamas party, movies that are related to Van Gogh, e.g. Lust for Life, could be screened. If this event is organised, Belinda Tan, her friend (Lina Wee) and yours truly will definitely sign up to be one of the guests!

 Photo courtesy of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. 
This is a photo of the projection at CATHEDRALE D’IMAGES, France, Provence.

ArtScience Museum, Singapore
Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition (16 Apr - 6 Nov 2011)
10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018956
Tel: 6688 8868
Operating Hours: 10am - 10pm daily (Last admission at 9pm.)

Admission Charges
(Includes GST and SISTIC booking fee)
Adult - $30.00
Senior (65 years +) - $27.00
Child (2 - 12 years) - $17.00
School Group - $10.00

"Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition" is presented by Grande Exhibitions of Australia and VisionsCom of France.

Please take note that photography and filming is strictly prohibited for "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition".

Official website of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition":


Read other reviews of "Van Gogh Alive - The Exhibition":

Friday, April 15, 2011

Van Gogh Alive!

Taken from: Art Science Museum's website.

Thanks to the invitation of the Art Science Museum, I have the pleasure to attend both the media preview and the exclusive preview to "Van Gogh Alive - the exhibition" on 14 Apr 2011 (Thu). This exhibition will be held in Singapore from 16 Apr to 6 Nov 2011 at the Art Science Museum, Singapore. It has been made available by Grande Exhibitions of Australia ( and VisionCom of France.

I was moved and fascinated by the exhibition which I likened to a special production that fuses art and audio-visual technology. I very much like the music that accompanied the visual treats and images of Van Gogh's art works, personal letters and photographs.

Please watch this blog for my review of this exhibition. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Surprises and learnings at the Heritage Conservation Centre

"Liu Kang's works! Georgette Chen's works!" These were my exclamations from the pleasant surprises that I had sighted during a very special visit to the Heritage Conservation Centre. What on earth is the Heritage Conservation Centre?

In brief, the Heritage Conservation Centre is the custodian of the collections that are under the care of the National Heritage Board. It manages and preserves the museum collection of the National Heritage Board. As such, it serves two key functions: 1) collection management and 2) conservation.

It was my very first visit to the Heritage Conservation Centre on 6 Apr 2011. Thanks to the wonderful team at I Love Museums and the Heritage Conservation Centre, I was able to gain privileged access to visit the Heritage Conservation Centre. Together with at least ten other participants, we were given a special tour about the Heritage Conservation Centre by its Assistant Director, Mr Robin Liu.

To care for and to protect the collection, visitors and staff who visit the non-public spaces of the Heritage Conservation Centre would have to observe the following:
1) No food and drink.
2) No personal belonging (lockers will be provided at the public areas).
3) No camera (for confidentiality).
4) Be careful. No touching of the artefacts.

Interestingly, I was told that some of the staff members of the Heritage Conservation Centre would change into a different pair of shoes before they enter the non-public spaces to do their work. This is their thoughtful way not to introduce soil and living organisms into the non-public spaces as these can potentially hasten the deterioration of the collection.

During this visit, I realise the vulnerability that all artefacts would be subjected to. While preserving an artefact for eternity would be an ideal, it is more realistic to think of one of the goals of conservation as slowing down the effects of deterioration on an artefact.

What are the various factors of deterioration?

Photo Credit: Heritage Conservation Centre
Many thanks to Azyure D. Hikari from Urban Explorers of Singapore for the help to scan the photos.

We learnt at the visit that the factors of deterioration can be broadly categorised as such:
1) light
2) relative humidity
3) temperature
4) pests
5) pollution
6) and physical damage caused by accidents or mishandling.

Our guide for the day, Mr Robin Liu, enlightened us with interesting strategies that are used by the Heritage Conservation Centre to minimise the devastating effects of the various factors of deterioration. One of the interesting things I have learnt is that the Heritage Conservation Centre use a 3-tier air purification system so as that the air that enters the centre is free from pollution. Polluted air can corrode an artefact over time.

In addition, there is no window at the storage and repository areas of the centre. This is to prevent the contact of UV rays from sunlight with the collection. Even when there are windows at the work-area so as to aid the staff members in their tasks of accurate colour matching under natural light, special windows that block out UV rays are used.

The pest eradication procedures that are used came across to me as interesting. Two of the commonly used methods to eliminate pests are 1) freezing, and 2) Controlled Atmosphere Treatment. In the latter, nitrogen is carefully passed through water and introduced into an artefact that is stored in airtight bags. Oxygen is gradually removed. I learnt that the Controlled Atmosphere Treatment takes a considerable length of time (approximately 30 days of treatment).

We also learnt that conservation can be broadly divided into two categories: 1) Preventive Conservation and 2) Interventive Conservation. The former deals with protecting and caring for the artefact largely through minimising the effects of factors of deterioration. The latter deals with taking interventions to repair and restore damaged artefacts.

My favourite part of the visit was the tour about the workspaces where Interventive Conservation takes place. At the Heritage Conservation Centre, a damaged artefact would be classified under one of these four material classifications and be conserved accordingly. These four classifications are: 1) object, 2) painting, 3) textile, and 4) paper.

I was most thrilled to be able to see a few of Liu Kang's works even before they are displayed in an upcoming public exhibition of Liu Kang's artworks scheduled to be held this July! (please view source here) One of the staff members even demonstrated how he remove an adhesive tape from one of Liu Kang's pastel works.The tape was probably a result of previous mounting but it is not part of the original artwork.

For your information, Liu Kang (1911 - 2004) is one of Singapore's pioneer artists. He is closely affiliated with the development of the Nanyang art syle in Singapore, together with other pioneer artists.

Throughout the entire visit at the Heritage Conservation Centre, I learnt that one of the key code of ethics of conservation is that of reversibility. That means that whatever the conservator does to any piece of artefact should technically be reversible.

The tour also covered the storage and repository areas of the Heritage Conservation Centre. I became excited when I caught sight of artworks by Georgette Chen and Anthony Poon. Many of the artefacts in the storage areas looked familiar to me albeit I could not instantly recall where I had seen them.

Overall, I am deeply impressed by the tremendous amount of care and thoughtfulness that the team at the Heritage Conservation Centre takes to protect and to care for the collection. Many thanks to the Heritage Conservation Centre, the National Heritage Board, and I Love Museums for organising this visit. I did not realise that time had passed so tremendously fast during the visit precisely because I have enjoyed every bit of it.

Photo Credit: Belinda Tan.
That was not the end of the hype. To conclude the visit, I Love Museums hosted a lunch affair at the Standing Sushi Bar at SAM@8Q for the fans who were chosen for this visit to the Heritage Conservation Centre. During the lunch, I had the pleasure to interact with a few of the heritage enthuasiasts and the wonderful team from the National Heritage Board.

Wonderful company, a fantastic and thoughtfully arranged visit to the Heritage Conservation Centre and a delicious lunch. I have a lot to be thankful for. All these were possible because "I like" the I Love Museums page and took some part in a few of its contests. So if you like this post and have yet to be a fan of I Love Museums page, please click on "I like" now!

Heritage Conservation Centre
32 Jurong Port Road
Singapore 619104

Visits are strictly by appointment only.

Please contact:
Tel: +65 6267 2618
Fax: +65 6267-2628


Clip art source:

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Rare treasures from the maritime silk route


Most of us would have heard of the Silk Route that involved travelling across the lands. How many of us have heard of the maritime silk route?

Did you know that by the ninth century, there was a flourishing maritime trade between the then Tang dynasty and the Arab world? This maritime trade has probably inspired the story of Sinbad the Sailor from the One Thousand and One Nights.

In this significant exhibition, Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds, that is taking place in Singapore, visitors will see Tang dynasty artefacts recovered from a ninth-century Arab dhow. The discovery of this Arab dhow which was shipwrecked off the coast of Belitung, a small island in the Java Sea, provided the first physical proof of a maritime trade route between West Asia and China.

It was a humbling experience for myself to visit Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds. There were a lot to learn and to understand. Here are snippets from my recent visit to the exhibition:

There were maps at the exhibition that suggested the possible routes that the shipwrecked Arab dhow had taken. I learnt that in the ninth century, a maritime voyage had to be correctly timed according to the directions of the monsoon winds. Otherwise, a ship could be blown off its course.

From the maps, visitors could see that the Srivijaya Empire played an important part in this maritime silk route between West Asia and China.

During my visit to the ArtScience Museum on 20 Mar 2011, the Abbasid Empire kept coming up at the various exhibitions. I felt I have much to learn about the Abbasid Empire. Could anyone share more about the Abbasid Empire with me please?

One of the sections of the exhibition showed a model of the Arab dhow that was shipwrecked at Belitung.

At the exhibition, I was impressed by the strategy that the people of the ninth century used to pack ceramics. The method of packing was so ingenius that most of the ceramics onboard the shipwrecked dhow have remained intact after more than ten centuries!

Above: I am awed by this photo taken by Belinda Tan.

I was told that the Changsha wares that were found from the shipwrecked dhow were mass-produced from Chinese kilns of Changsha, in Hunan province. Interestingly, although almost all of these Changsha wares carry one of the few set patterns, the set patterns were hand-copied by different people onto the wares. That would mean mass production yet with each ware being sligthly different from the rest.

The shipwrecked ship consisting Chinese ceramics and the cargo of an ancient shipwreck was discovered in 1998 by fishermen diving for sea cucumbers off the coast of Belitung. The above image showed how the ceramics would have looked like when they were first discovered.

If you are visiting this exhibition, you may not wish to miss taking a look at the magnificent Green-Splashed Ewer. As seen in the image right above, this ewer stands over a metre tall. Made of white ceramic decorated with splashes of bright green, the green-splashed ewer was clearly modelled on metalwork. A fine piece of art!

There were some rare treasures in this collection. The gold cup, I was told, is the most important Tang gold object ever found outside China. According to research, it was deduced that the gold cup was most likely made in Yangzhou. The gold cup looked brilliant in real-life.

Due to the relative short duration of my visit to this exhibition, I felt that I have yet to adequately appreciate the value of the collection that was presented in this exhibition. I hope to visit the exhibition yet again before it ends by 31 Jul 2011. Most likely, I will do so since the upcoming exhibition at the ArtScience Museum, "Van Gogh Alive - the exhibition", is on Van Gogh, one of my favourite artists. That gives me enough reasons to pay $30 to visit the ArtScience Museum once more, though I do find the admission charges a little too expensive to visit the museum on a regular basis. I hope that the ArtScience Museum could offer concessionary rates to all Singapore Citizens and residents.

Jade Isabella has done a well-written post with excellent photographs on this exhibition. Here's a link to her post: Sponsored Event: Trip to ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands on Sunday, 20 March 2011.

For the academically inclined, there is a discusion about the Belitung cargo here: Editorial: Tang Treasures, Monsoon Winds and a Storm in a Teacup.

A special note of thanks to the ArtScience Museum, the National Heritage Board and Mr Shaun Wong for the invitation to a complimentary visit to and a guided tour of the ArtScience Museum on 20 Mar 2011.

Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds (19 Feb - 31 Jul 2011)
Art Science Museum, Singapore
10 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018956
Tel: 6688 8868

Operating hours: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. with the last admission at 9 p.m.

Also see:
The Silk, Sunken and Spears - Chapter Two by Urban Explorer
A day at the ArtScience Museum by Nur Shakylla Nadhra.