Three new exhibitions at Asian Civilisations Museum spotlight the people behind the museum

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Three new exhibitions at Asian Civilisations Museum spotlight the people behind the museum
Chest, Doors and Sarimanok at Faith Beauty Love Hope - Our Stories, Your ACM. Image courtesy of Asian Civilisations Museum.

SINGAPORE.- Asian Civilisations Museum opened three new exhibitions on 23 December 2020, and they run through 28 February 2021. They are:

• Faith Beauty Love Hope – Our Stories, Your ACM, a special exhibition of stories from the heart and imagination of staff and supporters of the museum, inspired by the best of ACM’s collection;

• Perfect Stranger by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, revealing the wonder of human connection; and

• thINK: Chinese Calligraphy, Connoisseurship, and Collecting (read "think ink"), an exhibition presenting the intimate relationship between collector, collection, and the making of a legacy. thINK will run for a longer period till 25 April 2021.

Together, the three exhibitions spotlight the community of people behind ACM, revealing the lesser-known human side of the museum through stories and perspectives of staff, tenants, partners, artists, and collectors.

Kennie Ting, Director of the ACM and Peranakan Museum, explains, “2020 has been a really challenging year for all of us, at the global level because of the pandemic, but also at the personal level, as we struggled, alongside our family, significant others, friends and colleagues, to make sense of things, to cope with grief and frustration, and to change. This exhibition represents what we all need most right now: FAITH that it will be better, BEAUTY to nourish the soul, LOVE to heal the heart, and HOPE to light our way.

The ACM is a place of great beauty. The treasures in our Collection, made by often humble crafts(wo)men in Asia across the centuries, represent the strength and resilience of the human spirit; our propensity to dream and to imagine. The pieces in Faith Beauty Love Hope – Our Stories, Your ACM have been picked by the community of professionals and volunteers who work at or with the museum. The text labels in the exhibition feature their individual, personal reflections, in their own voice, on what the pieces they have picked mean to them in this year of great change. I invite the visitor to pick their favourite object too, and share your own stories of Faith, Beauty, Love and Hope, digitally in the exhibition.

Perfect Stranger and thINK are extensions of Faith Beauty Love Hope. The former features the voice of an artist as she tackles the wonder and absurdity of the human condition. The latter features the voice of a collector, and celebrates timelessness and constancy, in a time of great change. Our message to the visitor is this: come grieve, vent, celebrate and hope with us.”

Discover ACM’s lesser-known treasures through the ACM community
Faith Beauty Love Hope – Our Stories, Your ACM presents more than 60 treasures from ACM’s extensive collection, with some masterpieces presented for the first time, or first in many years. Displayed at the Special Exhibitions Gallery on Level 2, the exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to experience these objects up-close, both physically and emotionally, as they read anecdotes and musings from the ACM community. These include contributions from a conservator, a security supervisor, student volunteers, and museum director Kennie Ting, among many others.

At a time when we may be separated from who or what we love due to geographical and physical distancing measures, technology has allowed us to stay connected through memories and renewed conversations. A digital presentation will accompany the exhibition, featuring other spectacular pieces handpicked by ACM’s staff and stakeholders.

Celebrating what we have gained as we leave behind this year of challenges, visitors are invited to submit their own stories via a digital repository at the end of the exhibition, and online from January 2021.

Experience an ephemeral friendship with a stranger
Located at the Level 2 Foyer, local artist Dawn Ng’s Perfect Stranger contemporary installation greets visitors with a vast sea of paper washed in a gradient of words and colour. Acting as a narrative time capsule, the installation stems from Dawn’s daily Q&A project in 2016, where she exchanged thoughts with a stranger – Israeli psychologist, Zehavit Efrati (who was based in Singapore at the time) – every day over the course of a year.

First shown in 2018, this iteration at ACM presents the work in its entirety for the first time, staged in the artist's originally conceived format. Visitors are invited to choose their own adventure in this meditative experience, where they are free to weave between the artworks into Dawn’s world and reflect on their own sense of time, sense, and self this 2020.

Contemplate our relationships with the past and present through the art of collecting
In thINK: Chinese Calligraphy, Connoisseurship, and Collecting, ACM marries history with the contemporary through the collection of long-time lender to ACM Dr Yuan Shao Liang 袁绍良先生, who has supported the museum since it first opened in 1997 at the old Tao Nan School. 23 objects were selected from Dr Yuan’s extensive collection of literati objects as well as books and letters from important personalities from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The exhibition aims to evoke personal responses towards the act of remembering and collecting, as visitors are introduced to human-to-human relationships, political sentiments, military affairs, and antiquity trading via the Chinese ink and literati pieces.

ACM’s suite of introspective exhibitions will be accompanied by a slate of new programmes focused on various communities, where adults, families, and youths can experience art and culture in a refreshing and accessible manner. Immerse yourself in a pair of interactive art murals and watch objects from the exhibition spring to life on your smartphone! Located at the Level 2 Foyer (next to Perfect Stranger), the art murals were created through a collaboration between artist Alison M. Low and creative agency Untitled Project. Come 26 December, the public can look forward to a drop-in craft activity at ACM inspired by the themes of faith, beauty, love, and hope as they recollect memories of the past year. In January and February 2021, adults can anticipate Social (Distance) Fridays, where they will be delighted by after-dark activities; families can also participate in hands-on craft workshops inspired by the exhibition themes at Super Saturdays.

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