SINGAPORE: The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) will be unveiling its two new wings this Saturday (Nov 14), along with three permanent exhibitions housed in the new galleries.
The museum’s revamp will feature a fresh curation of content, with its new and refreshed permanent galleries organised thematically to reflect the inter-connectedness of culture, instead of centering on geography or culture.
The first level of the museum will focus on trade and the exchange of ideas, while the second level showcases exhibits related to faith and religious beliefs.
Said ACM Director Dr Alan Chong: "We've used that opportunity to rethink how we might tell the story of Asia, especially using Singapore as a way of looking at the whole continent - the idea of a port city, the idea of a mixed culture that respects religions and races and cultures all together."
"We've reformulated the whole museum around the idea of religion as something that travels and changes as it makes its way through Asia. We've also used trade as another strand that connects the different cultures."
At the Khoo Teck Puat Gallery located in the Riverfront Wing, visitors can find the Tang Shipwreck Collection, a virtual time capsule that tells the story of the exchange of goods, ideas and culture in the region more than 1,100 years ago.
Exhibits displaying cargo from the ninth-century shipwreck found in 1998 at the bottom of the Java Sea, 60,000 rare ceramics made during the Tang Dynasty and gold and silver objects show the active trade between China, Southeast Asia and the Islamic Middle East in the ninth century. It also reveals that Singapore lay at the heart of a global trading network back then, which means the country's success as an exchange point of global shipping has ancient roots.
Said Dr Stephen Murphy, the Southeast Asia curator at ACM: "I think there's a great contrast between some of the real, fine white-ware with the coarse storage jars that are coral-encrusted. Revamps don't come very often, maybe once every 20 years. So, that's almost once in a career to have this opportunity - to have this beautiful space with such natural light and this amazing collection, to the opportunity to really display it."
Facing Empress Place is the three-storey Kwek Hong Png Wing, which is home to the museum’s first contemporary art space, which will feature works by artists - such as Grains of Thought by Singaporean artist Eng Tow.
‘Grains of Thought’ by Singaporean artist Eng Tow was inspired by a humble grain of rice. (Photo: ACM)
The wing is a three-storey annex, connected to the existing building by lightweight bridges.
"The existing building is actually a national monument building, which had to be totally protected. We treaded very lightly, we restored a lot of original features, which were actually blocked out before by unsympathetic previous editions," said GreenhilLi founding director Li Sau Kei.
"We basically tried not to imitate the old building, but to breathe life into the old building by creating a completely 21st-century form, that forms a sympathetic dialogue with the old building. And in so doing, it becomes a a symbiosis between the two."
The second floor of the 869 sqm-wing houses the OK Scholar in Chinese Culture Gallery, which highlights objects associated with renowned Chinese scholars - from scholar-officials who ran the government to overseas Chinese who adopted attributes of scholars. The third floor of the wing, which will display Chinese ceramics, will open in March next year.
An exhibit at the Scholar in Chinese Culture Gallery. (Photo: ACM)
Adding more than 1,300 square metres, the completion of both wings marks the end of the first phase of the museum's revamp, which started in late 2014. The second phase is scheduled to finish in March 2016.
As a special treat for the opening weekend, ACM will keep its doors open all night, inviting visitors to spend 24 hours at the museum.
Titled 24HRS@ACM, the festivities on Saturday will kick off with a pajama party, and include activities such as an outdoor barbecue and picnic, music performances and film screenings. At midnight, ACM Director Dr Alan Chong and architects will lead tours of the museum.
Activities on Sunday morning include tai chi and a picnic breakfast. From there, visitors can choose between craft-making, art creation, or joining guided tours until the evening.