The Singapore Art Museum contains the national art collection of Singapore. It has a collection of 7,750 pieces of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, and has an expanding collection of new Asian and international contemporary art. Officially opened in 1996, it is one of the first art museums with international standard museum facilities and programmes in Southeast Asia.
The museum, then known as the Fine Arts Museum, was borne out of a project by the National Museum to set up a five-museum precinct in the city. The project began with the restoration of the Former St. Joseph’s Institution building. The restoration work on the 140-year old national monument took more than two years and a cost of S$30 million. The strong 11-member Board was tasked to acquire works of art by notable painters from Southeast Asia and East Asia, as well as by upcoming potential artists from these regions, for the benefit of the visual arts heritage of Singaporeans in centuries to come. Its first art installation is a S$90,000 7-metre high Swarovski crystal chandelier at the Museum’s main entrance, which weighs 325 kilograms and took over three months to make.
SAM is located alongside Singapore’s major performing arts and visual arts institutions, such as: the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, LASELLE College of the Arts, the Stamford Arts Centre, the Selegie Arts Centre, Singapore Calligraphy Centre, YMS Arts Centre, Dance Ensemble Singapore, Sculpture Square and Action Theatre as well as the School of the Arts – an institution that offers an integrated arts and academic curriculum for youths aged 13-18 years of age.
Visitors to the SAM are presented with an interactive, living centre for arts, using advanced museum facilities. Community outreach is an important area of the Museum’s function through the promotion of awareness and appreciation of arts within the local and regional context. It encourages the growth of an active and stimulating cultural environment in Singapore. This is done not only through the Museum’s exhibition programmes but also through its education and public programmes which cover a diversity of art trends and practices, fringe activities and public lectures, aimed at reaching the local community at large as well as regional and international visitors to Singapore.