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Museum Musings: Asian Civilisations Museum Opens New Permanent Exhibition Featuring Asian Crafts, Textiles and Jewellery

Screenshot 2020-04-01 at 3.15.10 PM

The Asian Civilisations Museum will celebrate a major milestone on Saturday, 4th April 2020, with the unveiling of its third-floor galleries, marking the completion of the museum’s multi-year refresh as Singapore’s museum of Asian antiquities and decorative art.

The third-floor galleries are focused on decorative art, and are collectively themed Materials and Design. The two new galleries, Fashion and Textiles, and Jewellery, together with the refreshed Ceramics gallery, comprise a display of over 300 precious and finely crafted masterpieces, telling stories of Asian identities, histories, and cultures.

Mr Kennie Ting, Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum and Peranakan Museum, explains: “The process of perfecting the ACM as Singapore’s national museum of Asian antiquities and decorative art has been a multi-year journey. Through the years, the museum has dedicated itself to being the best we can be in terms of showcasing masterpieces of Asian art and craft. This is true for our Trade galleries on the first floor, which opened progressively across 2015 – 2016; and our Faith and Belief galleries on our second floor, which opened between 2017 – 2018. With generous support from our patrons and supporters, we are finally able to open our Materials & Design galleries on our third floor, with a focus on Fashion and Textiles, and Jewellery. We want Singaporeans and visitors to be able to step into a museum with some of the best objects anywhere, and to leave with a deeper understanding of the long-standing traditions of craftsmanship that go into making these beautiful objects; traditions that are very much part of our collective Asian heritage.”

“The new galleries are literally the crowning glory of the museum, housing our most visually captivating pieces. Even as the visitor admires pieces displayed, we hope that he or she also gains a better understanding of the questions surrounding culture and identity. Fashion and jewellery are markers of community and personal identity whether in historical times, or today. For example, the ways in which individuals from a wide range of communities choose to clothe and adorn themselves are more than just demonstrations of vanity, they are nuanced reflections of identity. At the same time, how people choose what they wear is impacted by and emblematic of a larger social context, and a particular time and place, very much like today,” he adds.

The Fashion and Textiles gallery presents a diverse range of fashions and textiles through periodically changing displays, showing how identities and cross-cultural exchanges are revealed through dress. Because of the light-sensitive nature of textiles, the light is kept low, and displays will change about once a year.

In its first display, Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from the late Qing to 1976, the museum presents 40 stunning examples of Chinese dress, including rare, elaborate dragon robes, early styles of the iconic qipao, and a zhongshan zhuang – otherwise known as the “Mao Suit”. The chronological display reflects a century of drastic political, economic, and socio-cultural changes in China and the world, and how those affected sartorial trends and choices.

The Jewellery gallery will be the first permanent gallery in the world to spotlight island Southeast Asian jewellery, exhibiting its varied and complex styles, forms, and uses through a showcase of objects from the Neolithic period to the 20th century. The gallery illustrates how jewellery is present at every stage of life, and shares an intimate relationship with its wearer, functioning beyond the aesthetics of individual pieces.

The Ceramics gallery presents a comprehensive survey of the wide range of Chinese ceramic production, featuring masterworks from the Neolithic period through the Qing dynasty. In particular, a large selection of ACM’s excellent collection of white Dehua porcelain – commonly known as blanc de chine – will be on display.

The diverse collection of magnificent works of art within these new galleries was made possible largely through the support of ACM patrons, notably long-term patrons Edmond Chin, who contributed a generous gift of funds and Southeast Asian jewellery in honour of his parents, Mary and Philbert Chin; and Chris Hall, owner of most of the pieces in the first display of the Fashion and Textiles gallery, where much of his collection is on long-term loan to the museum.

Mr Ting added: “We are incredibly appreciative of our patrons and their continued support in offering ACM visitors the opportunity to encounter and explore Asia’s rich artistic heritage. Showcasing and exploring Asian traditions, and how these traditions continue to be relevant to today, is a collective effort. We are thankful to be working alongside people who have the same passion for uncovering new perspectives on Asian art, culture and craftmanship, and the same fascination for exploring the heritage of creativity and innovation in Asia.”

The Fashion and Textiles, and Jewellery Galleries are located on the third floor of the Asian Civilisations Museum, as permanent galleries. Admission is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. In lieu of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, look out for new ways the museum presents their work to you digitally. For more information, visit their website , follow them on Instagram @acm_sg or on Facebook

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