Just in time for Christmas and the New Year, three new exhibitions have opened at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM). Aimed at spotlighting the community of people behind the ACM, Faith Beauty Love Hope – Our Stories, Your ACM, Perfect Stranger, and thINK: Chinese Calligraphy, Connoisseurship and Collecting reveal the lesser-known side of the museum through stories from the perspectives of staff, tenants, partners, artists and collectors.
“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,” says Kennie Ting, Director of the ACM and Peranakan Museum. “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 the way.”
Inspired by the very best of the ACM’s collection, Faith Beauty Love Hope presents over 60 treasures from the ACM’s collection, with some masterpieces presented for the first time, or the first time in years. The exhibition offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the objects up close, both physically and emotionally, as they read anecdotes and musings from the ACM community, from figures such as a conservator, a security supervisor, student volunteers and more.
Take for example an 18th century tile panel depicting the the fruit-cutting scene from the life of the prophet Yusuf (Joseph), as narrated in the Quran. For ACM curator Noorashikin Zulkifli, this panel reminded her of the musical Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, which essentially retells the story of Yusuf in a more contemporary way, and leaves her fascinated by how stories survive, traversing continents and centuries to become a part of our culture.
Meanwhile, Perfect Stranger and thINK act as extensions to Faith Beauty Love Hope. Perfect Stranger is a new installation by contemporary artist Dawn Ng, and greets visitors at the second floor 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 (based in Singapore at that time) – every day over the course of a year. First shown in 2018, this iteration at the ACM presents the work in its entirety for the very first time, staged in the artist’s originally conceived format. Visitors are invited to ‘choose their own adventure’ in this meditative experience, free to weave their way between the work and reflect on their own sense of self, time and space.
In thINK: Chinese Calligraphy, Connoisseurship and Collecting, the ACM marries history with the contemporary through the collection of long-time lender to the ACM Dr Yuan Shao Liang, who has supported the museum since it first opened in 1997 at the old Tao Nan School. 23 objects have been selected from Dr Yuan’s extensive collection, including books and letters from important personalities from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The exhibition hopes to evoke personal responses from the act of remembering and collecting, as visitors are introduced to the relationships, political sentiments, military affairs and more through these Chinese ink and literati pieces.
These programmes will also be accompanied by a suite of programmes for all, including interactive art murals, and see objects spring to life on your smartphone. Located beside Perfect Stranger on Level 2, the art murals were created through a collaboration between Allison M. Low and creative agency Untitled Project. Come 26th December, visitors can try a drop-in craft activity at ACM as they recall the memories of the past year, while next January and February, there will be after-dark activities on Social (Distance) Fridays.
Images courtesy of Asian Civilisations Museum
Faith Beauty Love Hope – Our Stories, Your ACM and Perfect Stranger run till 28th February 2021, while thINK: Chinese Calligraphy, Connoisseurship and Collecting runs till 25th April 2021, all at the Asian Civilisations Museum. More information available here