Arts & Heritage
Recognising the contributions of our heritage patrons
Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Patron Of Heritage Awards 2018
18 June 2019
Ms Yeoh Chee Yan, Chairman, National Heritage Board,
Patrons and Supporters,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- A very good evening to all of you. It is my pleasure to be here today, to recognise your strong support and generous contributions towards the promotion and safeguarding of Singapore’s heritage.
Importance of patronage in heritage
- This year, we commemorate Singapore’s Bicentennial. It is an opportunity to reflect on our rich and storied history, as well as the values that will carry us into the future. Our generation today is able to do so because a good part of Singapore’s heritage has been well preserved. This is due in no small part to the strong support and patronage from community leaders, private organisations, and members of society.
- We have received many notable artefact donations over the last 200 years. Among the most treasured artefacts in our National Collection today are the Drawings from the William Farquhar Collection donated by Mr GK Goh in 1993. The collection of drawings from the early 19th Century is a versatile one, and is used to tell different stories that situate Singapore within our broader regional context. It also provides insights to the flora and fauna of the Malay Peninsula that are invaluable in our modern urban society. Today, some of the drawings are displayed at the National Museum of Singapore’s Magic and Menace Gallery. The popular ‘Story of the Forest’ immersive installation at the Museum also draws its inspiration from this treasured collection.
- The late Dr Tan Tsze Chor’s Xiang Xue Zhuang （香雪庄）Collection is one of the earliest and finest private collections of Chinese art in Southeast Asia from the 1930s to 1990s. This Collection had been donated by his family to the Asian Civilisations Museum from 2000 to 2007. It provides an insight into the ideals, aspirations and connoisseurship of the collector, as well as his influence on local art and literati of Singapore and Malaysia. A selection of artefacts from the collection, including paintings by important modern Chinese Masters like Ren Bonian（任伯年）, Qi Baishi（齐白石）, and Xu Beihong （徐悲鸿）, will be showcased at ACM’s special exhibition in November this year.
- We are also honoured to have received a donation of 113 artworks from eminent Chinese artist, the late Mr Wu Guanzhong（吴冠中）. This has been estimated at a value in excess of $70 Million, and was gifted to the Singapore Art Museum in 2008. Mr Wu’s generous and unparalleled donation represents his entire creative oeuvre, and has allowed many Singaporeans and visitors to appreciate his artistic achievements. The donation has also enabled our institutions to conduct extensive research on the importance of Chinese ink as a medium in visual art.
- Other notable donations include that of Wan Qing Yuan (晚晴园), the property, by six Chinese community leaders to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1938. This, together with donations from the community to our Heritage Institutions over the years, have helped to provide a window into how Singapore has evolved as a multicultural society.
- Today, our shared heritage is the social glue that binds communities of diverse backgrounds together and defines us as Singaporeans. It strengthens our identity as a people and our sense of belonging to our nation.It is our responsibility to treasure our heritage and pass it on to future generations. Every one of us can play a role to contribute – whether through the donation of artefacts, or through the volunteering of your time and expertise.
- In 2018, there were a total of 100 patrons who have contributed more than $6.5 million to a wide range of heritage causes and events. I would like to thank Tang Holdings for its recent donation of the Tang Holdings Collection of letters, memorabilia, and books of Sir Stamford Raffles and Lady Raffles to the National Museum of Singapore. This is a timely gift in commemoration of our Bicentennial. The collection gives us a compelling first person perspective on the early development of Singapore through Raffles’ correspondence with close friends. It also gives us deeper insights into our history and our connections to the world.
Our treasures – celebrating Our Singapore Story
- Under Our SG Heritage Plan, NHB encourages donations to the National Collection so that we are able to build up a repository of our heritage. Our museums’ donation and acquisition process takes into consideration the quality, historical, social and stylistic significance of the artefact to the Singapore story, as well as its relevance to their overall collection strategy.
- Mr Peter Lee, one of NHB’s long-time patrons, aptly observed that “artefacts from our neighbours also build up our understanding of ourselves”. In 2018, we were honoured to receive a donation of 100 batik pieces from the Oey family, who ran a Peranakan Chinese batik workshop in Pekalongan on the north coast of Java. The batik pieces are from three generations of the family, and trace the evolution of styles that are characteristic of Pekalongan batik over the 20th Century. The Oey family’s contribution1 certainly strengthens our collection of Peranakan heritage, and helps us better understand the diversity of Peranakan culture both in Singapore and our neighbours.
- In addition to safeguarding Singapore’s treasures, another priority under Our SG Heritage Plan is to make our heritage and culture more accessible to Singaporeans. This includes ensuring that our museums are inclusive spaces. Our patrons have an important role to play in this effort, and can strengthen our work to reach out to diverse audiences, including groups with special needs and the elderly.
- For example, BNP Paribas has supported the National Museum of Singapore’s Quiet Room initiative. This provides a dedicated room, with a calming and relaxing setting, for children who may experience over-stimulation. Our hope is that after it is launched later this month, the National Museum will be enhanced as a go-to destination for all our children.
- NHB’s recent conclusion of an MOU with National Museums Liverpool and British Council further affirms our commitment to enhancing well-being, and access to heritage. Under this agreement, a dementia-friendly app ‘My House of Memories’, which was developed by the National Museums Liverpool, will be adapted to our local context. Working on the premise that objects can elicit deeply held memories, the app features around 100 objects from our National Collection which will serve as conversation starters for reminiscing, sharing and bonding. The app will be tested by staff members and patients at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and made available to the public in late 2020.
- The examples I have cited are just some instances of how the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and NHB seek to strengthen our Treasures by working with our Communities. As DPM Heng Swee Keat mentioned last Saturday, “our future Singapore must be an expanded democracy of deeds, with citizens taking action to make a difference”. In this next phase of nation-building, we must harness our diverse strengths to take our country forward. MCCY and NHB partner our patrons and all Singaporeans to develop our heritage as a multicultural, caring and cohesive community. Building a flourishing arts and heritage scene in Singapore would help rally our society and remain a resilient nation, with possibilities and opportunities for all.
- On that note, I would like to sincerely thank all our patrons and partners again for your support and kind donations over the years. May you continue to donate and support us. Thank you and I wish you all an enjoyable evening!
The donation of 100 batik pieces to the Peranakan Museum was made by Ika Ratnadewi Hendromartono, Melia Puspayanti Hendromartono and Inge Trini R. Hendromartono.
Arts & Heritage