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Understanding the Singapore Story through art

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Opening of the "Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore" Exhibition

01 August 2018

Members of Mr Lim Cheng Hoe’s family

Mr Hsieh Fu Hua

Chairman, National Gallery Singapore

Ms Chong Siak Ching

CEO, National Gallery Singapore

Distinguished Guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


1. Good evening. I am pleased to be here at the opening of the “Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore” exhibition. I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to members of Mr Lim’s family - thank you very much for joining us!

Lim Cheng Hoe's work reflects Singapore's journey as a nation, and as a people

2. Today, we celebrate the life and work of Mr Lim Cheng Hoe, widely recognised as one of Singapore’s leading watercolour artists of his generation. His works depict everyday scenes of Singapore from the ‘30s to the ‘70s, and continue to capture the imagination of Singaporeans through the generations.

3. This exhibition displays 60 of Lim’s definitive pieces.  They include iconic scenes of boat traffic on the Singapore River, kampongs and fishing villages.  These are memories of the Singapore that some of us grew up with – memories that not only evoke nostalgia, but also remind us with pride of how far we have come.  Through these memories and the stories which accompany them, I hope that everyone who views the exhibition will also take the opportunity to reflect on, and be inspired by Singapore’s journey as a nation, and as a people.

We can connect people and build communities through art

4. Lim’s life and work have brought communities together through art. I was told that he often painted by the Singapore River on Sundays. Other artists, like Chia Wai Hon, Ong Kim Seng and Choy Weng Yang joined these informal gatherings. They were called “The Sunday Group”. Lim also co-founded the Singapore Watercolour Society with 12 other artists, including Chen Chong Swee and Gog Sing Hooi.  Needless to say, such developments were fundamental to the visual arts landscape we enjoy in Singapore today.

5. Lim was also a role model for the younger artists. He was open, humble about learning, and pursued excellence by continually experimenting with different techniques and media. This was no mean feat, considering that he had little formal art training; Lim mastered his craft by reading as well as interacting with other artists.

6. The fruits of Lim’s dedication and determination are evident in this exhibition.  But beyond just pictures, Lim’s work has the power to bring people together by evoking emotions, recalling common experiences, and promoting conversations between his audience. Regardless of your background, you will no doubt be moved by his paintings. This common experience will help us as Singaporeans develop a stronger sense of connectedness with one another, and bring us together as one people.

Supporting our artists and communicating the Singapore Story

6. At the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), we work closely with the National Arts Council (NAC), the arts community and various partners to grow the visual arts scene in Singapore. The works of pioneer artists like Lim Cheng Hoe form an important part of Singapore’s cultural heritage. In the same way, the current generation of Singapore artists can also contribute to, and communicate the Singapore story, to a wider audience. 

7. To support our artists, MCCY and NAC have put in place a suite of measures from grants and subsidised spaces for art creation, to efforts which help profile our talents at local and international platforms.  MCCY and NAC work with cultural institutions like the National Gallery Singapore to provide opportunities for our artists to showcase their works, and encourage more Singaporeans to learn and to know about our heritage and development as a nation.  We also commission and feature works at other platforms like public art trails, such as the Jubilee Walk - a trail launched to mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. It features artworks by Baet Yeok Kuan, Chong Fah Cheong and Han Sai Por.  These are complemented by initiatives to bring art to the wider community, right at their neighbourhood, through programmes like NAC’s Arts in Your Neighbourhood, and People’s Association’s PAssionArts Festival.

8. We also showcase Singaporean artists at major international platforms, such as the Venice Biennale, to inspire our present and future generations. Through such opportunities, we present to the world a snapshot of who we are, and what we stand for.


9. In conclusion, I hope that Singaporeans visiting this exhibition will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of our heritage, and our younger artists will be inspired by Lim Cheng Hoe’s legacy to make their own contribution to our Singapore story.  I thank all of you for being here, and wish you a pleasant evening ahead.

Last Updated: 11 September 2018

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