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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

An encounter with the Royal Academy

Ninety works worth $12.3 million from the famous art academy in Britain will be shown here.
The Straits Times - September 11, 2012
By: Deepika Shetty
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An encounter with the Royal Academy Local artist Donna Ong creates a fantastical wonderland with her new work Cocoon (Garden Of Waiting Virgins). It comprises, among other things, a wardrobe, LED lightboxes, found paper objects and a glass and iron table. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Singapore is the first city to host a blockbuster travelling exhibition from Britain’s famous Royal Academy of Arts. It opens at the  Institute of Contemporary Art, Lasalle College of the Arts, on Friday.

Encounter: The Royal Academy In Asia features about 90 works worth US$10 million (S$12.3 million) by 50 artists. Many of the pieces are for sale. Artists include some of the institution's best-known academicians such as artist and sculptor Richard Deacon, a winner of Britain’s famous Turner prize, and celebrated sculptor Antony Gormley. There are also Asian shining lights such as Cambodia's Sopheap Pich as well as Singapore painter Ian Woo and installation artist Donna Ong.

The show is expected to travel to seven cities over two years. Its next stop is Doha, with a Middle Eastern component replacing the Asian one, but other destinations are still being finalised.

The academy has done smaller projects in Japan, but nothing on this scale and with so many artists. This combination of artists and artworks from the East and the West is meant to present a rich and dynamic showcase of cultural perspectives.

Of the cross-cultural tie-up, Mr Charles Saumarez Smith, secretary and chief executive of the academy, said: 'It is hoped that this exhibition will foster the creative dialogue amongst a wide variety of artists, countries, cultures and visual art practices.'

The show is jointly organised by the academy and a curatorial and art advisory firm, Fortune Cookie Projects, led by Ms Mary  Dinaburg and Mr Howard Rutkowski. Its key sponsors include the Bank of Singapore, OCBC’s private banking arm, insurance underwriter XL Group and hotel group St Regis Singapore.

Surprisingly for an exhibition such as this - this being the first time a major academy exhibition has come to Asia - the organisers have chosen Lasalle College of the Arts and its Institute of Contemporary Art as a venue instead of the many museums here.

On the choice of venue, Mr Rutkowski, 56, told Life! that the institution was 'an obvious and natural partner'.

'Our concept for the project was not to present a static exhibition from a museum's inventory, but to encourage a dialogue, artist to artist, community to community,” he said.

Dr Charles Merewether, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art called it a 'ground-breaking event'.

'Through one exhibition and a public programme, you will see and hear some of the most important artists living and working in Asia and those associated with the Royal Academy in London. The event will celebrate the value of international collaboration and the significance of the visual arts today.'

Indeed, there are several important works in the exhibition and many of the international artists are no strangers to Singapore.

Works by Tracey Emin, the Turner Prize-winning enfant terrible of British art who made a career out of intimate personal details including her own unmade bed, has been featured at the high-end contemporary art fair, Art Stage Singapore.

It is interesting to see such works presented together with those of topselling China artist Liu Xiaodong, whose art focuses on displaced people and places (see highlights).

Among the Singapore artists, Ong has created another fantastical wonderland with a sense of fragility in her recent work titled  ocoon (Garden Of Waiting Virgins) which comprises, among other things, a wardrobe, LED lighboxes and a glass and iron table.

Painter Woo presents two new richly textured acrylic on linen works titled Star Weightless and Transmissions From The History Of Folk Music. In a time of installation and experimental art, his works make for an intriguing visual play because while they stick to traditional notions of art as something drawn by hand, these are not conventional paintings. His canvases are laden with a sense of mystery and to fully appreciate the work, one needs to play around visually with the shapes and colours which appear.

It has taken about two years to bring this exhibition here and Mr Rutkowski says it points to 'the increasing attention' the  international arts community is giving to Singapore.

'Lot of people, including prominent players such as the academy, see the potential of growth in Asia,' he said.

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