Southeast Asia and Latin America are distant realms and at first glance, there may not be immediate connections but the National Gallery Singapore’s upcoming show, Tropical: Stories from Southeast Asia and Latin America, is looking to showcase how the two regions share many solidarities. The exhibit has been branded as the first large-scale museum exhibition to take a comparative approach across Southeast Asia and Latin America, uniquely animated by their struggles against colonialism.
The exhibit presents over 200 iconic paintings, sculptures, drawings, performances, and sensorial installations by more than 70 artists. There are major names to look out for including the likes of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Paul Gauguin, Malaysia’s most revered painter Latiff Mohidin and Singaporean Cheong Soo Pieng. Some works are displayed in Singapore for the first time, such as Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkey.
“Tropical: Stories from Southeast Asia and Latin America is a pivotal exhibition that has been years in the making, and we are thrilled to be able to present it on such a scale. By focusing on affinities between 20th century Southeast Asian and Latin American artists, the gallery spotlights the innovative ways through which they sought to stake a claim for art and representation on their own terms,” exclaims the Director of National Gallery Singapore, Dr. Eugene Tan. “Tropical embodies the gallery’s efforts to drive greater understanding of Southeast Asian art, its histories and connections to global art histories.”
Since writing is as central to the exhibit as are paintings, sculptures, film, prints and installations, Tropical is divided into three main sections borrowed from three legendary texts – The Myth of Lazy Native, This Earth of Mankind and The Subversive. These texts exemplify the elaborate links among writers, poets, architects and artists at the height of decolonisation, brought about by the historical, societal and economic contentions around art-making in these formerly colonised societies.
The gallery has also taken pains to design an experimental format filled with “floating” artworks, “wearable” installations (including one that has birds, plants, sand and more) and interactive experiences that spill outside of the galleries into public spaces.
Tropical: Stories from Southeast Asia and Latin America is available for viewing until March 24, 2024 at Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery, with installations that are free for the public at Singapore Courtyard and at the Coleman entrance. Tickets can be purchased here.
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