Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, February 13, 2012

First Impressions: Singapore (Day 2)

Today was museum day.

The National Museum of Singapore was just a short walk from our hotel. I found out online that Sunday was the last day of the “Dreams And Reality” exhibit on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. And because it was the last day, it was open house for the whole museum! No entrance fees whatsoever. With a come-on like that, who could resist a day of art and culture?

Seeing such classic masterpieces of art up close is, for me, a strange thing. Often what happens is that I only truly grasp the full power and impact of the painting when seen live. But there are some pieces wherein the impact is actually lessened when seen up close. I guess it’s all about taste and sensibility. I, for one, have been less and less impressed with impressionistic brushstrokes; that’s why the impact of paintings that needed to be seen afar diminishes when one goes closer. I admire the technique, but I’m not moved by the image.

The most popular painting in the exhibit would be, I guess, Vincent Van Gough’s “Starry Night.” Yet it was only there that it dawned on me that the famed painter had a series of night sky paintings, and what I was expecting was the one wherein the stars were huge violent swirls of yellow on blue. Instead, what was on loan was the “Starry Night Over The Rhone.” You learn something new every day.

But what impressed me more was the gallery in the National Museum that told of Singapore’s history. An audio-visual feast (thanks to individual audio guides), the tour begins with a towering 360-degree video wall that depicts images of modern Singapore. Then you go through a labyrinth that tells the story of Singapore from the time of the early dwellers all the way to modern Singapore. There are so many artifacts, rooms, paintings, photographs, drawings and short films that one can stay there for one whole afternoon and still end up skipping some things. If I were a Singaporean, I’d want to go back again and again until I see all that was being presented. What impressed me also was that there is a different audio guide for schoolchildren on tour. Not only is the museum a tool to educate the citizens, it’s also a subtle tool to promote nationalism (or propaganda, depending on your point of view).

We were supposed to go to the Singapore Art Museum, but we lacked the time. We heard late afternoon mass first, then my sisters headed for the Night Safari. I stayed at the hotel since I wasn’t feeling well (my cough and colds began days before in Manila). I was supposed to reserve my energies for our trip to Sentosa (and Universal Studios) the next day; instead, I was struck by a bit of wanderlust and, after dinner, hopped onboard the MRT and headed to Chinatown.

My sister told me it would be a sight to behold since the place was still festooned for the Lunar New Year celebrations. And true enough I fell in love with the energy and the spirit of the place. I guess it’s because it’s closer to home; the streets look cluttered (but not messy), and the vibe was more relaxed. Red lanterns littered the place. There were so many eateries offering chili crabs and black pepper crabs. I was tempted to eat, but I wasn’t hungry.

I found myself going uphill at Ann Siang Hill. Too bad it was late Sunday evening, so activity was less there. But I loved the old houses there. I hope our own Chinatown will preserve a lot of the older structures there and resist making it one big antiseptic mall.

My feet were already killing me while my nose and throat were making things more unpleasant, so I went back to the hotel, promising myself I will come back to this place again.

Tomorrow, it’s Transformers day!

1 comment:

Peter Pascal said...

I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art
has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The
prices being asked and paid were huge too.
Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting,,
bought some time ago from, is as lovely as ever.