Singapore Art Museum reopening delayed to 2023

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Art Museum (SAM), currently closed for a $90-million revamp, will reopen in 2023 instead of 2021 as originally planned.

Ms Chong Siak Ching, deputy chair of SAM’s executive committee of the board and head of the Visual Arts Cluster, says the delay was due to conservation issues: “As we went into the detailed investigation of the building, we discovered, as a very old heritage building that was last renovated 20 over years ago when SAM first opened, there were a lot more areas that we had to address than we originally anticipated. We wanted to make sure that the work we now have the opportunity to do, in terms of conserving these features, is very carefully done.”

She was speaking at a press conference at the Practice Space on Friday (Jan 17) to unveil the new architectural design by SCDA Architects.

There will be a new “floating” sky gallery with column-free space where large contemporary artworks can be displayed. A spacious new double-volume entryway will be introduced along Queen Street, which will welcome visitors exiting the Bras Basah train station. And a gallery-cum-bridge will offer a seamless connection between the old St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) and former Catholic High School (CHS) buildings.

Mr Chan Soo Khian, SCDA’s founding principal and design director, said: “We have taken great pains to make sure the new additions doesn’t overwhelm the existing building.”

The new galleries will add 30 per cent more space to the institution and relieve the heritage buildings of the stresses of exhibiting contemporary art. The sky gallery, in particular, will add 1,200 sq m to the exhibition capacity, allowing SAM to host multiple exhibitions.

Dr Eugene Tan, director of SAM and National Gallery Singapore, said that heading up both institutions will allow better collaboration going forward: “It’s easier for us to coordinate in terms of programming and collections, and also about how our museums serve the public.”

Although SAM may be closed, he pointed out that the museum is still organising exhibitions in the community as well as in the region. The museum currently has an exhibit in Kuala Lumpur and another is planned for Hong Kong. It is also the organiser for the ongoing Singapore Biennale, which ends on March 22.

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