Sweeping Closures of Singapore Art Venues
By Pamela Wong
Museums across Singapore including the National Gallery of Singapore, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), as well as commercial galleries will be shuttered from April 7 until May 5, as part of prime minister Lee Hsien Loong’s call for stricter measures on April 3 to contain the spread of Covid-19, which entails shutting down all non-essential businesses.
In response, the National Gallery of Singapore has launched an online program, #GalleryAnywhere, on its homepage and across its social media platforms. The initiative offers the public online access to works from the museum’s collection, its archive of artist interviews and research articles, in addition to its Youtube channel which features videos of discussion panels and performances. The museum had just installed modernist painter Latiff Mohidin’s solo exhibition “Pago Pago,” while Chua Soo Bin’s retrospective “Truths & Legends” and a group show of art and architecture in Southeast Asia are also currently on view until Tuesday. NTU CCA is closed from Monday after a brief weekend opening of “Non-Aligned,” a group exhibition showcasing three video works by Naeem Mohaiemen, the Otolith Group, and John Akomfrah. Meanwhile, galleries at Gillman Barracks, which are mostly operating under a view-by-appointment operation, will also be closed.
Some museums had already closed temporarily. On March 19, an employee at the Asian Civilisations Museum tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from the United States. The person in question was reportedly not in contact with colleagues after their return, but the museum nonetheless closed for two days for “thorough cleaning and disinfection,” according to a press release by National Heritage Board (NHB). On the same day, the ArtScience Museum was also shut for four days of cleaning following a confirmed case among its staff.
Singapore imposed precautionary measures earlier on March 24 with the closure of all entertainment venues until April 30, while museums practiced crowd control with suspension of events, mandatory registration at entry, and a reduction of visitor capacity. However, as more local cases and new infected cluster emerged, the government had to “make a decisive move,” as announced by Lee Hsien Loong. All businesses except for essential services such as supermarkets, hospitals, and transportation will be shut, while all schools and universities will shift to online platforms.
At the time of writing, the city-state has more than 1,300 confirmed cases and six deaths.
Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.
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