Press Releases

Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang
Minister For Information, Communications & The Arts At The Opening Of The “Convergences:Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition”
On Thursday 30 November 2006, 7:15pm At The Singapore Art Museum Glass Hall


The family members of the late Dr Chen Wen Hsi,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening.

Welcome to the Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition. The Singapore Art Museum has organised this exhibition to commemorate the birth of one of Singapore 's great artists - the late Dr Chen Wen Hsi (1906-1991).

2. This exhibition is an appropriate tribute to the legendary artist who, to this day, is still respected as a cultural icon. The exhibition surveys his entire artistic career from his early days in China to his final years in Singapore where he enjoyed great fame and critical acclaim. In a career that spanned more than six decades, the late Dr Chen had produced a rich and diverse range of works.

Singapore 's Cultural Hero

3. This pioneer artist's career reflects the journey undertaken by many of our forefathers. He was born in Shantou , and received an education in Shanghai before eventually settling down in Singapore . From his home in Singapore , he went on to make an impact on the international stage through numerous overseas exhibitions in Southeast Asia , Asia and the West.

4. The late Dr Chen is a sterling example of an artist who embodies the best of both Eastern and Western art. In addition to his strong foundation in the centuries-old tradition of Chinese painting, he also maintained a life-long interest in modern Western aesthetics and techniques. Today, he is hailed for successfully integrating both the East and West in his artistic practice.

5. His achievements, dedication to art and profound influence on the art community in Singapore has earned him the distinction as one of Singapore 's foremost cultural heroes. Chen Wen Hsi was the first Singaporean artist to be conferred an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Singapore in 1975, and a posthumous Meritorious Service Medal in 1992.

Growing Interest in Southeast Asian Arts

6. The Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition is one of the most extensively researched exhibition projects undertaken by the Singapore Art Museum on a Singapore artist. Besides providing a deeper understanding of C hen W en Hs i and his art , this exhibition also highlights his role in the Singapore art scene and his standing as a 20 th century Chinese artist in an international context .

7 . Chen's works have already entered the collections of museums overseas such as the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and the National Art Gallery in Malaysia . Th is Centennial Exhibition will fuel international interest in the works of Chen and other Southeast Asian and Singapore art ists . Already, reputable museums such as the Guangdong Museum of Art and the National Art Museum of China have expressed interest to further the discourse in Chen's art practice and artistry through collaborative research partnerships in future.

Research and Scholarship

8. In the past 10 years, the visual arts scene in Singapore has grown steadily. Research and scholarship on Singapore art and artists have also grown in tandem. The Singapore Art Museum 's active collection, exhibition and publication programmes have contributed significantly to the development. To date, SAM has presented close to 70 exhibitions with accompanying catalogues being published on Singapore art and artists.

9. For the Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition, SAM had prepared a well researched catalogue in terms of art historical accounts and perspectives. The catalogue includes personal accounts of the artist by fellow artists, his students from China and Singapore , collectors and researchers, as well as Chen Wen Hsi's own discussions on art. Such a comprehensive compilation will be an invaluable primary resource for future research on Chen Wen Hsi.

Rezoning Galleries to Enhance Museum Experience

10. In the coming months, SAM will be converting part of its office area into exhibition spaces and re-zoning its Galleries to give its visitors a more enriching experience. The first and also the largest zone will be dedicated to Singapore and Southeast Asian art. This will allow for more permanent collection works to be displayed, as well as the creation of a dedicated space to showcase Singapore artists.

11. The second zone will be devoted to shorter-term exhibitions to allow more artworks and exhibitions to be presented to meet audience demand. The third is an International zone for the exhibition of large-scale special thematic shows and blockbusters, such as Convergences, as you will see this evening.

12. The re-zoned galleries reflect the wide spectrum of SAM's programming to provide visitors with a dynamic calendar of exhibitions and shows. Tonight's exhibition is part of this overall strategy and Chen Wen Hsi could not be a more appropriate choice to start with.


13. The Convergences exhibition that you will see shortly brings together many of Chen Wen Hsi's works from both the Museum's own collection, as well as loans from private and public collections. I would like to thank the many private collectors and public institutions for their strong support.

14. I am sure you will enjoy the exhibition. It now gives me great pleasure to declare the exhibition open.