Headed down to Singapore’s official megastructure, the surprisingly (to me) incredible Marina Bay Sands to visit my parents at their jewelry exhibition, and decided to go see the Dalí/Van Gogh exhibition at the ArtScience museum. Honestly, I didn’t have very high expectations, particularly since I thought I’d be prone to making douchey comparisons with other more…prolific museums. But lo and behold, I was really, really impressed. The Dalí exhibit was masterfully done–beautifully coordinated into neat little sections organized by theme, including sculptures big and small, lithographs and watercolors and walls littered with clocks all ticking simultaneously in this strange cavernous space. It was all very…well, surreal. (Forgive me.)
I hesitated before going to the Van Gogh exhibit–first, I had already (douche moment begins) been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam in February, and seen the Van Gogh collection at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (douche moment finished), and second, it’s not really an exhibit of his paintings in the sense that none of them are actually there. But, it was a package deal with the Dalí show and I had time to kill.
Ever since Sunflowers became the go-to image for middle school art classes and Starry Night/Starry Night Over the Rhone/The Night Café/Pretty much any other Van Gogh painting became the number one best-seller for adolescents looking to balance their Black Eyed Peas posters with something more sophisticated, good ol’ Vince has just become too mainstream for true artistic respect, forever joining the ranks of Audrey Hepburn posters and that godforsaken cat. It’s similar to the way people seem to feel about white wine: everyone enjoys it (it’s refreshing, okay?) but no one wants to admit it. (Don’t you dare prefer it over a nice red, you cretin.) It’s just too crude and–gasp–common!
Well, pish-posh, forget you guys, I think Van Gogh is great. And this exhibition, despite not having any actual paintings in it, managed to top my previous real-life Van Gogh encounters. Basically, it was a massive multi-hall high-ceilinged room, completely dark except for moving projections on the wall set to music (including, at the moment I walked in, Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 & Gymnopédie No. 3 (thanks Ahilya!) and Gnossienne No. 1). The thing is, while it’s great to see famous paintings up-close in their original form, I’ve always felt that when I was looking at them, I mostly felt…something close to indifference. (If you don’t like wishy-washy hipster sentiments then skip this part.) Impressionism (Post, in this case?) is, by definition, about a feeling more than a technique; and whatever grandiose feelings I may have about Van Gogh or any of his bohemian buddies is completely lost when there are 20 fellow tourists crowded around the same painting trying to take pictures, presumably to prove they did, in fact, see the real thing. Somehow, this exhibit managed to give me back those grandiose feelings by displaying Van Gogh’s work as it should be displayed–in a way that completely (almost literally, actually) wraps you in color, feeling, and yes, friends–impressions.
I think I often set my expectations about Singapore too low, maybe because I’ve lived here too long. Singapore can be boring, no doubt, and often a little too stiff & sterile for my taste. I think now that I’ve left (as usual) I’m finally getting to see that despite the terrible salaries and censored-everything (and let’s not forget that soul-destroying humidity), Singapore has a lot to offer.
And hey, it’s not too bad looking either:
Dalí: Mind of a Genius & Van Gogh Alive will be running until October (30th and 9th, respectively) at the ArtScience Museum @ Marina Bay Sands. (So, so worth making a trip.) Special price for SG residents, bring your NRIC!