The recently concluded Dreams and Reality exhibition at National Museum of Singapore had attracted 143,000+ visitors (click here), supposedly its best-attended temporary exhibition ever. This is still about 50,000+ short of the 190,000+ Singapore Art Museum reported for their 2011 Biennale (click here), but at least at the National Museum, I don’t suppose the accounting for actual numbers of visitors at the single-venue NM exhibition was as creative as that by the Singapore Art Museum (which had multiple venues, some outdoors).
Two things caught my attention though:
1) Of the 140,000+ visitors, I wonder how many were actually those who went on free-days. There were a few free-days during its run – such as CNY – when the crowds were so overwhelming that even the local newspapers/tv reported the swarms. Not that we should mind, since everyone who paid (or not) must have had good experiences with such rare masterpieces (especially assuming that many who had wanted to see these paintings would not have the time nor money to travel to Paris to do so). But it goes back to one of my earlier blogs asking how sophisticated a museum-going nation we are, if we see crowds of ‘art-lovers’ who are willing to queue for hours to get to see temporary exhibitions for free, rather than to pay (a relatively miserly) $8-$10 for a ticket to enjoy the exhibitions when they are not teeming with jostling people. We have a long, long way to go to becoming a sophisticated nation of museum-goers who are willing to PAY for quality (rather than waiting for a free-day to see that ‘worth-seeing’ exhibition….).
2) Now, if the National Museum of Singapore holds an impressionist exhibition, how does that eat into the turf of our nationally-funded art museums? Arguably, the Singapore Art Museum (for its namesake) would be more apt as a venue for Reniors and Matisses than the NM, right? But I suppose in this dog-eat-dog world where all museums have to report to their paymaster (i.e. the Govt) that they are indeed improving every year with more and more visitors, there is no such thing as ‘turf’ for local museums. And if you think the NM holding french art exhibitions (and not SAM) is not quite right, wait till the National Art Gallery of Singapore opens. To whatever extent will TNAGS, SAM and NM compete for the finite local museum-going public may baffle (and intrigue) the art-academics/intellectuals, I am sure the contradictions will at least benefit the local museum-lovers.