The grand re-design: Reframing the narratives of the Equator Art Society within the National Gallery Singapore
This research examines the National Gallery Singapore's narratives of Equator Art Society artworks within their original political context, presenting the contentious history of political dissent in a new light. This thesis uses primary sources from the National Gallery Singapore’s permanent collections, as well as catalogues of the Equator Arts Society and the Singapore Chinese Middle Schools’ Graduates of 1953 Arts Association exhibitions. In addition, the study reviewed newspaper clippings from that time to consider the political and social landscape in Singapore, as well as general and critical responses to works by Choo Keng Kwang, Tan Tee Chie, Koeh Sia Yong and Chua Mia Tee.
For the analysis of these artworks, Erwin Panofsky’s theory of iconography and semiotic theory were also applied. The findings revealed that the way existing National Gallery spaces are curated promotes a single narrative of progress that does not acknowledge the diverse histories and experiences of artists and visitors. Discussions of the artworks tend to be apolitical, omitting specific historical examples as contextual knowledge.
This research offers up alternative methods for reading the six artworks by the abovementioned artists and consequently suggests an alternative approach to curation that encourages audiences to engage in discursive critical discussions and consider the political messages conveyed through the artworks’ details. The display of the pieces should include knowledge of specific historical facts, engage viewers in a more constructivist manner and focus less on nostalgic self-reflexivity.