Grand Old Dames, Massive Facelifts

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It’s great to see Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall off and running again with the best of drama, dance and classical music that Singapore and the world have to offer. When a friend and I attended the grand old dames’ open house last year, it was good to see that the $150+ million refurbishment was really worth it!
20140719_184041 (800x600)As there was a performance going on at the theatre then, we only got to see the new-look concert hall which was enough to make us go “oooh”… It was definitely brighter, new seats more comfortable and the revamped upstairs gallery seems more roomy and offers a great overview of the stage (pictured above). Of course, there were people who complained that the stage’s wooden floorboards “should be better polished” – one woman actually ran her finger across the stage and tsk-tsked at the dirt it picked up! – but to be fair, it was still under going renovation then. For instance, apparently the original gold flower and leaf motifs on the wall were painted white “because they ran out of gold paint!”, gushed a venue guide. I must say the ushers/staff acting as guides that day were truly enthusiastic, offering every information that a visitor need to know (and maybe, a tad too much info sometimes too, hee).
20140719_185314 (600x800)Even if you do not plan to catch a show at Victoria, if you like old classic architecture, do check out the place which has its 19th century Victorian facade preserved, including the famed clock tower. If you enter the main lobby and look up towards the skylight roof window, you will get to see the postcard-sque shot  above of the clock tower framed by the skylight. There’s also a wholly new spiral staircase built that leads to the concert hall’s upper gallery and which has since become a selfie hotspot. For those interested in catching shows here, you can check for information.
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Another new arts venue also housed in a refurbished old heritage building in the Civic District that I’m really looking forward to is the National Gallery of Singapore. Actually, it will be housed in not one but two heritage buildings, namely the country’s old City Hall as well as the adjacent former Supreme Court Building. Due to open in November this year, the visual arts institution will showcase the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, including works from the likes of Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang, Chua Mia Tee and Georgette Chen, just to name but a very few.
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The refurbishment, which reportedly cost more than $500m, is still ongoing but a couple of galleries are close to being ready including the recently announced UOB Southeast Asian Gallery which will see the local bank – known for their UOB Painting of the Year Competition now in its 33rd year – select pieces from its extensive art collection of more than 1,500 artworks for permanent displays and special exhibitions.
L1100274 (800x534)As we only got a little sneak peak at some areas at the Supreme Court end at the UOB-NGS media event – and even so, everything still need to be hush hush! –  I can’t wait for the Gallery to be completely, er, completed. As of now, it definitely doesn’t seem as intimidating as it was when it was overseeing court cases of every kind for the country. Look out for open house announcements for the public towards the end of March 2015. (Watch this space).

(UPDATE 28/3/15: The public will get a chance to experience the gallery before the artworks go on display over two weekends, April 25 and 26 and May 2 and 3. Check local papers for more details.)

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“Epic Poem of Malaya” (1955) by Chua Mia Tee


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