Located in the heart of the Civic District, near the Singapore River in the Central Area of Singapore and nestled into two iconic buildings of the former Supreme Court and City Hall, the National Gallery Singapore, locally known as the National Gallery, is the latest jewel in Singapore's art crown, housing an unparalleled collection of modern Singapore and Southeast Asian art. The construction works on the old buildings, the former Supreme Court building and City Hall, both of which are national monuments and have played significant roles in Singapore's history, began in January 2011 and the newly created museum officially swung upon its doors to the public on 24 November 2015. The museum is thus split into two sections, the City Hall Wing and the Supreme Court Wing, combining both old and new architecture through link bridges and a new basement level. With a combined floor area of 690,000 square feet (64,000 sq m) and a collection of more than 9,000 items, it the largest visual arts venue and largest museum in Singapore, dedicated to provide an understanding and appreciation of art and culture through a variety of media, focusing on the culture and heritage of the country, corresponding to the other Asian countries and the world.
The general layout of the former Supreme Court building, reflecting British Colonial architecture and the last classical building to be built in Singapore, consists of four blocks of offices and courtrooms surrounding a central rotunda, a circular room covered by a dome, which was originally used to house a circular law library. The building is decorated with Corinthian and Ionic columns, multiple sculptures and relief panels, along with tympanum sculptures and ornamented frieze panels, created by an Italian artist, Rudolfo Nolli. A major feature of the building is the smaller lantern dome, behind the large dome that is more prominent, within an atrium on the roof deck level.
The architecture of the City Hall building, constructed between 1926 and 1929 and was originally known as the Municipal Building, is in harmony with that of the former Supreme Court building. It was in the City Hall building, where Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces on 12 September 1945. Regarded as a national monument, the original layout of the building is a typical example of neoclassical British architecture and although its interior is modestly proportioned, its front façade is distinguished by 18 three-storey-high Corinthian columns facing the Padang, an open field. Today, the courtyards of the former City Hall are encased as atriums in glass and light filtered through the reflective pools on the rooftop level, which help to keep temperatures down. Apart from that, the shed that connects the spatial interval between the two buildings, also offers shade from the tropical sun. The roof and the shed are made up of more than 20,000 perforated aluminium sheets and fitted glass panels, which is the formal axis that connects the two buildings, rather than divide the two separate architectural structures. The filigreed roof and shed are supported by beams in three tree-like structures.
The National Gallery has eight floors with 20 and 10 spaces of varying sizes for display in the Supreme Court and City Hall respectively. Although the old iconic buildings were renovated, the main features of the original buildings were carefully preserved. For the interiors of the Supreme Court, the Rotunda room with its atrium lit spaces and bookcases still retains the ghosts of the Library that was filled with law books. The 180 timber-window frames to the courtrooms were also kept as they were, after restoration of the building. However, the National Gallery Singapore is home to two permanent galleries, the Singapore Gallery and the Southeast Asia Gallery, which present the development of Singaporean and regional cultures with special importance to their social, economic and political histories. The Singapore Gallery is a podium for studying and focusing the traditional, cultural and aesthetic identity of the island country from the ancient period to present day, while the Southeast Asia Gallery, housed in the former Supreme Court building, presents the history of Southeast Asian art, starting in the 19th century. The museum also houses several Special Research Galleries, which complement the core galleries and provide space for curators and researchers.
Former Supreme Court Lobby
The National Gallery has other attractions too. In addition to having three Michelin stars, as well as the National Kitchen by Violet Oon, it also houses various fine dining restaurants that have won global accolades, including Odette, which has been graded as being one of the best restaurants in Asia.