Cleopatra comes to Singapore

Asian branch of the Pinacothèque de Paris opens with eye on the box office

An offshoot of the major private museum, the Pinacothèque de Paris, has opened in Singapore’s historic Fort Canning Arts Centre. Marc Restellini, the academic and Modigliani scholar, founded both the Paris and Singapore venues; the new outpost, which is called Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, was inaugurated with the show Myth of Cleopatra (until 11 October).

The exhibition, which fills the Features gallery space, includes more than 200 works encompassing archaeological artefacts, paintings and theatre props. The National Archaeological Museum in Naples is among the lenders.

Another exhibition space, the Collections gallery, houses works “sourced mainly from private collections”, the organisers said in a statement. Works on show include Claude Monet’s Suzanne with Sunflowers (1890) and Composition with Cubic Form (around 1934) by Jackson Pollock. “[Restellini] presents Western masterpieces in dialogue with Southeast Asian tribal art sculptures, brought together in a conversation fuelled by a common interest in Primitivism,” the organisers add.

A third section, the Heritage gallery, focuses on local history and the development of Fort Canning, one of Singapore’s oldest historical sites. The Fort Canning building in the arts district of the city-state has been redeveloped to accommodate the new venue.

The Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris is led by Art Heritage Singapore; its partners include Restellini, the local investment company KOP Group, the Singapore Diamond Exchange chairman Alain Vandenborre and the Singapore Freeport chairman Yves Bouvier.

Bouvier has since stepped down from a governance role at Le Freeport Luxembourg and Singapore Freeport following allegations of art fraud. He has denied any wrongdoing.  When asked about Bouvier’s role in the new gallery, a spokeswoman for Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris avoided the question and said: “The main shareholder of Art Heritage Singapore, the company managing Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, is Art Heritage Group, with the renowned art historian Marc Restellini leading as founder and chairman.”

The Pinacothèque de Paris has been a surprise hit in France, where such commercially focused museums are virtually non-existent. Located on a corner of the Place de la Madeleine, it has held a series of popular exhibitions, such as “The Dutch Golden Age” (October 2009-February 2010) featuring loans from Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, which attracted 700,000 visitors.