Mother and Daughter by Wee Kong Chai. Year: 1980. Medium: Wood. Size: 52 x 41 x 25 cm.

Source: Kwok Kian Chow. Channels & Confluences: A History of Singapore Art. Singapore: National Heritage Board/Singapore Art Museum, 1996. Plate 53


Naked Perfection

Naked Perfection Featuring more than 50 artefacts from the Singapore Art Museum's permanent collection, the exhibition explores the tensions, expectations and intrigue of nudity and nakedness in art.

Opens Thursday, 12 September 2002 Till 10 November 2002 (Upper & Lower Galleries, Singapore Art Museum)

(23 August 2002) Singapore Art Museum is proud to present its latest exhibition, Naked Perfection ( 12 September - 10 November 2002) featuring works from the permanent collection. The exhibition will be held from 12 September 2002 to 10 November 2002 in the Upper and Lower Galleries at the Singapore Art Museum.

Singapore Art Museum presents Naked Perfection, an exhibition that showcases more than 50 artefacts from its collection of nudes and naked figures. There are sculptures and installation in wood, bronze and steel; drawings in pastel or coal, paintings in acrylic, gold leaf, gouache and oils on canvas and paper. Artists featured include Ng Eng Teng, Georgette Chen, Chen Wen Hsi, Tay Long, Tay Chee Toh, Tang Da Wu, Tung Yue Nang, Naina Dalal, Basuki Abdullah, Popo Iskandar, Vu Cao Dam, Wee Beng Chong, Wee Kong Chai, Anthonie Chong, Dora Gordine and Pinaree Sanpitak to name but some. The exhibition will be opened to the public from 12 September 2002 to 10 November 2002 in the Upper and Lower Galleries at the Singapore Art Museum.

Often, nudity and nakedness in art are examined in its most tangible aspect - the explicit physical form. To many, artworks of human body convey a sexual notion. This exhibition seeks to diverge from such conventional examination and focuses on the relationship of the artworks to nature and the 'natural environment' - that intangibility that exists in the context it was produced.

The use of the nude or naked figure in history has underlined an entire tradition of representation, context and form. Between the ancient Greeks and contemporary American photographers such as Irving Penn, naked figures have been chosen for their mystery yet prevalence, their ideal, but also their inevitable soulfulness as a result of their human tangibility. What is it about nakedness and the naked human body that inspires or provokes us beyond the erotic?

As curator of the show, Ms Bridget Tracy Tan, best puts it, "Radically, the exhibition hopes to omit sexual connotations and reverse the intimations of nude as explicit; it in fact hopes to 'uncover' and 'strip bare' the concept of the nude as implicit: controversially reprehensive at times and unprovocative at others".

The exhibition seeks to unravel not only the overt details of nude artworks but also any embedded elements such as human relations. Ms Tan explains, " Nudity here will tend to evaluate the tension between sitter and painter, and finally, artwork and viewer, proposing links for both relationships to find that common thread, which reveal subtleties in human interaction at large and its formal manifestation in the range of nudes/semi-nudes in the field of art".

Artworks in the exhibition illustrate this very tension. Eduoard Manet's Olympia deviated from the norms of human interactions with her direct gaze first with the painter, and then the viewers, which created Parisian public uproar at the Salon of 1865. The life - size of Olympia emphasized the intention for public viewing. Indeed, size does matter in a nude painting or artwork. With mostly academic works and few large works, artists featured reveal their desire to learn how to draw from life through an imaginative interpretation of the subject and the usage of lines, volumes and colour. In some instances, size is manipulated to illustrate the details of the human body and create an impact on the viewer.

While the explicitness and implicitness of nude artworks are investigated and laid bare, the exhibition has deliberately refrained from examining any political implications of the use of nudes in contempoary Southeast Asian art. Visitors will be subjected to their own interpretation of the "nakedness" found in any artwork and are encouraged to form their own verdict of 'naked perfection' in a work of art.

Exhibition Opens to the Public
12 September 2002 - 10 November 2002
Upper & Lower Galleries, Singapore Art Museum