Arts in Southeast Asia Seminar Series: Nineteenth Century Origins of Art in Singapore



About the Seminar

The National Gallery’s inaugural exhibition on Singapore art, SIAPA NAMA KAMU?, which opened in November 2015, pushes the beginnings of art in Singapore back to the nineteenth century. This seminar presentation builds on an essay I was invited to contribute to a forthcoming National Gallery publication. In my essay I argued that if the received view is that art in Singapore began with a group of artists who developed what in the National Gallery exhibition is periodised as “The Nanyang Reverie”, then what we have in the National Gallery is a revision of that received view. This seminar will probe further into the underlying assumption of the argument for extending the narrative of art in Singapore back to the nineteenth century. What unifies the rather disparate categories of natural history drawings, landscapes, historic photographs and portraits as nineteenth century art in Singapore? Were they “works of art” when they were produced in nineteenth century Singapore, or were they more commodities? When did they become appropriated as “works of art”?

About the Speaker

Kwa Chong Guan is an Associate Fellow with the Archaeology Unit of the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He is also a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies where he works on a variety of regional security issues, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the History Department of the National University of Singapore. Kwa was a Director of the old National Museum and continues to serve on various advisory committees of the National Heritage Board today. He also serves on various advisory committees of the National Library Board. Among his publications is an edited volume, Early Southeast Asia viewed from India, An anthology of articles from the “Journal of the Greater India Society”, published as part of the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Series.

To register, please fill in this form and email to by Friday, 15 July 2016.



Jul 18 2016


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2