Singapore Art Museum Receives the Largest Gift by Wu Guanzhong
Source:Singapore Art Museum Author:Artintern Date: 2008-09-03 Size:
The National Heritage Board and Singapore Art Museum are proud to announce that the international renowned artist Wu Guanzhong has donated 113 artworks worth an estimated value of SGD 66 million to the Museum.


The National Heritage Board and Singapore Art Museum announce that the international renowned artist Wu Guanzhong has donated 113 artworks worth an estimated value of SGD 66 million to the Museum. This kind gift is the highest donation value that has been made to any museums in Singapore to date. The donation agreement was signed in Beijing on 2 September 2008 between the Artist and Mr Kwok Kian Chow, Director of Singapore Art Museum in the presence of Ms Jane Ittogi, Chair of Singapore Art Museum, and Mr Koh Seow Chuan, Chairman of National Art Gallery Executive Committee, and in the presence of the Artist’s family. This donation to SAM follows a similar donation of 66 important works made to Shanghai Art Museum by the Artist earlier this year. SAM has proposed to collaborate with Shanghai Art Museum on a retrospective exhibition of Wu Guanzhong’s works.

Says Director, Singapore Art Museum, Mr Kwok Kian Chow, “Wu Guanzhong’s art practice displays his serious consideration of both formalism and the social grounding of art. This makes his work different from the Western value of ‘art for art’s sake,’ where art becomes a dimension of existence separate from the reality of life. SAM’s retrospective exhibition of his works, which is scheduled for early 2009, will show how Wu Guanzhong truly epitomises Asian aesthetic values. We are extremely grateful to Mr Wu and his family for this generous gift. This generous gift by the Artist certainly provides a rich research resource and we welcome collaborations from both local and international institutions and partners on furthering research on Mr Wu’s work. Our Singapore artists will also benefit through the opportunity to study Mr Wu's work.”

Born on 29 August 1919 in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, Wu Guanzhong, who just turned 89 last week, is a leading Chinese painter, art educator and essayist of the 20th century. He completed his studies in Chinese and Western painting in the National Arts Academy of Hangzhou under such teachers as Pan Tianshou and Lin Fengmian. In 1947, he travelled to Paris on a government scholarship to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, where he primarily studied modern western art. Upon his return to China in 1950, he taught at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, encouraging students to assimilate and fuse traditional Chinese art with western forms in order to discover their own style. However, such emphasis on form and abstraction found acceptance only when the post-1949 Chinese culture took on a new outlook after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As such, Wu is considered to be one of the most serious upholders of formal language amongst the artists of China. The pro-fo rm theory he espoused was vital in the development of China’s art away from subject-centricism in social realism. By the early 1980s, his own artistic style had reached the acme of perfection, establishing a painterly language that is unique and truly his own. Wu’s artistic principles are balanced between the individual and society, as well as between formal beauty and the awareness of mass receptivity.



In Southeast Asia, Singapore had the great privilege of receiving the first donation from Wu Guanzhong in February 1988, when the artist arrived to participate in the Wu Guanzhong Art Exhibition jointly organised by Singapore National Museum and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts then. The donated work was a piece Wu completed in 1981, entitled “Roots”.

During the signing ceremony Wu Guanzhong emphasised that being innovative and not depending on past conventions is the responsibility of an indivi dual. He entrusted the works to the Singapore Art Museum as he trusted the institution in the continued research and exhibitions of the works to make them relevant to the future. Wu noted that there are no meaningful divisions between countries. Rather, the most significant differentiation should be between the individual and the collective. Every person should have the responsibility of being him/herself.

Says Chair of Singapore Art Museum, Ms Jane Ittogi, “Wu Guanzhong is a revered artist; He is an artist of the time and an artist of the future. He inspires today’s artists and will continue to inspire artists of future generations. This generous gift is therefore not a legacy donation, but a gift for the future. We thank Mr Wu and his family for his generosity.”

Says Chairman of National Art Gallery Executive Committee, Mr Koh Seow Chuan, "Wu Guanzhong’s generosi ty means that a significant part of his work will pass into the public domain of the art museum. Its presence in the national collection will spark research not only on his art practice, his aesthetic thought and philosophy, but also on that of his contemporaries in China and other parts of the world."

[Editor] Mark Lee