National Gallery Singapore, The Pioneers Gallery, Singapore

Jean François Milou, principal architect
Philip Burns, project team member
Suzanne Ogge-Milou, project team member
Pamela Choo O’Neill, project team member
Goh Jiarong, project team member
Nguyen Tranh Trung, project team member
Eudora Tan, project team member
May Leong, project team member
Jason Tan, project team member
National Gallery Singapore
Consultancy Service scope
Exhibition Design
Contract Period


The pioneers gallery has been designed based on the brief given by the Gallery in order to propose, within the Singapore Gallery as whole, an impressive and meaningful short visit of the Singapore Gallery.

This was designed as both an introduction to the signature art of Singapore, and the nation’s most well-loved artists. These groundbreaking artists paved the way for subsequent generations. The Six Pioneer Artists represented here helped establish the Nanyang style and taught and nurtured many younger artists inspired by their work and example.

The challenge was to design a space to showcase a small number of artists and works of art that allows for a full appreciation of the achievements of the individual artists and an understanding of their work.

The space has a defined central space with an illuminated ceiling to accommodate a single major work by each artist, and an external perimeter space that creates individual focus walls for a more extended selection of work from the oeuvre of each of the artists. The space can accommodate substantial interpretative wall texts and explanatory material to more fully inform the experience.

The composition of the space and the selection of material will combine to be memorable and unique in the experience of the National Gallery. The works of art are a representative selection of the best of the collection.The small central room will present only six works, one on each wall, and with this exclusivity, will be one of the ‘must see spaces’ in the gallery with a careful balance of art, space and light. This dramatic showcasing is a counterpoint for the much denser collection presentation elsewhere in the building.

The space allows a visitor enjoying a short Gallery excursion to see a work by each of Singapore’s six Pioneer Artists, or conversely, a visitor with more time, to experience many important works by the Pioneer Artists, along with related interpretative material.

The individual artists work across a range of media, oil on canvas, watercolour and Chinese Ink. This small gallery provides a microcosm of the history of art in Singapore and the development of the Nanyang Style from 1930 to 1970.


view of the Courtyard Atrium of the Singapore Gallery

Courtyard Atrium of the Singapore Gallery, view on the Pioneer Artists Section Entrance

entrance of the Pioneer Artists section

core of the Pioneer Artists section with the Celadon green wall as the background for the masterpieces

Audiovisual Programme

The introductory multimedia display for the six Pioneer Artists Access to the complete collection holdings for each artist, and links to other research information as well as the research library will be provided. The design will combine text based material with new technology – Christie MicroTiles – Small video cubes that can be arranged together into different shapes, individually progammed and can feature an interactive component. The space will also contain a number of simple terminals to allow collection browsing. The multimedia display will present biographical sketches of each of the Pioneer artists as well as comparative studies of their work and their place in the history of art in Singapore. Access to the complete collection holdings for each artist, and links to other research information and the research library will also be provided. This will be a major attraction for all visitors to the gallery, a visual spectacle as well as an important interpretive resource. It will be an opportunity to learn about the art of Singapore in an entertaining and enthralling way. It will be a room-based, programmed environment for all visitors as well as booked groups or special events. Biographical sketches of each of the Pioneer artists as well as comparative studies of their work and place in the history of art in Singapore. The MicroTiles are individually programmable. The system will have a dedicated control and delivery system adjacent to the space allowing for easy updating by an appropriately trained technician.

audiovisual introduction of the Pioneer Artists section

isonometry model