Parisian gallery opens Asia branch

By Deng Zhangyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-02 07:31:39

Parisian gallery opens Asia branch

The Bellboy by Russian painter Chiam Soutine is part of the permanent collection in Singapore. Photo provided to China Daily

Marc Restellini opened a private museum Pinacotheque de Paris in 2007 with the idea to show masterpieces borrowed from other collectors.

The museum has become a success, with more than 1 million visitors annually. The private museum has now opened a branch in Singapore, with doors opening to the public on May 30.

The first shows of the private French museum's Asian offshoot are made up of three parts: the collection of more than 40 pieces of rarely seen Western art, a temporary show based around the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra; and the heritage gallery tracing the history of Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Works of luminaries like Rembrandt, Picasso, Monet, Modigliani and Pollock are the stars of the new branch's permanent collection and have been lent by collectors and art foundations from Europe, the United States and Asia.

"People are willing to lend me their collections to share them with the public rather than lock them in bank vaults," says Restellini, founder of Pinacotheque de Paris. The word pinacotheque is a Greek word meaning "exhibition room".

The 51-year-old is an art historian and a Modigliani expert. His grandfather was the painter Issac Antcher whose works were promoted together with Modigliani, Soutine and Kisling-artists who contributed to the expressionist movement-by art dealer Zborowski.

Restellini has contacts with many collectors, most of whom were his grandfather's friends.

"His passion and love for art makes collectors trust him and willing to lend," says Suguna Madhavan, CEO of the private museum's Singapore branch, located at Fort Canning Hill, Singapore's oldest historical site that was once Palaces of the Malay Sultans.

She recalls an Asian collector agreeing to lend Restellini millions of dollars worth of art after the director gave him a guided tour through the museum.

Restellini curates shows by forming a dialogue between arts of various styles and genres and finding a common link between them.

His inaugural exhibition displays Western masterpieces with Asian artifacts and artworks. Next to Modigliani's Young Lady with Earrings is an ancient golden mask from East Java dating back to about 2,000 years ago. The young lady's face in the painting seems similar to the ancient mask. So is the face of Soutine's Bellboy and a mask from Timor placed next to it.

He also places Southeast Asian artworks such as stone figures and pillars, with Western paintings by artists like Jackson Pollock, in his museum.

The heritage gallery has relics and artworks from Southeast Asia to pay tribute to the city and the area.

The temporary feature show The Myth of Cleopatra displays about 200 works including sculptures, paintings, theater and decorative arts. It was previously shown in the museum's Paris branch and is now traveling to Singapore. It will run through Oct 11.

Restellini says Singapore was just a natural match when he was looking for a destination for his museum's new branch outside Europe.

The museum director has long felt the future of art is in Asia. Now that his international expansion has arrived in Singapore, he says chances are he will display more Chinese art. In his Parisian museum, he has already displayed borrowed Terracotta Warriors and a solo show by Chinese-French artist Chu Teh-Chun (1920-2014), a famed abstract painter who mixes traditional Chinese painting with Western abstract art.

In May, he was invited to China to be a guest speaker at an art forum in Beijing. "If one day I plan to open a new Pinacotheque, it may be in China. Maybe in Shanghai, and I will mix Western art with Chinese art," says Restellini.

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