I don’t know if I’d rate the Singapore Art Museum particularly highly if I were a foreigner, because it would be full of names I’d never heard of. Even visiting it as a Singaporean, most names apart from Chen Wen Hsi, Georgette Chen and Ng Eng Teng draw a blank with me. But I found myself enjoying the museum’s permanent collection more than the Rodin exhibition we’d primarily gone to see; perhaps I subconsciously prefer painting to sculpture, or modern over classical, or perhaps it was just the familiarity of paintings I’d seen before on previous visits to the museum – I don’t know. It’s three in the morning and stream-of-consciousness is about all I can manage.
I like this museum, always have. I like its retention of the simple beauty it must have had as a school, the spare elegance it still has as an art museum. Today the revelation hit me that my parents walked the same corridors I was walking down, in the days when it was St Joseph’s Institution and they were students there. They met and romanced here. It’s a beautiful place to be able to remember falling in love in, I think.
I was also struck by the thought that this awareness of a personal history can only happen for me in this country. As far as England is concerned, I didn’t exist before 1999.