A museum is a place in which artistic, cultural and scientific values are collected, preserved, interpreted and displayed and Singapore’s museums are great art works boasting such respectful values of the national history. Each of the museums has its own values and different characteristics, which deserves to be one of your activities in Singapore.
As a booming cultural hub, Singapore has attracted loads of art and big-name museum exhibitions in recent years, from historic Southeast Asian pieces to ground-breaking art exhibitions by famous painters. The best part? Most of these museums offer free admission to locals and permanent residents. But don’t just pop by the museums – the city’s also dotted with independent art galleries with works by both established and up-and-coming artists.
National Gallery Singapore
Dedicated to Singapore and Southeast Asian art, the iconic National Gallery Singapore (NGS) occupies two major landmarks—the former Supreme Court and City Hall—and features over a whopping 8,000 artworks housed across ten galleries, including the DBS Singapore Gallery and the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery (both of which are permanent).
Enjoy the perfect blend of art and science at this gorgeous museum at Marina Bay Sands. The exhibitions are ever-changing, but they all have one thing in common: they're mostly high-profile and notable. Past shows include ‘Da Vinci: Shaping the Future’, where the legendary artist's original masterpieces made their debut in Southeast Asia, and ‘The Deep’, which featured a collection of over 40 weird and wonderful deep-sea animals displayed for the first time in the region.
Singapore Art Museum
Situated in a restored 19th century mission school, the Singapore Art Museum (known as SAM to many) was established in 1996 and it's the nation's very first art museum. Here you'll find one of the world's most extensive collections of contemporary Southeast Asian artworks, which reflect art practices in the region. Interested in a guided tour? Be there Monday to Friday at 11am or 2pm (there’s an additional 7pm slot on Fridays).
Asian Civilisations Museum
Marvel at intriguing artefacts from China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The place is home to a handful of permanent galleries, which are split into four geographic zones (China, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Islamic world), and regularly hosts special exhibitions. Two new wings were introduced in the last quarter of 2015, so there’s now a total of more than 15,000 square metres to explore.
National Museum of Singapore
Consisting of various exhibits, a lecture theatre, and an education and resource centre, the National Museum of Singapore's focus is on the city-state's rich history and culture. The stunning neo-classical building also hosts a number of major events and festivals throughout the year, including art installations and film screenings.
MINT Museum of Toys
This quirky museum's marvellous collection of old-school toys (fun fact: it’s valued at over five million Singapore dollars) is guaranteed to impress and delight visitors of all walks of life, no matter young or old. Catch Astro Boy, Popeye, and Tintin, and have a blast spotting your favourite characters from a bygone era.
Singapore Philatelic Museum
Got a thing for stamps? The Singapore Philatelic Museum should do the trick. Feast your eyes on the colourful array of stamps and learn about the vibrant postal history of Singapore and other parts of the world. Don’t miss the fun exhibition specials that take place every now and then, such as 'More Than Monkeys' and the adorable Snoopy-themed collection of letters, postcards, and greeting cards that was showcased in 2016.
Celebrating the Peranakan (Straits-Chinese) culture in Singapore, this sister museum to the Asian Civilisations Museum features interactive exhibits and interesting artefacts that span across ten permanent galleries. Find out who Singapore’s most prominent Peranakans were, learn about Peranakan cuisine (a must-try during your stay in Singapore), gain insights into how the grand 12-day Peranakan wedding works, and plenty more.
Red Dot Design Museum
If you're a lover of pretty things and design in general, then this picture-perfect, Instagram-worthy venue should be at the top of your list. The Red Dot Design Museum is home to more than 1,000 items and products from over 50 countries that have been recognised for their remarkable design. There's also the Design Museum Shop to pop by if you want to take home a nifty little something as a souvenir.
SAM at 8Q is the annexe of Singapore Art Museum - Singapore's contemporary art museum. Located at the heart of the city, it derives its name from the museum's location at No. 8 Queen Street near Bras Basah Road.SAM at 8Q is also approximately 88 steps away from Singapore Art Museum. The 4-storey building was formerly the primary school wing of the Catholic High School. When the School relocated to their current location in 1987, the 3,500 sq m space gave home to the Kim Yan Cantonese Methodist Church. In September 2007, the Church ended its tenancy and the building was repossessed by the Singapore Land Authority. With new interest on contemporary art by the young, the National Heritage Board (NHB) took up tenancy of the building from the Land Authority.
The Board also spent $5.8 million on renovations, and converted the classrooms in the 4-storey building into six galleries to showcase contemporary installation works, video and photography installation, performance art and sound art. A lift was also installed, and the galleries, staircases and parts of corridors have also been air-conditioned and humidity-controlled. There are also spaces to house two restaurants on the ground floor which are currently occupied by Food for Thought and Standing Sushi Bar. Today, SAM at 8Q is home to changing contemporary art exhibitions, including a popular annual children's contemporary art exhibition.
Fort Siloso is the sole restored coastal gun battery from the 12 such batteries which made up "Fortress Singapore" at the start of World War II. The fort is situated on Pulau Blakang Mati (now Sentosa), an island south of mainland Singapore. The fort is now a military museum open to the public. The forts were built to defend Singapore against an invasion by sea from the south. However, during the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, the guns were turned 180 degrees inland to fire at Japanese forces approaching Singapore from the north. The fort's guns were fired at Japanese positions and troops who were advancing toward the city area from Tengah Airfield. The British and local troops who were retreating from the overrun Pasir Laba Battery and heading back to British lines via the sea were mistaken for Japanese troops and fired upon. Fort Siloso was converted into a military museum in 1974, displaying its history and guns. Other coastal guns from different parts of Singapore were brought here for display. It had previously held the display of the British surrender.
Madame Tussauds Singapore
Madame Tussauds Singapore is a wax museum and tourist attraction at the Imbiah Lookout of Sentosa Island in Singapore. It officially opened on 25 October 2014 as the seventh Asian branch of the Madame Tussauds chain of wax museums worldwide. American pop singer Katy Perry, who had her own wax figure in the museum, participated in the opening festivities. The wax museum features many wax figures of notable political icons, famous superstars, sports icons and others, including Yusof Ishak, Soekarno, Lee Kuan Yew, David Beckham, Sharukh Khan, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and many more. Standing at the entrance is a statue wax figure of Lady Gaga. It recently added a figure of the Singapore Girl, Nur Surya Binte Mohamed Ambiah's second figure, an iconic fight attendant for Singapore Airlines. Recently, the wax figure of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also added.