The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) underwent an extensive revamp last year, and they’re back in business with their first special exhibition since – Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour, the world’s first exhibition on the history and spread of Christian art in Asia.
Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour was six years in the making, and gathers over 150 objects from 20 institutions from 6 different countries, including the Musée de Louvre from France and the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga from Portugal. Many of the objects loaned to the ACM for the exhibition are of great historical, cultural and religious significance, and are rarely available to public view so this is a great opportunity that shouldn’t be missed!
Visitors to this exhibition can gain insights into religious tolerance and interfaith cross-cultural exchanges all over Asia – from the blending of Islamic art with Christian iconography to Buddhist influences when creating Christian art, Christianity in Asia presents a fascinating glimpse into this extraordinary part of history. The exhibition is organised in four thematic sections: Early Christian Art in Asia; What makes art made in Asia, Christian; Christian missions to Asia, 16th to 19th centuries (The Indian Subcontinent, China, Japan, Philippines and Southeast Asia); and a case study of Singapore for a truly pan-Asian overview of the subject.
Who Should Go
Not just for Christians, this exhibition will appeal to anyone interested in Asian history, Asian art, European art, religious history and cultural history. Yes, that’s a broad range but no, we aren’t exaggerating.
Make your way to the exhibition to view paintings, carvings, artwork and more created by Asian artists and craftsmen. The Candlestick with Christian scenes on loan from the Louvre, for example, mixes Christian scenes with subjects more typical of medieval Islamic art, such as the signs of the zodiac (on the upper surface of the base) and a frieze of animals (along the lower edge of the base).
Virgin and Child, from ACM’s own collection, is the largest known Sri Lankan ivory of the Virgin and Child, and one of the most refined. Her garments are especially distinctive, and are reminiscent of the same type of garb worn by Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka. Try to spot the trivali on the necks of the Virgin and Jesus; these three incised lines are distinguishing marks of the Buddha and their presence reveals that the local artist also perceived the Virgin and Child as important religious figures.
The Bureau shrine was produced in Guangzhou, China, which was famed for its lacquer furniture in the 18th and 19th Centuries. This is the only known Chinese lacquer bureau made as a Christian shrine! Derived from an early 18th-century English form called a “secretary” or a “bureau bookcase”, the interior is enhanced with red and gold lacquer for the serpentine columns and framing elements.
Apart from the exhibition itself, ACM also has a line-up of activities related to Christianity in Asia. Whether you would like to gain more in-depth knowledge through lectures, or have a more interactive experience at the exhibition, you’ll find something to join. Here are a few of our selections:
Download the ACM app on the App Store or Google Play
Experience art through soundscapes you create, inspired by five hand-picked objects from the Christianity in Asia exhibition. Objects come to life through light footsteps in a hall, a distant bell ringing from an old Protestant church, or urgent whispers on a fiery ship. Visitors who have downloaded the ACM app can select and listen to soundscapes while moving through the gallery for a wholly personalized experience.
Christianity in Asia Interpretive Space
Free with admission to Christianity in Asia
Look, listen, and touch – engage with art through your senses with hands-on activities at the Christianity in Asia interpretive space. Take home a set of seven rubbings inspired by the exhibition. Design a personalised soundscape based on five objects and stories at the Art-beat station. Explore the splendid detail and materials used to make these works of art. Finally, take a moment to rest and reflect – share your thoughts on the wings of an origami dove and add it to our reflection wall.
15 July 2016, 26 August 2016, 9 September 2016
7.30pm to 8.30pm
$25 for a minimum of 15 people to proceed and maximum of 25 people in a tour. Exhibition curator Clement Onn shares his insights into the motivations, forces, and cross-cultural exchanges that shaped the development of Christian art across Asia in this unique exploration of the intersection of splendour, beauty, and faith.
Saturdays from June to August
$5 per pax ($3 for senior citizens / students)
Learn about Christian art and architecture in the city on walking tours of Singapore’s historic buildings! Visit the Tamil Church and Malay Chapel at Rochor; explore stories behind beautiful stained-glass windows. These tours highlight the history that shaped Singapore’s churches and monuments. Tour participants can enjoy discounted entry to the Christianity in Asia exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
When: Now to 11 September 2016
Where: Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555
Nearest MRT: Raffles Place (EW14/NS26)
Tickets: Purchase online or at the museum ticketing counter