Two weeks ago, I visited artist Yip Yew Chong’s exhibition “I Paint my Singapore” at Raffles City Convention Center. His magnificent painting, which spans 60 meters in length, is made up of his 27 panels depicting Singaporean landscapes.
Each panel is rich in detail and tells a story about Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s.
I was saddened to hear from the artist himself that he was worried about the future of his paintings after the exhibition closed on January 1, 2024.
He hoped someone would buy the painting in its entirety and preserve it. He can’t afford to maintain it.
He said he had received inquiries to buy some of it, some from outside Singapore. He doesn’t want this painting to leave Singapore.
The question that came to my mind was, “Why doesn’t the National Heritage Board buy this and preserve it as a national treasure?” This is not just a work of art, but a visual record of Singapore’s history on a personal level. Although there are old Singaporean paintings by many artists, there is no comparable work with such wide-ranging, comprehensive and intimate content.
Yip has made a name for himself by painting street murals, and his work is widely loved by Singaporeans. I Paint my Singapore is his most ambitious work to date, a labor of love that took him a year and a half to complete.
This work should be kept in Singapore for Singaporeans to enjoy. Its artistic, historical and educational value is immense. In his own words, the production is “a production that I want all of Singapore to come see. It is also an expression of my love and respect for Singapore.”
Older people will love the memories this city evokes. Young people, on the other hand, can learn about the side of Singapore that their parents and grandparents lived through and that no longer exists.
It would be a great shame if this painting were to be dismantled, purchased by a private collector, or worse, removed in part or in its entirety from Singapore. I urge the National Heritage Commission or the National Gallery to purchase it and preserve it for posterity.
Shin Chey Chen