I’ve been on an art binge! I’ve visited over a dozen galleries around Singapore in the last week, some definitely better and nicer than others. By nicer I mean more friendly, conversational and just plain interested in the people walking through the door to look at the art. A few galleries were none of these things. (Would I have gotten more attention if I looked like this guy?) I don’t blog about negative experiences so I’ll just tell you about my two favorite galleries of the bunch I visited.

Opera Gallery is in the ION shopping mall on Orchard Road. It’s a huge gallery with art of all kinds. The current featured exhibit includes pieces by Chagall, Picasso, Botero, Dali, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Miro, Calder (on paper) and more. I came across a great expressionist I was unfamiliar with — Bernard Buffet. His art is full of tension, direction, black lines and punchy colors. His clowns, although not on display at the gallery, are bold and humorous. I found them in the gift (mon dieu! un cadeau!) I was given upon leaving the gallery — a beautifully constructed box covered with plum-covered metallic paper which contains a beautifully made book of art titled “A Decade of Masterpieces”. Wow, merci Deborah (working at the gallery) for the gift and the impromptu art discussion. Rarely, if ever, do you get something free, gorgeous and filled with creativity just for saying thank you. So thank you again.

Off to the next gallery, I stopped by Pop and Contemporary Fine Art in Palais Renaissance, another shopping mall. As anyone in Singapore knows, you can’t judge a shopping mall by its exterior. Just about every mall, including this one, holds some little gem of a cafe, restaurant, bar or store. It turns out Palais Renaissance has several — Antoinette (my dessert obsession), P.S. Cafe (my brunch obsession), Artisan Cellars (looks like a soon-to-be wine obsession due to the awesome showroom with typographic decor) and finally… my new art obsession. Pop and Contemporary Fine Art is showing art by Burton Morris, Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama (a recent photo of the day), all of whom incorporate uber graphic patterns,colors and shapes in their work (think polka dots and triangles). I had a great discussion with Yen, working at the gallery, and he directed me to the main reason I stopped by: The Olympic Spirit by Burton Morris. This exhibit was located back across the street, one level up from Opera Gallery. Off I went, catching the exhibit on its last day at ION Art Gallery.

In 2004, the IOC commissioned Burton Morris to create 35 works of art in honor of the Olympic Games. Each piece started as a sketch, then was refined to a finished illustration on the computer, then colors were tried and selected, then Morris hand-painted each illustration on canvas in a lengthy process of adding multiple coats of paint and varnish to get pure, solid, vibrant colors.

The results are spectacular — not only in how each sport is illustrated, but in how each canvas has such bold and striking color.

The catcher was my favorite — sharp and menacing. I also enjoyed the accompanying film that was playing during the exhibit — Olympia, a highly acclaimed film about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin with astonishing footage of sports in a communist era. These were pre-Fosbury Flop days when high jumpers were doing a “western roll” over a bar into a sand pit, and many Europeans were addressing Hitler with a one-arm salute. Ground-breaking motion picture techniques were used in this film, making it one of Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Movies”.

If you missed this exhibit, don’t fret. Pop! In the City II shows here from October 20th – 30th, and includes works of art by Burton Morris, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and more.

I leave you with a robust pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama currently on display in a nondescript room at Gillman Barracks — a complex of galleries that was part of my art binge. Henry David Thoreau said, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” Yayoi probably agrees.

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