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NAFA pays tribute to visionary artmaker and educator with ‘Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 杨曼生与南洋’ exhibition

February 26, 2023

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and the Michael & Saniza Collection are proud to present Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 杨曼生与南洋, an exhibition presenting one of the most iconic Southeast Asian artists of the 20th century, Yong Mun Sen (1896 – 1962), also an instrumental figure in the academy’s founding history.

In conjunction with NAFA’s 85th-anniversary celebrations, this exhibition showcases long-running research of the artist and his practice, and a visual narrative of his explorations in watercolour, oil, ink and photography–collectively defining his journey and vision of Nanyang. 78 artworks from private collectors in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the National Gallery Singapore will be exhibited.

Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 杨曼生与南洋 traces Yong’s story and role as a visionary artmaker and educator. A luminary who took life as a source of daily inspiration, he was keenly observant of his surroundings and acknowledged the beauty of where he dwelled through his practice. His works display technical finesse, compellingly reflecting the cultural, societal, and economic progress of his time.

Some of the exhibition highlights include:

  • Self Portrait (Oil on canvas, undated)
  • People by the Beach (Oil on canvas, laid on board, 1936)
  • Junk in The Straits of Malacca (Watercolour on bagasse, 1953)
Padi Field (1944), Watercolour on paper – Michael & Saniza Collection

Born in Kuching, Sarawak, Yong (birth name Yen Lang) studied Chinese classics and calligraphy after moving to his ancestral village of Tai-Pu, China at the age of five. In 1917, Yong left Sarawak for Singapore to pursue a life of painting. It was later on in Penang when he established his own art studio named Tai Koon in 1922 (later named Mun Sen Studio). Yong became the Founder and Vice-President of the Penang Chinese Art Club (1935), and the Society of Chinese Artists (1936) where he mooted the establishment of NAFA. With its extensive network of artists in Singapore and China, the Society provided the academy with
teachers and funds in its pioneering years. This cemented Yong’s influence on NAFA’s history, where he helped form an enduring foundation for success.

NAFA’s Institute of Southeast Asian Arts will be launching an accompanying publication with the same title, Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 楊曼生與南洋––a 220-page publication with over 100 full-colour images of the works and accompanying essays that provide insights into the life and work of Yong. Articulated through a collaborative effort around art and education, the research, reflections and thoughts by Southeast Asian art historians and academics including Yeo Man Thong, Simon Soon, Dr Bridget Tracy Tan, and Lok Tok feature in this seminal tome.

This exhibition is made possible by strong support from the Yong family and generous sponsorship from Andrew Yuen, Fullerton Hotel and Resorts and BNP Paribas. Earmarked as part of NAFA’s 85th-anniversary celebrations, Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 杨曼生与南洋 parallels NAFA’s pioneering spirit of exploration, while paying homage to artistic heritage and traditions –underscoring the academy’s commitment to regional arts through leading research, practice and development. Activities related to NAFA’s 85th anniversary are featured on NAFA’s website, as well as on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang 杨曼生与南洋

Date: Until 7 May 2023
Schedule: 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM (closed every Monday and Public Holiday)
Venue: The Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2, NAFA Campus 1 (80 Bencoolen Street, Singapore)
FREE Admission

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