The iconic building has played host to many significant moments in Singapore’s history including the Tatler Ball 2022. Here's why we picked the location and why we donated significantly to the historic location

This story was first published on October 29, 2022, and updated on November 15, 2022. 

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, Tatler Singapore’s annual, glamorous ball made its grand return on November 11 at the National Gallery Singapore. It was an electric night as the iconic gallery was transformed into a legendary oasis complete with a stunning red carpet going up the steps in the middle of the gallery, a champagne tower and a caviar bar set up right in the middle of all the action. 

Tatler Ball regulars will know that the choice of venue is a major break from tradition. Typically, our balls have taken place in hotel ballrooms, like the extravagant one in Capella Singapore that has served as the setting for many of our previous balls.

However, Tatler Singapore has always been heavily involved in the arts and culture scene, and it only made sense that we mark our 40th anniversary in the historic art institution that is the National Gallery.

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After all, the evening was more than just a celebration of the contributions of some of the most significant members of our society. In honour of our Tatler Ball, Tatler Singapore made an SG$50,000 corporate donation to the National Gallery in support of its innovation pillars and plans for the future of art in Singapore.

Below, we detail why we chose the gallery as our backdrop for the society event of the year, the history behind the building and why we chose to make this donation. 

1. Plans for the National Gallery building were made in 1926

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Plans to construct the Municipal Building, which would eventually become the National Gallery, began in 1926. The project was helmed by S. D. Meadows and later passed on to Alexander Gordon, both of whom are architects of the Singapore Municipal Commission.

2. The building officially opened in 1929

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The Municipal Building was completed and then officially opened by Governor Hugh Clifford in 1929. 

The building would go on to be the setting of some key events from World War II. When the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942, they took over the Municipal Building and managed civic issues from there. In 1945, Japanese General Itagaki surrendered to Lord Mountbatten on the steps of the building, ending the war in Singapore.

The building was renamed the City Hall in 1951, and eight years later witnessed another historical moment when the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew declared self-governance. It would continue to mark several important milestones in Singapore, including the inauguration of Yusof Bin Ishak and the reveal of Singapore's national flag and anthem in 1959.

3. The National Gallery is housed in two national monuments

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The National Gallery is actually housed in two national monuments: the City Hall and the former Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court was officially opened by Sir Thomas Shenton Whitelegge Thomas in 1939, featuring 11 courtrooms and adjoining judges’ chambers. In 1988, 12 more courtrooms from the City Hall were moved to the Supreme Court to accommodate the volume of cases it was receiving.

The Supreme Court was declared a historical monument in 1992 and in 2005, it was announced that it would be converted into the new National Gallery Singapore. Both the City Hall and the Supreme Court buildings underwent major refurbishment and expansion to accommodate the museum.

In 2014, the first of the iconic link bridges that now connect City Hall to the former Supreme Court building was installed. The National Gallery was then officially re-opened in 2015.

4. The National Gallery has won many international awards

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Over the years, the National Gallery has won many international and local awards. In 2020, it was the only museum in Southeast Asia that made it in The Art Newspaper’s annual global survey of attendance at art museums, ranking in 20th place.

The National Gallery was also the first museum in Asia to receive the Children in Museums Award from the European Museum Academy and Hands On! International Association of Children in Museums in 2018. 

5. The National Gallery encourages a progressive, inclusive and creative society

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As one of the leading visual arts institutions in Singapore, which also oversees the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian modern art, the National Gallery aims to always inspire and foster a creative and inclusive society. The museum does this with collaborative research, education, long-term and special exhibitions, as well as innovative programming. It also works closely with international museums around the world in order to increase Singapore’s position in the global visual arts scene. 

The museum is also on a mission to make art accessible through emerging technology. From NFTs and the metaverse to autonomous robots, the National Gallery has focused on its ambition to become a museum of the future—and Tatler Singapore is standing right by it as a digital-first publication.

In honour of our Tatler Ball celebrations, Tatler Singapore made an SG$50,000 corporate donation to the National Gallery in support of its innovation pillars and plans for the future of art in Singapore.

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