Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- A blonde in shorts and a tank top slouches in a chair and stares right at the camera. Her toenail polish is pink, as are the wall and the brassiere hanging outside her closet. Behind her is a Marilyn Monroe poster.
The 19-year-old hails, not from Stockholm or Santa Barbara, but from Beirut -- and is captured by Lebanese-American Rania Matar, a 48-year-old ex-architect based in Boston who in 2002 started photographing in Lebanon.
“Girls at that age are the same, whether they wear a veil or are dying their hair pink,” says Matar in an interview at her “Ordinary Lives” show at Singapore’s Sana Gallery.
There are other photos of girls in their bedrooms. “The room is an extension of the girl and the girl is an extension of her room, it’s universal,” says Matar. The images are powerful because of their intimate nature, and because they challenge stereotypes about Middle Eastern women and modesty (some of the girls wear headscarves, some don’t).
Matar also shows black-and-white photographs of refugees in Beirut that extend beyond photojournalism to capture the resilience of the human spirit in times of war and upheaval.
The photographs come in different sizes and are all priced at S$3,800 ($3,113). The show runs through Jan. 27 at the Sana Gallery, which is in a renovated 1930s shop house at 12 Blair Road. Information: +65-6689-7968 or http://www.sanagallery.com.
The lobby of the Marina Bay Sands hotel is a far cry from the tranquil charm of Sana Gallery. Longer than two soccer fields, it bustles with casino goers, and is an unlikely choice for an exhibition of 18th-century French antiques -- which is precisely why the show is being held there, says dealer Mikael Kraemer. His aim: to create a “24 hours a day, seven days a week, free museum.”
“The Final 100 Days of the Year of the Dragon” consists of 13 different items of 18th-century Asian-inspired French furniture from the Kraemer family’s Paris-based gallery.
The pieces include a Louis XV marquetry clock adorned with gilt bronze garlands, winged dragons and putti. Standing more than seven feet tall, it’s valued at 3.2 million euros ($4.18 million) and is almost identical to one commissioned by King Frederick II of Prussia.
One of the highlights of a tour led by Kraemer -- a fifth-generation dealer -- is an early-18th-century long-case clock standing 2.8 meters high (110 inches). It’s made of black ebony, and gilt-bronze dragons flank the pendulum, which narrows in the middle like a woman’s waist.
Kraemer calls it the ‘‘Naomi Campbell” clock because it’s “tall, thin, distinguished, black and gold, and powerful.” Other items include a rococo commode depicting traditional Chinese scenes in lacquer, and a pair of Louis XIV pots made of blue Chinese porcelain.
The exhibition runs through Feb. 9 at Marina Bay Sands. Personal tours with Kraemer can be booked. The gallery is at 10 Bayfront Ave. Information: +65-6688-8868; http://bit.ly/U7nQ7v.
Next door at the ArtScience Museum, check out “The Art of the Brick,” 52 works by New York-based Lego artist Nathan Sawaya. His pieces range from a six-meter-long T-rex dinosaur skeleton to a sculpture of man who has ripped open his chest to let Lego-shaped guts spill out. There’s also a portrait of Jasper Johns.
The show’s interactive nature will appeal to all ages (I saw a couple of guys in their twenties handling Lego blocks.) You can even go barefoot and walk on the Lego reflexology mat.
The Art of the Brick runs through April 14 at ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands. Information: http://www.marinabaysands.com/Singapore-Museum/About/.
If you have time to venture further out of town, head for Gillman Barracks, a former British military garrison that now houses 13 art galleries scattered across a lush tropical setting including Sundaram Tagore Singapore, Tomio Koyama Gallery and ShanghART.
Partners & Mucciaccia gallery has an all-Italian exhibition featuring 20th-century works by Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, and Cristiano Pintaldi, who uses tiny daubs of paint as “pixels” to create his figurative images.
Fans of Yayoi Kusama will enjoy her show at Ota Fine Arts. The Japanese artist has abandoned her signature polka dots in favor of lively black-and-white silkscreen drawings with primitive art motifs. Open through Dec. 20.
(Frederik Balfour is a reporter-at-large for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse Highlights include Farah Nayeri on London arts and Richard Vines on mince pies.
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