While Hillary Clinton runs her U.S. presidential campaign, Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris reminds us of an earlier woman who, arguably, paved the way for females to gain a political voice: Cleopatra.

The first international off-shoot of the Parisian private museum opened at Fort Canning in May with an exhibition titled “The Myth of Cleopatra”, showcasing the ancient Egyptian queen through a range of works ranging from antiques to films. It joins a collection of over 40 pieces on display by artists like Dutch painter Rembrandt, French impressionist Claude Monet and American abstractionist Jackson Pollock.

Cleopatra with an asp by Cestaro Jacopo
Cleopatra with the asp by Cestaro Jacopo

“Studying Cleopatra’s place in history helps you understand how important she is as a female political figure in a time when the conditions were very different from today,” says museum director Marc Restellini. “Opening with Cleopatra also gives us a very universal approach.”

After all, the art historian intends for Singapore Pinacotheque to be accessible and to engage.
“The problem with art is that a lot of people give up when they see artists they don’t know,” says Restellini.

This explains why Restellini intends to roll out future exhibitions with renowned artists. For example, he reveals plans to bring in a Van Gogh exhibition that ran two years ago in Paris. Titled “Van Gogh: Dreaming of Japan”, the exhibition places the Dutch painter’s landscapes next to colour prints by Japanese master of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints and paintings) Ando Hiroshige to emphasise the Japanese influence on Van Gogh’s oeuvre.

Restellini also believes the connection to an Asian country will resonate with locals here.

“For me, it’s not about the artist’s name; it’s about putting together an idea that people can relate to,” he says.

Yet, the 51-year-old doesn’t see a need to curate Singapore Pinacotheque differently for an Asian audience.

“My plan is to bring in exhibitions that ran in Paris that were successful, and share it with Singapore,” he says. “For me a museum should be very classic; a place dedicated to consecrated artists rather than a platform to introduce emerging artists.”

“The French might have more experience in culture and art, but I don’t think this means they know more than Singaporeans. For instance, I’m not sure the French people necessarily know more about Cleopatra than Singaporeans,” says Restellini.

“The point of a museum is that the public doesn’t have to do everything – it’s our job to educate them and provide the context for them to appreciate and see the theme in different ways.”

“The Myth of Cleopatra” will run in Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris until Oct 11.

5 Cox Terrace, www.pinacotheque.com.sg