5 virtual exhibitions that pay tribute to cultural heritage and national identity

These exhibitions feature art that are significant expressions of their nation.

M+ now an interactive exhibition mapping hong kong’s neon signs on a standalone site (Photo: Neon Signs HK)

The meaning of nationhood and cultural identity is often raised about how it is ascribed. However, these exhibitions seek to depart from the traditional understanding of nationhood based on societal expectations, focusing instead on national identity by incorporating or even dismantling its symbols and connotations. 

Stories in Light: Four Modern Photographers in Singapore

The National Gallery Singapore just debuted its virtual-only exhibition, highlighting four key Singapore-based photographers — Lee Sow Lim, Lee Lim, Lim Kwong Ling and Tan Lip Seng — who have played pivotal roles in the development of modern photography in the city state. Strongly influenced by the photographic Pictorialism movement, which emphasises aesthetic expression over factual depiction, each photographer offers a distinct take on how the Lion City sought independence from British colonial rule.

Ongoing. Enter here.


Berlin Architecture in the 1980s

Berlin boasts a dynamic concentration of noteworthy buildings from the 1980s. And it was this colourful diversity that challenged previous ideas of living in the modern world. In this video tour, the exhibition explores the architecture built in East and West Berlin in the final decade before the Berlin Wall fell. Complementing the exhibition is a sideshow by Guerrilla Architects, which reveals the experience of living in apartment buildings that were constructed in the 1980s through personal interviews with long-time residents.

Until Aug 16. See here.


Japanese Modernism

This physical exhibition funded by the Australia-Japan Foundation at the National Gallery of Victoria has ended, but you can still view the works online in 3D virtual reality. The show delves into the first half of 20th-century Japan, when its traditional art and aesthetics intersected with European life and culture. Due to the influence of new technologies from abroad, the Land of the Rising Sun developed a lively consumer culture from the early 1920s until late 1930s — all set against a bustling city filled with department stores, cafés, teahouses and movie theatres that catered to urban pleasure seekers. Japanese Modernism also sheds light on major works by young female artists of the era and modernist colour prints produced with the refined techniques of traditional ukiyo-e.

Ongoing. See here.



The iconic neon signs that have illuminated Hong Kong for decades are losing their glow as they are being eclipsed by LED lights due to safety reasons. To recapture the heyday of neon signs in the 1970s and 1980s, the M+ museum documented this disappearing element of the urban landscape years ago. But the works have been presented anew with essays, films, videos, slideshows and artist commissions on a standalone website. Evoking sentimentality and nostalgia, while important, is not the key intention of this show. Instead, it chooses to capture modernity’s contradictions, be it the city’s glamour and grit, or the alienation that lurks beneath every loud neon sign.

Ongoing. More info here


Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico

Organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the online exhibition of Iturbide’s most expansive body of work to date reveals the photographer’s journey to chronicle her country’s cultures, rituals and everyday life through the lens. One of the most influential contemporary photographers of Latin America, Iturbide has pieced together a visual story of her country since the late 1960s — a nation often fraught with turbulent histories and inequalities. To her, the camera is an instrument of sharing as well as a tool to engage with the world, to learn, to interact, to live and to mourn.  

Ongoing. See here.

This article first appeared on June 28, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.


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