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Asylum’s Chris Lee defends National Gallery branding

Following the National Art Gallery’s new brand identity, it has had to deal with some fairly negative comments.

This was part of its high profile efforts to promote Singaporean and Southeast Asian arts, and occupies two heritage buildings in Singapore, City Hall and the Supreme Court. It also received a SG$25 million donation from DBS Bank. It changed its name from National Art Gallery, Singapore, to National Gallery Singapore and debuted its new logo, pictured above.

Chong Siak Ching, CEO of National Gallery Singapore, told local press: “We will further position Singapore as a place where serious arts can be seen, where research and scholarship into Southeast Asian arts will be further undertaken and developed and also a place where Singaporeans can come and spend their free time, their weekends to enjoy arts.”

The design and revamp was done by local design firm Asylum. The revamp has been scorned by some. Today pointed out that the name change was hardly noticeable, and blogger Mr Brown has poked fun of the logo, likening it to Tetris blocks.

Asylum’s design director told Marketing that the agency took three months to work on the logo, going through at least 50 designs before shortlisting the most compelling one.

“By reducing the identity to two simple blocks was something that I immediately felt as a brilliant thought, because it is open to interpretations. Just like art. I felt slightly uncomfortable at first but like all original designs it’s important to feel uncomfortable.

I strive to create simplicity in all of my work, not in terms of execution but in terms of distilling complex messages into a single most important vision.”

Responding to the idea that the design looked like a young child drew it, Lee said: “To say that a young child could have drawn this is actually a compliment. I think we can learn a lot from a young child’s purity.”

He also added that the agency did it “as part of our national service”and only “charged a very nominal fee for it.”

Lee explained the rationale behind the logo: “Its reductionism reflects the museum’s dynamism and confidence in its vision. The two blocks are originally derived from the two buildings that are joined to form the National Gallery. It could also represent two platforms, two dialog boxes etc… Art should be a two way conversation.

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