Raffles in Southeast Asia

Raffles in Southeast Asia


From: February 1, 2019, 10-00 PM
Till: April 28, 2019, 07-00 PM
Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place Singapore 179555
Phone: +65 6332 7798
Visit Website   |   RSVP by Email

This exhibition presents a complex, multilayered picture of Raffles while presenting the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Java and the Malay world.

1 FEB 2019 - 28 APR 2019

Daily from 10.00 - 7.00 PM
Fridays from 10.00 - 9.00 P


Sir Stamford Raffles was an official with the British East India Company stationed in Southeast Asia between 1805 and 1824. He is known for establishing Singapore as a British port, as the author of The History of Java, and as a collector of natural history and cultural materials. Opinions of Raffles have changed over time. He has been viewed as a scholarly expert on the region, a progressive reformer, a committed imperialist, and even a plagiariser.In keeping with the Asian Civilisations Museum’s mission to explore encounters and connections, this exhibition presents a complex, multilayered picture of Raffles while showcasing the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Java and the Malay world.

The presentation of this exhibition is a collaboration between the British Museum and the Asian Civilisations Museum.

1 FEB 2019 - 28 APR 2019
Daily from 10.00 - 9.00 PM
Fridays from 10.00 - 7.00 PM

Contemporary Artwork

Natural Progression
Grace Tan

Studio assistants: Ong Si Hui, Fiona Seow, Amber Phang, Lau Tse Xuan

The Work
The botanical forms within n. 355 – natural progression were individually hand-crafted from industrial materials: polypropylene and nylon tag pins. These banal materials are commonly used for industrial and commercial applications. The arrangement of these organic looking yet artificial forms, bathed in stark fluorescent light, evokes a sterile, laboratory-like atmosphere.

n. 355 – natural progression is an attempt to delve more deeply into the world in which we now live. It is a storehouse, where each recorded specimen is a product and tangible marker of human actions and interventions, of a particular time, place, and condition. Like the natural history objects collected by Stamford Raffles in his time, this display records a moment in ours.

The Artist
Grace Tan began her practice in 2003 under the kwodrent series to explore wearable structures based on the study of rectangles and construction methods. Her hands-on approach and interest in material and construction led her wearable works to evolve into sculptural objects and site-specific installations. Influenced by geometry, her works are distinguished by an intrinsic tactile nuance that heightens the matter and form.

Tan was awarded the President's Design Award for Building as a Body in 2012 and the Young Artist Award in 2013. In 2014, her collaborative entry with FARM Architects, GROUND was selected for National Gallery Singapore’s art connector project.

Tan has exhibited extensively within Singapore and internationally on platforms including Singapore Biennale 2013, Setouchi Triennale 2013, President’s Young Talents 2013, State of Design [Melbourne] from 2008 to 2010, London Design Week 2006, and Aichi World Expo 2005. Recent solo exhibitions include A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice at FOST Gallery Singapore [2018] and Materials and Method at POLA Museum Annex Tokyo [2018]. Selected group exhibitions include Shapes in Symmetry at Nanyang Technological University ADM Gallery, “And of such things” at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore [2016], The Measure of Your Dwelling: Singapore as Unhomed at ifa Gallery Berlin [2015], and Market Forces 2014, Erasure: From Conceptualism to Abstraction at Osage Gallery Hong Kong [2014].

In recent years, Tan has worked on a number of large-scale public art commissions in Singapore. They include Woven Field at Downtown Line Little India Station, PLANES and CURRENTS at Marina One, SYMMETRY at DUO, and n. 333 – State of Equilibrium at Raffles City.

Curator Tours

Wednesdays, 20 February (click here for tickets)
20 Mar (link coming soon)
17 Apr (link coming soon)
7.30pm to 8.30pm
Tickets: $40 per person

Discover more about Raffles’ time in Singapore and the region in this exclusive after-hours tour with one of the exhibition curators. Have a closer look at Raffles’ personal collections from the British Museum and the British Library, and hear behind-the-scenes stories about setting up the exhibition.

This special tour happens after-hours, when the museum is closed to the public. Entry is solely for registered participants, and tour fees cover access to all galleries.

Dr. Stephen Murphy
Senior Curator, Southeast Asia, ACM

Stephen holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and specialises in the art and archaeology of early Buddhism in Southeast Asia. He is co-editor of Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology (2014), and regularly contributes papers to leading academic journals.

Naomi Wang
Assistant Curator, Southeast Asia, ACM

Naomi Wang holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of Toronto. She joined the National Heritage Board in 2012, overseeing Mainland Southeast Asia acquisitions and exhibitions at the Singapore Art Museum. She joined the Asian Civilisations Museum in 2015 and is currently Assistant Curator, Southeast Asia.

ACM Symposium: Revisiting Raffles

8 and 9 March 2019
Ngee Ann Auditorium
Free with registration

To register, kindly send your full name and email address to [email protected].

This symposium, held in conjunction with the exhibition Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman, co-curated by the Asian Civilisations Museum and the British Museum, explores in greater depth the themes and topics presented in the show. Leading scholars based in Southeast Asian and international subject specialists and curators will add colour and depth to the life and work of Sir Stamford Raffles.

8 March

6.15pmWelcome address by Kennie Ting, Director, Asian Civilisations Museum
6.30pmThe Company You Keep: Raffles, the East India Company, and the Legacy of 19th Century Colonialism
Keynote lecture by Dr Farish Noor, Associate Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

9 March

9.45amPanel 1: Raffles and his collecting
Chaired by Daniel Tham, Curator, National Museum of Singapore
1.30pmPanel 2: Raffles and Southeast Asia
Chaired by Professor Peter Borschberg, National University of Singapore
4.15pmDiscussion – Where now for Raffles? Assessing his legacy and future
Chaired by Professor Kwa Chong Guan, National University of Singapore
6.15pmClosing remarks by Kennie Ting
6.30pmEnd of programme


Raffles’ Collections From Java: European Evidence of Civilisation
Alexandra Green
Saturday, 2 February 2019
Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum

Free admission to programmes, discounted admission of only $5 into Raffles in Southeast Asia

This talk explores Sir Stamford Raffles’ collections from Java and Sumatra, addressing the key questions of what he collected and why, as well as what the shape of the collection can tell us about him, his ideas and beliefs, his contemporaries, and Java, including interactions between colonisers and locals. Raffles’ Javanese collections consist of material related to contemporary society and the island’s Hindu-Buddhist past. Viewed in connection with his book, The History of Java, it is argued that each group of material was gathered to support Raffles’ argument that Britain should have kept Java as a colony instead of returning it to the Dutch after the Napoleonic Wars.

This lecture is free. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No registration is required.


[email protected]: To Sir (Stamford Raffles) With Love
Saturday, 23 February 2019
1pm to 5pm

Free admission to programmes, Only $5 into Raffles in Southeast Asia

Ever wondered about the stories surrounding modern Singapore’s founding father? Join us at the ACM and catch a dramatic performance, or go on one of our special exhibition tours. Take a photo at our instaworthy wonderland interpretive space, or read a book at the pop-up library. Don’t forget to tag #acmsg on your day out!

Weekend Festival: Wanderland
Friday, 29 March, 7pm to 9pm
Saturday, 30 Mar, 1pm to 9pm
Sunday, 31 Mar, 1pm to 5pm

Free admission to programmes, discounted admission of only $5 into Raffles in Southeast Asia

Wander and wonder through ACM’s first fruit food market, and have a cup of bubble tea on us!* Participate in a puppet performance, watch fusion music performed right in our galleries, or decorate your own kite for a community art installation. Create your own wanderland – this weekend only. Don’t sleep!

*While supplies last. Terms and conditions apply.


Keen to find out more? The Raffles in Southeast Asia resource guide introduces the ’s collection of materials on Raffles. It presents a selection of reference materials relating to the studies carried out by Raffles and his associates in Java and Sumatra, as well as the cultural and natural history objects he collected from the region.

Download the resource guide or browse through our copy of it at the interactive diorama space at the Level 2 Foyer.

5 mins walk from Raffles Place MRT Station (Exit H)
More Info

Singaporeans & Permanent Residents | $12
Foreign Residents & Tourists | $20

Tickets available for sale at Asian Civilisation Museum or hit the button below to book via SISTIC.

Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman

Edited by Stephen A. Murphy, Naomi Wang, and Alexandra Green

Paperback, 336pp

ISBN: 978-981-11-9982-0

Price: $50 before GST

This catalogue, published in January 2019, accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the Asian Civilisations Museum, co-curated with the British Museum. Five essays, dealing with Raffles collecting in Southeast Asia (what he did and didn’t collect and why), the history of his reputation, and the politics and art of Java and the region before and during Raffles time, will give readers a well-rounded picture of the man whose name is so well know in Singapore. Full-colour illustrations of all the exhibited objects are included. The book reveals that Raffles’ legacy is more complex than is often understood.

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Location Map for Raffles in Southeast Asia

Asian Civilisations Museum

Empress Place, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

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