National Gallery Reveals City Hall’s Secrets For The First Time Through A Time-Travelling Exhibition

City Hall: If Walls Could Talk by National Gallery Singapore

Image (LHS) adapted from: @liujingw

Our little red dot has its fair share of historical buildings – one that immediately comes to mind is National Gallery Singapore. As the former City Hall and Supreme Court Building combined, it’s a structure that’s rife with tales of old. Those curious about Singapore’s rich history can go back in time with the Gallery’s newest exhibition City Hall: If Walls Could Talk

It’s filled with multimedia screenings, realistic sound effects, and eye-opening facts that make for a memorable time-travelling journey. Head down now – it’s free for all Singaporeans and PRs! 

A time-travel journey through Singapore’s key events

The whole exhibition is a guided tour of sorts, where fictional character Encik Awang will bring you through the history of City Hall Chamber and its role in days of pre-independence. As Awang had seen much during his time at City Hall, he’ll be revealing interesting snippets of Singapore’s history. 

Keep your eyes peeled as you go through the exhibition – you might just spot your photo somewhere else too! 

Before heading in, make sure to visit the photobooth outside the chamber too for a keepsake – it’s easy to use with ring lights and a countdown timer. Scan the QR code after to save the photo! 

Encik Awang is inspired by a real-life City Hall caretaker who worked in the building for 17 years – he would’ve lived through many of Singapore’s key events! 

Awang delves into his memories of the City Hall Chamber as the show starts. We see an older version of him strolling through National Gallery Singapore, smiling before he proclaims, “Today, I am back”. 

We are then brought back in time with the creaking sounds of a lamplighter climbing up a wooden ladder to light street lamps – shown on one of the screens. These lamps used to dot the streets of pre-modern Singapore and had to be lit manually every evening, no matter rain or shine. 

Bring your Ah ma and Ah gong down – lamplighters used to be a familiar sight in the ‘50s! 

Watch the transformation of the Gallery over the years.

The roaring of fighter planes will surround you as the story proceeds into the next chapter – when the Japanese Occupation hit the shores of Singapore. Here, Awang tells us that the City Hall Chamber was used as a bomb shelter during air-raids. 

Awang also invites the audience to take part in telling Singapore’s stories through the interactive touch panel in the middle of the chamber. As smoke from the Japanese bombs fills the screens, Awang starts coughing and urges us to help him by swiping to “push” the smoke away. Kids will get a thrill out of “saving him” – especially when the smoke clears and peace descends. 

Visitors can also flip through a giant virtual book – which signifies independence as a new chapter in Singapore’s history.

Stories are brought to life – with archival voice recordings and Awang’s narration, you’re bound to feel a gush of pride for our country.

The exhibition takes us through some of Singapore’s key moments – such as the appointment of Singapore’s first and only mayor and the swearing-in of the First Cabinet and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. It almost feels surreal to be standing in the exact same spot where such monumental history went down.

The complete show spans an approximate 20 minutes. The first show starts at 10AM every day and with a frequency of 25 minutes between shows. Additional show timings are available on Friday evenings. Check daily show timings here

Social Wall

The Social Wall features local artwork, with a focus on our Lion City’s yesteryears. 

The exhibition also features a large Social Wall, roughly the size of 12 TV panels. Through this, we’re offered various perspectives of our country, as created by artists who have witnessed Singapore’s history unfold. You can choose what to see with 7 curated themes such as Portraits of Life or Places and Inspiration.

Click on the “Surprise Me!” tab – you’ll be shown artwork based on your selected interests. 

You can also see the artwork IRL as the Social Wall features pieces from Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore since the 19th Century, an exhibition located at the DBS Singapore Gallery on Level 2. 

Get navigation advice by clicking on the ‘Find Me!’ tab at the bottom right. 

New exhibition at National Gallery Singapore

From now to 29th August 2021, head down to the National Gallery Singapore to travel through time with City Hall: If Walls Could Talk. History isn’t always the most interesting topic, but this exhibition uses high-tech displays and interactive features so even non-history buffs will stay captivated throughout. 

With Encik Awang leading the way through this free exhibition, you’re bound to learn plenty of fun facts about Singapore. 

Find out more about City Hall: If Walls Could Talk here


City Hall: If Walls Could Talk by National Gallery Singapore
Address: 1 Saint Andrew’s Road, National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing, Level 3, City Hall Chamber), Singapore 17895
Price: Free for Singaporeans and PRs, $20 for non-Singaporeans. Concessions available.
Time: Sat – Thur 10AM-7PM | Fri 10AM-9PM
Dates: 1st September 2019 – 29th August 2021 

This post was brought to you by National Gallery Singapore.
Photography by Lery Villanueva.


Gladys Chua

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