Celebrating Doraemon, Japan’s most beloved robotic cat, at The Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022.
It’s no secret nowadays, is it? Doraemon is one of the most successful manga characters ever and an official cultural ambassador of Japan.
What I didn’t know till recent years, though, was how enduringly popular the bumbling robotic cat is in Singapore. Just two years ago, we had a Doraemon mini-exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), with over ten figures of him and his quirky gadgets on open-air display. In early 2021, he was all over the front of Paragon too, this time as Gucci’s spokesperson. Or should I say, spokescat.
He‘s regularly the inspiration for festive and seasonal promotions as well. For example, during Monster Curry’s promotion in August 2019 and AMK Hub’s Christmas decoration in 2019.
And now we have The Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022, ongoing at the NMS from now till Feb 5, 2023. One of the largest temporary exhibitions at the NMS ever, this exhibition celebrates Doraemon through the lens of 28 Japanese artists and arts groups, with the icing on the cake being an entire gallery of original drawings by Fujiko F. Fujio, the beloved robot cat’s creator.
It’s a delightful treat for fans. For me, unexpectedly enjoyable too. I visited yesterday and before stepping in, I thought I wouldn’t much resonate with the arty installations; I’ve never been much for modern art. But I ended up deeply impressed by the brilliance of many of the artwork.
For parents, there are kid-orientated displays too, as well as a themed café. Needless to say, there’s also a Doko Demo Door, the prerequisite for any Dora Chan exhibition.
In all, pricey as the ticket is, I think this temp exhibition is well worth visiting.
Four Galleries, and Two Exhibitions for the Price of One
Unlike typical NMS temporary exhibitions, The Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022 is spread over four galleries. On the official map, these are named Act SG, Act I, Act 2, and Manga Doraemon.
The friendly ushers will guide you, as well as strongly recommend that you visit in the above-written sequence. (In other words, you start with Act SG and Act I, which are located at B1 of the museum)
What’s noteworthy here is also that Manga Doraemon is entirely different from the other galleries, whether in terms of content or presentation, thus why official literature promotes the exhibition as a two-in-one.
The café and merchandise shop are also not part of the galleries. As I didn’t see any ticket checkers at these two spots, I presume all visitors to the NMS can patronize the café and shop.
Act I has several video presentations too, for which photos and videography are disallowed. These, like some of the paintings, are “arty” and ponderous. However, the accompanying descriptions are usually able to convey the intended messages.
At this point, I ought to also highlight that while there are some anime-ish paintings, the majority of the artwork in Act SG, Act I, and Act 2 are avant-garde, the sort of displays you’d see in modern art museums.
Some could feel macabre too, perhaps even vaguely disturbing. I’m not saying they are unsuitable for children but if you’re visiting for cutesy stuff, you might want moderate your expectations.
While Act 1 focuses on memories and personal impressions of Doraemon, the installations in Act 2 are inspired by the Doraemon movies. For example, Nobita’s Great Adventure into the Underworld.
Of all the arty installations in Act 2, my favourite is Ryota Kuwakubo’s The bell and the sun – Secret Gadgets Museum, which I didn’t take any pics or videos of since it’s housed in a dark chamber.
The installation consists of various mundane objects such as shuttlecocks, spray bottles, and food covers arranged on the floor. A toy train trundles through these and thanks to a light on the train, enlarged and ever-changing shadows of the objects are cast onto the walls.
Believe me, watching those shadows is a magical experience. It’s like being on an actual train that’s working its way across a mysterious alien cityscape. One that’s full of wondrous and enigmatic structures.
The creativity empowering this masterpiece is simply incredible.
Manga Doraemon is located at the Stamford Gallery, right beside the main entrance to the NMS. The chief attractions here are original artwork by Doraemon creator Fujiko F. Fujio and a replica of his work desk.
A Few Moments of Confusion for Me
I have something to highlight but beforehand, let me state that I’m neither complaining nor challenging the exhibition.
I’ve always read that Doraemon was the creation of two artists. The pseudonym Fujiko Fujio referred to childhood friends Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko. After their professional partnership ended in the 80s, Fujimoto assumed the pseudonym Fujiko F. Fujio while his ex-partner took the pseudonym Fujiko A. Fujio.
On most websites, however, the creator of Doraemon is stated as Fujiko F. Fujio. The Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022 doesn’t explicitly address this matter, but the way exhibits are introduced gives the impression that Fujimoto is the lone creator.
Now, I don’t know what sort of copyright and creative arrangements are at work here. Frankly, most online resources are confusing with this matter too, including Japanese webpages.
My best guess is that it’s because Fujimoto worked on Doraemon alone for a few years after the dissolution of the partnership. Or perhaps there is indeed some sort of legal arrangement concerning authorship. If you have more information outside of what’s written in Wikipedia, etc, I deeply appreciate if you could email me.
Doraemon Café and Merchandise Store
To repeat what’s written above, these aren’t part of the ticketed exhibition.The Café is also staffed by Toraya Confectionery, a Kyoto confectionery founded in, check this out, the 16th century. (That’s like, Sengoku Era)
With or without the Doraemon association, I think the café is worth a visit.
The Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022 ends on Feb 5, 2023. Check the official page for ticketing details.
The National Museum of Singapore is also open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, with last admission at 6.30 pm. I’d say you need at least 90 minutes to comfortably go through all displays of this special exhibition, two hours if you intend to have a snack at the cafe. In other words, if visiting, don’t go later than 5 pm.