While most of us are adapting to our new school term, our new writers, Winnie and Chloe, had the exciting opportunity of being invited to their first ever media preview of the Doraemon Exhibition.
First stop: Manga Doraemon Original Drawings Exhibition
Held by the National Museum in conjunction with high-end Japanese fashion brand, LEYOUKI, much excitement has been brewing around this exhibition as it is the first time it has ever been held outside Japan.
Zone 1: Origin stories, dorayaki and the desk where it all started
The exhibits are split into three different zones. The first one introduces Doraemon’s origins, while the last two are various artists’ takes on Doraemon and friends, both locally and internationally. Hosting 30 artists’ works of art expressed through various platforms from acrylic paintings to holograms, the museum is packed with a myriad of different pieces to ponder upon.
Upon arrival, we were handed colourful cups depicting Takeshi Murakami’s artwork and promised Doraemon-inspired dorayaki.
Dorayaki from Doraemon’s Cafe! おいしかった
After some briefing instructions, we were given some headsets and ushered into the first exhibit depicting a selection of Doraemon's comic drafts. Reproductions of Fujiko F.’s drafts for Doraemon comics were lovingly preserved in photo frames and hung on the walls of the gallery, accompanied by translations that were thoughtfully provided on each featured page.
Author Fujiko F. Fujio’s original manga manuscript
The main highlights of this section were the display of three original pages of Fujiko’s work on his manga, and the reproduction of his work desk that one may pose at; a truly Instagrammable location.
The Insta-worthy desk of author Fujiko F. Fujio
Zone 2 and 3: Cafe Toraya, merchandise and the Final Weapon
The second and third parts of the exhibitions took up the entire basement area of the National Museum, coupled with the Doraemon cafe. The cafe was opened in collaboration with Toraya, a luxurious confectionary from Kyoto whose recipes dates back as far as the 16th century! They once served the imperial court, and we certainly felt like royalty eating the fluffy dorayaki (a Japanese pancake sandwich), which complemented the rich azuki (red bean) filling.
The merchandise store is also worth a visit, with many artworks gracing the covers of notebooks, files, cups and t-shirts. Special mention goes to the washi tape, a subtle yet elegant way of professing your undying love for this 22nd-century blue earless robotic cat on everything you own.
Doraemon Cafe - partnerships/deserts by Toraya Confectionery (origin. Kyoto)
One particularly striking artwork in the 2nd exhibit was Sebastian’s 2.6m tall hot-pink Doraemon, named the Final Weapon. The rationale behind his artwork was materialising his idea of Doraemon, which he imagined to be pink, colourful, and with a tongue sticking out. He used many trinkets from his personal collection to decorate the giant Doraemon, giving it a whimsical, playful vibe.
Undeterred by people’s criticisms of kawaii as an art concept, Masuda kept his viewpoint and go the full way, creating the pink Doraemon. He further alluded that with the heightened adverse events such as terrorism, attacks, and feuds, he wanted to bring joy to the world. Indeed, we are entertained by his gigantic sculpture.
To add to the sense of fun, all the decorations that were put into the sculpture were made with a frenzy of materials he had obtained from various countries – yes, do spot a My Little Pony doll during your visit to this enormous artwork!
2.6-metre sculpture of kawaii Doraemon by Sebastian Masuda
Local artists: Space-cat and world peace
In front of the second and third exhibitions, one would be welcomed by artworks from two of our homegrown local artists, Jahan Loh and Leslie Kee. As the creator of the friendly yet unique take on Doraemon, Loh has always been the self-proclaimed #1 Doraemon fan and is most fascinated by time travel. He even yearned for the robotic cat to whisk him away to various dimensions on intergalactic journeys.
With his profound love towards Doraemon and his unique interpretation of the character as a spaceman (in that case “space-cat”), the brass sculpture of himself accompanied by the three-eyed Doraemon was birthed. During the fireside chat, he explained that Doraemon has been his time travelling companion as he navigates his life, from his childhood years to his present life as a full-fledged artist in his adulthood.
Loh's concept reflects both his interest in multi-dimensional time travel and his experience of Doraemon as a beloved character that supported him personally. Loh further derived Fujio’s comics in terms of the intergalactic adventures of Doraemon, creating his contemporary expression with a splash of vivid colours, shown on his digital print on the canvas.
Jahan Loh’s Intergalactic Voyagers
Next to Loh’s canvas lies the 9 magnificent portraits of Leslie Kee’s collection titled shades of blue. Kee works closely with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) and is immensely concerned with upholding and promoting equality. The photographer sees Doraemon as an inspiring childhood character, whose purpose is to drive peace in the world, and took shots of various shades of blue.
His work “Imagine” highlights blue as imagination, creativity and his strong message to the globe “Imagine Love, Imagine Peace, Imagine One, Imagine You, Imagine Me, Imagine Doraemon”
The last section was a visual treat to be up close to Takashi Murakami’s artwork “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If We Could Do Such a Thing”. The mural was made especially for the original 2002 Doraemon exhibition in Japan, featuring the iconic flowers and Doraemon scenes in gold and platinum leaf mounted on an aluminium frame.
Takashi Murakami “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If We Could Do Such a Thing”
There are still lots to explore with many Doraemon scenes being reinterpreted by various artists on mediums such as sculptures, digital accounts, and even animal hide! We won’t spill too much, but here is a little teaser of some of the things you can look forward to during your visit to THE Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022.
The day ended with an insightful sharing session with local and international artists on the inspiration behind their artworks, and what Doraemon meant to them individually.
Fireside Chat between (from left to right) NMS Director Ms. Chung May Khuen, Mr. Leslie Kee, Mr. Sebastian Masuda, Mr. Jahan Loh, Mr. Yuki Imamura (Director of LEYOUKI), and host.
It was fascinating to see how Doraemon was able to transcend geographical boundaries and time to become a figure of inspiration to many: As a symbol of peace, laughter, diversity, imagination, and the future.
The exhibition is a nostalgia writ large for both of us, and the juxtaposition of modern art with traditional comics was a fitting homage to the blue robotic cat that we have all come to know and love. Beyond that, it’s heartening to see the Singaporean museum and arts scene becoming increasingly vibrant and diverse, and that the quality of curation has continued to improve.
A highly immersive experience and a walk down memory lane, all for $30! Head on down to THE Doraemon Exhibition Singapore 2022 today, especially with National Museum Singapore only a few steps away from SMU. It closes on 5th Feb, so don’t wait any longer!