Singapore patrons warmly welcomed Dr Barabara Jatta to Singapore on 4 June 2023. Her visit was anticipated with excitement when she announced it in Rome during the Asia chapter visit 2023.

Chairman Ben Chang and his wife Kim hosted Dr Jatta to dinner on the evening of 3 April 2023 at “Tung Le Private Dining”. Present were APAVM board members and Asia patrons including Ms Chong Siak Ching, CEO of the National Gallery, Singapore. Besides the exceptional food and wine, Dr Jatta also enjoyed a panoramic view of the Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay and Raffles Place as the restaurant revolved imperceptibly during dinner.

The next day, APAVM hosted an event which could be said to be our most special local event so far: a visit to the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) to view the exhibition “ACM and Anima Mundi: Chinese Christian Art From The Vatican Museums”, with the guest of honour being none other than the Director of the Vatican Museums, Dr Barbara Jatta.

To welcome us to the ACM were Principal Curator and Deputy Director, Mr Clement Onn, Dr Kevin Lam (Curator, Chinese Art), Ms Jane Chan (Manager) and Mr Gerry Gewi (Assistant Manager). It must be mentioned that in the past, Mr Clement Ong was attached to the Anima Mundi, under Director Father Nicola Mapeli.

The ACM visit began with a tour of the galleries on level 2 which focus on Faith and Belief in Asia and was led by Mr Ong and Mr Lam. The galleries we visited were the Ancestors and Ritual Gallery, Ancient Religions Gallery, Islamic Art Gallery, Scholars Gallery finally ending at the Christian Art Gallery.

The Christian Art Gallery has works which exemplifies the exchange of artistic ideas between East and West, and demonstrate religious tolerance and inculturation in Christianity. It is here that the pieces on loan from the Anima Mundi are displayed. On hand were Dr Jatta and Mr Ong to explain the history of the pieces displayed and point out the special features of each piece which bore traditional Christian symbols as well as symbols meaningful in Chinese culture.

Following the visit to ACM, we crossed the road to the historic Singapore Cricket Club for lunch. A leisurely Sunday stroll across the road was the original plan but most of us had to make a quick dash because of the sudden torrential downpour!

During the course of our lunch, Dr Jatta gave a talk on the Vatican Museums. She began by expressing her sincere gratitude to the Asia patrons for their support during the difficult years of the Covid 19 pandemic when the museums were closed and there was no incoming revenue. She spoke of the history of the museum and the priceless art works which are a cultural patrimony. We were shown slides of the art at the Vatican that range from painting, frescoes, tapestry, sculpture and antiquities. She also said that the Vatican museums also take care of the art in the Vatican’s extraterritorial properties in Italy which include the Basilicas of St Paul outside the walls, St John Lateran, St Mary Major, the Holy Stairs and the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

Art deteriorates over time and careful restoration is required to restore it to its original condition. At the Vatican, restoration is undertaken by seven restoration laboratories where meticulous and painstaking restoration work is backed by historical, cultural and scientific research. Art restoration requires funding which is where the Patron chapters worldwide come in.

Dr Jatta then described the latest restoration project at the Vatican that requires funding. This is the restoration of the windows in the Vatican loggias. The Vatican loggias are the corridors of the Apostolic Palace, the walls of which are decorated with frescos by Raphael. The windows of the Loggia are centuries old and they leak when it rains, causing damage to the art within. The windows must be replaced to protect the art within and the ongoing restoration that is taking place.

Following Dr Jatta’s talk, Chairman Ben Chang announced that the Asia Chapter has agreed to sponsor the restoration of the loggia windows and pledged €500,000. This will be the latest project of the Asia Chapter.

Our long Sunday lunch, replete with good food, wine and engaging conversation finally came to an end, drawing to a close a most memorable local APAVM event.