Hidden gems: little-known museums in Singapore, London & NY

By John Walton, May 5 2011
Hidden gems: little-known museums in Singapore, London & NY

We're big fans of spending a couple of hours in a museum while on a business trip abroad.

It's a great opportunity to recharge your batteries, and can often lead to breakthroughs in business problems at the back of your mind while your brain is in a different gear. 

But too many city guides just send you to the big museums filled with tourist hordes and school groups -- hardly a relaxing way to spend some off-time, and not satisfying either.

We've put together our top suggestions for the hidden museum gems in Singapore, London and New York to choose over the big name collections.


“Singapore has museums?” you may scoff. “What do they showcase – packets of confiscated chewing gum?”

In fact, the bustling city-state has four main museums, from the obligatory National Museum to the fascinating Peranakan Museum which explores the region’s original Peranakan culture. But we suggest you skip those, and turn left when the tourists and schoolkids turn right.

Our first pick is the Red Dot Museum (Maxwell Road), dedicated to products that have won the international Red Dot award for outstanding design. It’s only the second Red Dot museum in the world – the parent establishment is in Essen, Germany

Picture: Brian Duffy

The space is a bit stark and it could do with more signage telling the story of these many surprisingly familiar products, but it’s a rewarding way to shift mental gears while enjoying  two hours in air-conditioning.

And although you can’t quite escape the tourists at the newly-opened Artscience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, it's fast becoming a must-see for its visiting collections and unique takes on sometimes conventional subjects. Open now until the end of October are immersive exhibits on the works of Van Gogh and Salvador Dalí.

Picture: WIlliam Cho


London is full of world-class museums, including the British Museum -- home to uniquely priceless antiquities including the Rosetta Stone and (more controversially) the Elgin Marbles.

Picture: HAM

A quieter, more modern option is the Design Museum, which has invariably fascinating exhibits on all kinds of design -- graphic, fashion, industrial, product and architectural. 

It's a short stroll from the new office district near London Bridge, or just over the river from the City financial district.

Picture: cgpgrey.com

New York

New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the world's greatest collections. 

The Egyptian Temple of Dendur, disassembled during the construction of the Aswan Dam (which would have submerged the temple) and reassembled stone by stone in the Met, is a huge draw.

Picture: Ronen Perry

So is the Hudson River School of landscape painters, with many intricately realistic examples of the style. And the Arms & Armor collection is absolutely fascinating.

But the Met is often packed with tour groups and schoolchildren on field trips, making the Egyptian, Mediaeval, African and American art sections particularly noisy.

Elsewhere in NYC, the Whitney Museum of American Art on the Upper East Side -- a short walk from the Met -- is quieter, with fewer school groups bustling around its particularly interesting collection of 20th and 21st century American art.

Picture: Gryffindor

What's your favourite art or design museum for a couple of hours' break on a business trip?

Let us know in the comments below or drop us a tweet: @AusBT

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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