Story by Nicholas Lua, Feature Editor | Photos by Serena Quay

Wander around Yale-NUS College enough and you are sure to have noticed the artworks displayed around campus. Why are they here? Who contributed them? Where are they located?

The artworks, a collection of Southeast Asian pieces and American pieces, were granted to the college by individuals associated with Yale University. Hogi Hyun, Yale alumnus ’85 and Founder and Director of Abacus Capital loaned the Southeast Asian works to Yale-NUS. Christine Pillsbury,daughter of Edmund P. Pillsbury, who was the founding director of the Yale Centre of British Art and curator of the Yale Art Gallery, donated the four American works. Ms. Pillsbury also curated all the works.

Mr. Hyun, the owner of one of the most extensive Southeast Asian art collections, envisioned the loaning of his artworks as a way of contributing to the narrative of Yale-NUS, and shaping the history and legacy of the college. At Yale-NUS, students have an “exceptional opportunity to define what the liberal arts mean.” “We’d like to see … very challenging, productive leaders … able to integrate cultures and distinctly bring the world together a little bit more than it is today, by creating understanding.” he said.

His goal with the pieces was to achieve a rich collection of artworks across different countries and through different time periods. Good art, he says, serves as an emotional reference point for a person in time and place. Exposing students to such pieces on campus, without necessarily studying them in a formal way, is a “very powerful part of the educational experience” in college. He hoped students would resonate with the artworks and recall having contemplated them when exposed to similar pieces later in life.

Ms. Pillsbury inherited the American pieces from her late father, and donated them to Yale-NUS in his memory. The artists are either deceased or currently working in the Philadelphia, New York, and Connecticut areas. “All of them had either a tenuous or direct link with Yale,” she said.   

The philosophy behind her arrangement of the artworks ensures that the individual pieces enhance the spaces they are located in. “I’m very much driven by aesthetics,” she said.

Students Keziah Quek ’17, and Lishani Ramanayake ’18 are working with Ms. Pillsbury to create a catalogue that will explain more about the art pieces and the artists behind them.

The Octant spoke to several members of the Yale-NUS community about the paintings. These were their first candid reactions:

Ladies of Peace (Year Unknown) by Astari, CIPE Office

“I’m puzzled by the unfathomable look in the eyes of the two characters portrayed… What relation do they have to each other? How do they feel about the scenes of turmoil in the background? What have they done with the gun they’re holding? Will they obtain their liberation? This painting makes me want to find out more.” -Francesca Maviglia, ’19.

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Asinta (2010) by Alfredo Esquillo Jr., Cendana College Office

“A mix between a castle, NS, chocolate and an angel.” –Kei Franklin, ’17.

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Memories (2007) by Jerry Morada, Saga College Office

“I grew up in Cebu, the Philippines, and the reason why I was moved by “Memories” is because it reminded me so much of home. It reminded me specifically of my father’s ancestral home in Danao.” –Lawrence Ypil, Writing Fellow.

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Towering Myth 1, by Alfred Esquillo Jr., Elm College Office

“Are his wings made out of letters? Oh wait, no – they’re chains… that’s sick, man.” –Jerald Lim, ’19.

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