The Southeast Asian Ceramic Society organised an inaugural exhibition at the University of Singapore Art Museum in 1971. This landmark exhibition consisted of 350 examples of Khmer, Annamese and early Thai ceramics, drawn largely from the university collection, curated by Mr William Willetts, who was the museum’s curator at the time. A substantial number of pieces also came from the collections of our first president, Mrs. Helen Ling, and other early members including Don Sinclair, Dr. & Mrs. Earl Lu, K. T. Goh, S. R. Parker, Professor & Mrs. K. J. Ratnam, and others.
The historian John Guy has noted that this “presentation of the then little known ceramic tradition of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam caused a stir amongst the oriental ceramic cognoscenti.” Furthermore, that “the Willetts pioneering Catalogue for the Society inspired a generation of younger scholars and stimulated the interest of government archaeological departments throughout Southeast Asia.” As a consequence, ceramic societies were to emerge in ensuing years in West Malaysia, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong, following the lead of the Singapore chapter.
The Society held 10 exhibitions in the period 1971-2009, and since 1999 has organised an annual William Willetts Lecture, which is held immediately after the Society’s Annual General Meeting.
Click here for a list of our distinguished William Willetts lecturers since 1999.
In 2009, the Society celebrated its 40th anniversary and published a new book entitled Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery. An exhibition of the same name was held at the NUS Museum, Singapore from 14 November 2009 to 5 September 2010.
In 2012, the Society reinforced its online presence through the digitisation of some of the society’s publications, which you will find on our Publications page.
In 2019, the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary, the same year Singapore commemorated its bicentennial. Special events included educational lectures open to the public, a trip to the kiln sites of Jingdezhen and Longquan, pot-handling sessions with collectors, a special exhibition in the National Library of Singapore, a symposium co-arranged with SMU, visits to the Heritage Conservation Centre, a field trip to Sukhothai, Thailand, our annual members’ ceramics & book sale as well as a full calendar of guest speakers.
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