Contemporary art in… Singapore: Art Radar guide



Art Radar’s guide to making the most of Singapore’s art scene.

In the latest of Art Radar’s Contemporary Art In… Art Guides we look at Singapore, the erstwhile cultural desert that’s fast-becoming one of Asia’s top art hubs. Our art guide contains everything you need to know for a successful visit: from where to find the best galleries to what to wear and when to go.

Eko Prawoto, 'Wormhole', 2013, bamboo installation, dimensions variable, artist collection. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Eko Prawoto, ‘Wormhole’, 2013, bamboo installation, dimensions variable, artist collection. Singapore Biennale 2013 commission. Image courtesy the artist.

Singapore’s contemporary art scene has undergone steady transformation in recent years, as the city-state presses ahead with ambitious plans to become an international art hub. Long gone are the days of being labelled as a cultural desert. The Lion City is growing rapidly to rival Hong Kong and Tokyo as the hippest destination in Asia. It’s a great time to be in Singapore right now to witness first-hand the transformation that is taking place.

Art Radar breaks it all down for our readers with a list of the must-see art sights, and the best places to rest your head after a full day of gallery-hopping.

When to see contemporary art in Singapore

There’s no better time to be in Singapore than during the Singapore Art Week (January), when the city’s visual art scene is buzzing with dozens of exhibitions taking place across town alongside the mammoth art fair Art Stage Singapore. From blockbuster exhibitions to fringe events and engaging talks to special film screenings, there is something for everyone.

Inside Art Stage Singapore 2013. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

Inside Art Stage Singapore 2013. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

Keep an eye out for the major contemporary art events listed below and try to time your visit to coincide with one of them:

  • Art Stage Singapore – Kicking off the international arts calendar, Art Stage Singapore is held every January. The art fair, which was introduced in 2010, has a distinct Asian identity. The fair showcases over 100 galleries, of which a majority are Asia-Pacific based galleries.

  • The Affordable Art Fair – Its launch edition was in 2010. Today the highly popular art fair is a fixture in the local arts calendar and is the place to go for some bargain, good-quality art and to discover works by emerging artists. The fair organisers have decided to hold a four-day spring edition in May 2014, as well as their usual autumn fair in November.

  • Singapore Biennale – Started in 2006, the biennale is held in the autumn every other year. The fourth edition of the Singapore Biennale closed on 16 February 2014, and showcased works by 82 artists and artist collectives hailing mainly from Southeast Asia. Deliberately eschewing blue-chip international artists, many of the artists being featured are little known and have never exhibited before – thus making their debut within a rich and dynamic platform for discovery.

Singapore Art Museum. Image courtesy SAM.

Singapore Art Museum. Image courtesy SAM.

Contemporary art must-sees

Singapore Art Museum and Sam at 8Q, 71 Bras Basah Road

Opened nearly two decades ago in 1996 in a restored 19th century mission school, the Singapore Art Museum has amassed one of the world’s largest public collections of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art. In addition to drawing from its own collection, the museum also collaborates with leading international art institutions to present shows by both local and international artists from diverse backgrounds working across a range of artistic and cultural disciplines. Don’t forget to check out the museum’s extension building, SAM at 8Q around the corner on 8 Queen Street, which features a fresh, multi-disciplinary, interactive and community-oriented programming.

Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), 41 Robertson Quay

Established in 2002, the STPI is arguably one of the best and most innovative printmaking institutes in the world. A catalyst for new ideas and dialogues on contemporary art in print and paper, the STPI collaborates with emerging and established artists to push the frontiers of printmaking and papermaking. Together with its creative workshop team, STPI Gallery presents innovative exhibitions and programmes to the public.

An artist rendering of Singapore's gallery district, Gillman Barracks. Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

An artist rendering of Singapore’s gallery district, Gillman Barracks. Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road (Enter via Malan Road)

Opened in 2012, Gillman Barracks is the newest addition to the Singapore’s budding art scene. Located on the site of a former military camp named after the late General Sir Webb Gillman, the colonial-era barracks has been transformed into a USD10 million centre for international galleries. Explore this contemporary art destination, home to 15 of Asia’s leading galleries and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), which features a variety of programmes from artist residencies to exhibition and research programmes.

Other museums worth visiting:

Installation view of Thukral & Tagra's solo exhibition "Windows of Opportunity", 2013, Art Plural Gallery, Singapore. Image courtesy the artists.

Installation view of Thukral & Tagra’s solo exhibition “Windows of Opportunity”, 2013, Art Plural Gallery, Singapore. Image courtesy the artists.

Our top picks for contemporary art galleries in Singapore

  • 2902, 222 Queen Street, #02-02
  • Art Plural Gallery, 38 Armenian St
  • Centre for Contemporary Art, 43 Malan Road, 9 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks
  • Fost Gallery, 1 Lock Road, #01-02 Gillman Barracks
  • Future Perfect, 47 Malan Road, #01-22, Gillman Barracks
  • Galerie Steph, 9 Keppel Road, #02-06 Artspace@Helutrans
  • IKKAN Art, 39 Keppel Road, #01-05, Artspace@Helutrans
  • The Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICAS), LASALLE College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street
  • Objectifs, 56A Arab Street
  • Pearl Lam Galleries, 9 Lock Road, #03-22, Gillman Barracks
  • Sundaram Tagore, 5 Lock Road, #01-05,
  • Yavuz, 51 Waterloo Street, #03-01

You can also pick up a copy of Time Out Singapore and I-S Magazine for their picks of the best shows and happenings.

Jennifer Ng, 'Pulling At Grass To Make It Grow', 2013, Elastic cord, food dye, dimension variable. Image courtesy Yavuz Fine Art.

Jennifer Ng, ‘Pulling At Grass To Make It Grow’, 2013, Elastic cord, food dye, dimension variable. Image courtesy Yavuz Fine Art.

What to wear in Singapore on your art trip

Singapore’s climate is characterised by uniform temperature all year round, with high humidity and abundant rainfall. The temperature hovers around a diurnal range of a minimum of 23 °C (73.4 °F) and a maximum of 32 °C (89.6 °F). With no true distinct seasons, pack only your summer clothes and always bring an umbrella. Just a couple of tips for women: wear sensible shoes when gallery-hopping, and pack a flat iron and hair spray if your hair is prone to frizzy curls in humid weather.

Getting Around

Getting around Singapore is fast, efficient and affordable. The public transportation system covers a variety of transport modes such as bus, rail and taxi. The MRT operates from 6am to 12am daily. MRT fares range from SGD1.00 – SGD2.30 for single trip standard tickets.

Download the SMRTConnect app on your smartphone to access real-time information on SMRT bus and train arrivals, or book an SMRT taxi. The Singapore Tourist Pass offers unlimited travel for tourists on Singapore’s public transport system. For as little as SGD6.70 a day, visitors can take any number of rides on Singapore’s public buses and trains. The Singapore Tourist Pass is available at selected MRT stations. For more information, click here.

Alternatively, you can also download the ComfortDelGro Taxi Booking app to book a Comfort taxi and City Cab. Finally, for those who wish to travel in style, download the Uber app onto your smartphone to book a private hire car.

A feat of modern design: the lobby at the New Majestic Lobby, Singapore. Image from thecoolhunter.net.

A feat of modern design: the lobby at the New Majestic Lobby, Singapore. Image from thecoolhunter.net.

Where to Stay

Naumi – Tucked away in the Central Business District (CBD), this boutique hotel is situated right behind the famous Raffles Hotel. The rooms are spacious and well-designed. It even boasts a roof top infinity pool with panoramic view of the city.

New Majestic Hotel – This stylish and quirky hotel is located in the heart of Singapore’s historic Chinatown. Every room tells a different story, offering a blend of contemporary styles together with vintage and designer fittings. The hotel also features original artworks from emerging Singapore artists, which are cleverly integrated into the design of each room.

Capella – Located on Sentosa Island, just 15 minutes from town, this luxury hotel is the perfect escape. Spread across 30-acres of lush grounds and gardens, Capella is built on a gently terraced knoll, with stunning views of the South China Sea. With its blend of colonial architecture and modern comforts, the hotel offers comfortable rooms and villas, personalised service, gourmet cuisine and a spa.

Yvonne Wang

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Related Topics: art tourism, art spaces, art districts, art fairs, biennales, Singapore art scene

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