Gallerists and artists are optimistic that Singapore’s Gillman Barracks will have a positive impact on the contemporary art scene in Asia.

Gillman Barracks, which officially opened on 14 September 2012, is Singapore’s newest contemporary art district, with fifteen international contemporary art galleries, two not-for-profit contemporary art centres and three eateries. Art Radar was in attendance on opening night.

External view of Partners and Mucciaccia Gallery along Lock Road. Image by Art Radar.

External view of Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery along Lock Road. Image by Art Radar.

On the economic savvy of having a cluster of galleries selling different genres of art, Massimiliano Mucciaccia, director at Partners & Mucciaccia gallery, draws an analogy with the food industry.

It’s good for everyone. Because you come here and you can walk across and see other galleries. We can’t force anyone to come buy a Picasso. … You like it or you don’t. You can have a beautiful Japanese restaurant, but maybe tonight you want to have Italian food. When you are ready, there has to be the Italian restaurant. … Otherwise, you’re ready and there’s nothing. If you want to choose and there’s no choice, what do you do?

Facade of Mizuma Gallery at Gillman Barracks. Image by Art Radar.

Facade of Mizuma Gallery at Gillman Barracks. Image by Art Radar.

Efforts for a cohesive Gillman Barracks

Concurrent with the individual shows at the galleries is an exhibition curated by Eugene Tan, titled “Gillman Barracks: Encounter, Experience and Environment“. The works in this exhibition, placed in the various spaces at Gillman Barracks that have yet to be claimed, have been created by Singapore artists – Heman Chong, Genevieve Chua, Jane Lee, Donna Ong, Ana Prvacki, Erika Tan, Vertical Submarine and Ming Wong – and international artists – Indieguerillas and Filippo Sciascia from Indonesia, Yayoi Kusama and Kishio Suga from Japan, Jang Min-Seung and Jung Jaeil from Korea, Gary-Ross Pastrana from the Philippines, Yu Ji from China and Joris Van de Moortel from Belgium. Tan curated the Singapore platform at Art Stage Singapore earlier this year.

Donna Ong, 'And We Dreamt We Were Birds', 2012, beds, cables, variable dimensions. Image by Art Radar.

Donna Ong, 'And We Dreamt We Were Birds', 2012, beds, cables, variable dimensions. Image by Art Radar.

Gillman Barracks was abuzz on opening night, and the local and regional art communities were out in full force. Art Radar talked to a few of the guests, and the feedback was generally positive: the Barracks had become an instant must-visit destination on the Singapore art map.

A contemporary art collector from Indonesia who prefers not to be named likens Gillman Barracks to Dubai’s Al Quoz area where art galleries congregate. He believes that it is always good to have galleries gathered in one place because if one gallery holds an exhibition opening, visitors are likely to pop into surrounding spaces, too. That said, he believes Singapore still has a long way to go to before it is seen as the go-to destination for art collectors.

Singapore, with Art Stage and Gillman Barracks, will be a new destination for contemporary art in Asia, but it will not take the position of Hong Kong or Shanghai. There is still a lot [that needs to be done] to develop Singapore as the top position to visit for art.

Genevieve Chua, 'It Eludes Me, But I'm Trying To Describe It To You', 2012, common ivy in room, variable dimensions. Image by Art Radar.

Genevieve Chua, 'It Eludes Me, But I'm Trying To Describe It To You', 2012, common ivy in room, variable dimensions. Image by Art Radar.

Discourse for the opening weekend

In addition to a broadsheet entitled “ARTICLE: The Singapore Art Review 2012”, which was distributed to guests on opening night, talks were held throughout the opening weekend. Artist lectures were given by Australian Christian Thompson, Malaysian Sulaiman Esa and Chinese Zhang Enli with international art critic and curator Hou Hanru. There was also a group talk by Indonesian artists Arahmaiani, Indieguerillas and Filippo Sciascia. Tagore gave a special gallery talk titled “Sharing on the ‘Big Picture’” and a curator’s panel discussion in two parts was held as well. The first was “New Ecologies of Art”, with speakers David Elliott, Kwok Kian Chow and Charles Merewether, moderated by Eugene Tan. The second was “Art Histories in Asia”, with speakers Patrick Flores, Hou Hanru, Wee Wan Ling, moderated by Michael Walsh.

Vertical Submarine, 'A Sign Of The Times', 2012, wood, enamel paint and aspiring art students (Chen Ming Shi and Lim Cheng Jun). Image by Art Radar.

Vertical Submarine, 'A Sign Of The Times', 2012, wood, enamel paint and aspiring art students (Chen Ming Shi and Lim Cheng Jun). Image by Art Radar.

Share your thoughts on Gillman Barracks with us!

On opening night, Art Radar managed to visit only some of the galleries in the vast Gillman Barracks, so we want to know what you think of this newest art district in Singapore. Were you there on opening night? Did you attend the talks by artists and curators on the opening weekend? If you have not visited Gillman Barracks yet, would you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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Related Topics: art in Singapore, art districtsgallery shows, government art funding, Asia expands

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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