Weekend in Singapore: A guide to art, exhibitions and culture around the island 72 hours
Art Republik lists must-see places of art and culture for that perfect weekend around the island — or 72 hours to be exact
Spending a weekend in Singapore? From museums that are dedicated to modern art from the region to Peranakan Culture, art spaces that are devoted to international contemporary practices, and independent cinemas that screen cult classics to local productions, Singapore truly has a lot to offer in the way of art and culture.
Singapore Art Museum
Housed in a spectacular 19th century former Catholic boys’ school, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) first opened its doors in 1996 as the first art museum in Singapore. Now, SAM has a significant collection of Southeast Asian contemporary artworks as well as pieces from wider Asia such as Japan, China, India and Korea, representing artists that fall under the categories of pioneering, mid-career and emerging. Its most recent acquisition include works by Singaporean artists Jeremy Sharma and Robert Zhao, as well as international names such as Natee Utarit and Mella Jaarsma. Since 2011, SAM has hosted the Singapore Biennale, including the current ‘An Atlas of Mirrors’ that are divided into nine ‘conceptual zones’ and six venues. SAM’s public programmes include tours of the collection and exhibitions by the creative director and curators, art making workshops and special events such as CreativeMornings. Those in need of refreshments after a full day of art can choose from the two cafes and an Italian restaurant conveniently located within the premises. The museum’s shop Supermama was featured at Maison et Objet Paris and Blouin ArtInfo, and is a great place to find quirky, one-of-a-kind gifts.
Where: 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555
SAM at 8Q
Serving as an extension to the main SAM building, SAM at 8Q is also housed at a conservation building that has been transformed to accommodate various exhibitions, including a Moving Image Gallery. Opened in 2008, SAM at 8Q is geared at serving contemporary art to be enjoyed by the family, events and activities here are curated for adult and children alike. Every year, 8Q facilitates ‘Imaginarium’, a children-focused exhibition, with the sixth edition entitled ‘Over the Ocean, Under The Sea’. Featuring works by seven artists and artist-groups including Janice Wong and Papermoon Puppet Theatre, the exhibition encourages visitors to explore the mysteries of underwater world through a range of interactive works. The playful educational experience is also furthered by screenings in Level 2, with children’s books about the sea provided outside the room. In addition to this, another room in the same level, Submaroom, invites kids to sit down and create origami still in the theme of the ocean.
Where: 8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535
Objectifs Centre for Film and Photography
Founded in 2003, Objectifs continue to operate as a non-profit art centre with a programme that includes exhibitions and screenings, educational platforms, and community outreach. Courses offered run part-time and are focused on filmmaking and photography at different levels – from beginners to advanced – and are taught by experienced local practitioners. Photography enthusiasts may take up courses such as ‘See Like a Camera’ or ‘Light Studies’, whereas for the budding filmmaker, upcoming courses include ‘HD Digital Filmmaking’ and ‘Scriptwriting’. Since 2012, Objectifs also run an Artist-in-Residency programme for visual artists who incorporate film and photography in their practice, who will also be assisted in engaging the wider public. In their gallery, highlights in 2016 include ‘Women in Photography’, curated by the Objectifs team with the Magnum Foundation, as well as a solo exhibition by the Korean artist Wong Maye-E, entitled ‘North of DMZ’, which featured her work as the Associated Press’ lead photographer in North Korea.
Where: 155 Middle Road, Singapore 188977
Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore
Situated at Lasalle College of the Arts’ McNally Campus, the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (ICAS) consists of five galleries. While the three on the upper levels are dedicated to Lasalle’s staff and students’ projects, visitors can enjoy local, regional and international exhibitions at the two galleries on the lower levels. Founded in 1986 as the Dr Earl Lu Gallery – honouring the major donation by the collector and philanthropist in supporting teaching and learning Lasalle – its history has since included major moves from an initial space at 490 East Coast Road to Goodman Road in 1995, to its current location at the heart of Singapore’s art and culture district. The Lasalle Collection represents the diverse interests of the gallery’s earliest advocates and subsequent directors, with highlights that include, amongst others, Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, and the College’s founder, Brother Joseph McNally. During 2003-2008, the gallery hosted solo exhibitions by renowned artists Anthony Gormley and On Kawara. Positioning itself as a space for artistic research and experimentation, ICAS’ publications include exhibition catalogues, journals, art criticism, theory and history.
Where: 1 McNally Street, Singapore 187940
Aloft at Hermes
In 2016, the French luxury house transformed the upper floor of their Singapore flagship store into Aloft, one of only five of Hermes’ art galleries worldwide. With the Director of STPI, Emi Eu, curating the exhibitions, the year has the theme of ‘Horizons’, with Singaporean artist Dawn Ng as the first artist to interpret the theme with her work ‘How to Disappear into a Rainbow’. Ng did this by creating an installation of coloured blocks in dreamlike pastels, interspersed with mirrored panels, for visitors to meander through. Currently, until February 2017, Aloft at Hermes welcomes French artist Agathe de Bailliencourt to present both paper and installation works. ‘Here From Here’, consisting of thousands of hand-painted gravels in various shades of blue, mimicking the natural gradation of the sky or the ocean, refers to the design of Japanese Zen garden and is meant to invite visitors to sit and enter a contemplative mood. ‘Here From Here’ was also shown in conjunction with the 2017 Singapore Art Week (SAW2017).
Where: 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers, Singapore 238881
Beginning its journey as a magazine for urban visual culture in 2009, Kult opened its gallery as a space dedicated for local and international street artists and illustrators to exhibit their works. Visitors can find signed, original and hard-to-find pieces here, selected from the various global street art events that Kult were part of. However, expect to get your hands on not only paintings and prints, but also zines, t-shirts and other ephemera. The Kult team have curated projects in Mongolia, New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Hong Kong, and this extensive worldwide network allows them to build relationship with practitioners, brands and institutions to further promote the region’s creative scene. After visiting the gallery, make sure to drop by the Kult Kafe next door. The bar menu offers local twists on old classics, and they also regularly organise community-driven events such as film screenings and music nights that are beautifully set against the lust scenery of Emily Hill.
Where: 11 Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228120
Providing an alternative cinema experience seems to be The Projector’s main aim. The two cinema halls and fifth-floor foyer of the historic Golden Theatre, which, completed in 1973, was the biggest cinema in Singapore and Malaysia at the time. Comprising the two halls that used to be the circle seats of the earlier cinema, the Green Room now acts as the main screening room whereas the Redrum (pronounced ‘Red Room’) is also a versatile events space. The curated film programmes comprises a selection that won’t be as easily found elsewhere in the city – ranging from indie and arthouse to local productions and even special themed nights. The cafe at the foyer, EAT, offers traditional cinema fare and beyond, such as salted-egg yolk fries. Their most recent addition is the carpark bar, THE GREAT ESCAPE, is an excellent place for their post-screening parties.
Where: 6001 Beach Road, #05-00, Golden Mile Tower, Singapore 199589
A unique museum dedicated solely to the rich histories of Peranakan culture, the significant collection at the Peranakan Museum is neatly laid out across its nine galleries. Its relatively small size doesn’t draw away the wealth of information that the Museum contains, including the origins of Peranakans – a term used to refer to people of mixed ethnic origins, their wedding rituals, language and fashion as well as food and dining customs.
Until March 2017, visitors can enjoy browsing at the art of nyonya needlework in the exhibition ‘Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World’, where fine examples of curtains and hangings, purses and slippers and many more are showcased. They also never seem to be short of public programmes: ranging from curator tours to lectures, festivals and family activities, the Peranakan Museum also regularly hosts demonstrations and workshops in traditional techniques such as beading, goldwork, and fabric block printing.
Where: 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941
Asian Civilisations Museum
Devoted to the ‘ancestral cultures of Singapore’, Asian Civilizations Museum’s collection is mainly made up of heritage artefacts from China, Southeast Asia, India, and the Islamic world, curated in a way that traces the connections between these diverse cultures. After a renewal of the space, several of the Museum’s galleries are now open to the public, with themes such as ‘Ancient Religion’, ‘Tang Shipwreck’, and ‘The Scholar in Chinese Culture’.
Three major exhibitions will run into 2017. ‘Cities and Kings: Ancient Treasures in Myanmar’ present selected objects from the National Museum Collections of Myanmar. ‘Port Cities: Multicultural Emporiums of Asia, 1500-1900’ focuses on the impact of trade and migration in creating an exchange between people, goods and ideas, and ‘South Asia and the Islamic World: Highlights from the Collection’ showcases the arts of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh according to religious contexts.
If the exhibitions seem a lot to take in, guided tours are provided for free to ease visitors into the wealth of the museum collection. For those in need of break, the Prive Cafe as well as Empress Bar and Cafe cater to a broad range of tastes with stunning views of the Singapore River and CBD skyline.
Where: 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555
National Gallery Singapore
One of the more recently launched arts spaces in Singapore, the National Gallery Singapore (NGS), located in magnificently refurbished historic buildings that were formerly Supreme Court and City Hall, is devoted to an extensive collection of modern art from Singapore and Southeast Asia. Over 8000 works of art from the 19th century to the present day, many of which are accessible to the public for the first time, consist of acquisitions as well as loans from established museums globally and private collections.
Partnerships with prestigious international institutions result in mega-exhibitions: ‘Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies’ is organised in association with Tate Britain, while previously, ‘Reframing Modernism’ kicked off the programme with a curatorial collaboration with Centre Pompidou. ‘Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore in the 19th Century’ explores Singapore’s art history through the nearly 400 artworks on display, giving visitors a one-of-a-kind perspective of what it means to be Singaporean. NGS is also home to some fantastic dining options: visitors will be spoilt for choice, from the modern French fare at Odette, fine Cantonese cuisine at Yan, mouth-watering cocktail selections at Smoke & Mirrors, or delicious cakes and coffees at the Owl Cafe Pop Up. What’s more, the tantalising selection of goods at Gallery & Co will make it difficult for you to leave empty-handed.
Where: 1 Saint Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
Devoted to creating programmes that explore the intersections of art, science, technology and culture, ArtScience Museum has become one of the most popular museums that the city has to offer. The lotus-shaped building has truly become an icon of Singapore, housing 21 gallery spaces for international exhibitions as well as permanent displays. Previous highlights since its opening include ‘Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal’, ‘Da Vinci: Shaping the Future’, and ‘Titanic: The Artefact Exhibition’. In collaboration with the Japanese artist group teamLab, the new permanent exhibit ‘Future World: Where Art Meets Science’ was opened in March 2016; a showcase comprising of stunning digital installations. One Thursday a month, ArtScience hosts ‘ArtScience late’, featuring innovative performances after dark with previous guests that include Dan Deacon and the local act The Observatory. The film programmes ‘ArtScience on Screen’ also offer a lot to look forward to: past screenings took visitors to see Werner Herzog’s ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World’ and ‘Anima Mundi’, a documentary by Godfrey Reggio with an original soundtrack by Philip Glass.
Where: 6 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018974
Singapore Tyler Print Institute
Art spaces reserved solely for practices with print and paper are hard to come by in Singapore, and Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) is a leading one, with a programme that continues to excite the public. Consisting of a gallery and workshop, STPI provides a platform for thorough experiments and appreciation with a broad range of print and papermaking techniques. For their 15th anniversary and in conjunction with the 2017 Singapore Art Week (SAW2017), STPI will launch ‘We Are the World – These Are Our Stories’, a solo exhibition by the much-respected Singaporean artist Amanda Heng. The gallery’s previous exhibitions also boasts well-known international names, such as Heri Dono, Do Ho Suh and Rirkrit Tiravanija. The workshop conducts courses in relief printing, etching, screen printing and papermaking, all in line with STPI’s mission to connect the legacy of print and paper practice to a contemporary audience.
Where: 41 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238236
As the research arm of Nanyang Technological University’, the programmes at CCA reflect a rigorous outlook that is aimed at providing a space for artists, curators and the public to a critical dialogue about contemporary art in Singapore and the region. ‘Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts of Critical Spatial Practice’ explores the ideas of Singapore’s late urban theorist William Lim, while previous solo exhibitions include Joan Jonas, Amar Kanwar and Allan Sekula. Instead of conventional exhibition tours, each exhibit is accompanied instead by ‘exhibition (de)tours and stagings’ that unpack some of the running themes. From February to May 2017, CCA will open ‘The Making of an Institution’, a new exhibition that appropriates the format of a ‘public report’ to mark the centre’s third year of operation.
Where: Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109443