This year’s Singapore Art Week has ballooned to a total of some 80 related exhibitions, talks, and events scattered throughout an increasingly vibrant art scene. And while major institutions, including the new National Gallery and prominent commercial galleries, are pulling out big names for high-profile shows, Art Week also showcases a local, emerging art scene that goes beyond the walls of a typical gallery. Here’s the cream of the homegrown crop, compiled into this must-see shortlist!
Credit: ST/Lim Sin Thai
Some of the most dynamic events weave art together with local history and urban culture. Case in point: Shophouse 5 (5 Lorong 24A Geylang), a lovingly restored traditional piece of architecture in Geylang that has become the second location of local dealer Chan Hampe Galleries, is hosting an exhibition by Singaporean art collective Vertical Submarine called “Death by a Thousand Cuts” (Jan 14-Feb 14), which recreates a seemingly innocuous domestic scene from the home of a fictional political exile. Vertical Submarine’s conscientious staging of a “typical” Singaporean midcentury interior brims with period detail, but its subtle references to controversial episodes from our history are also deftly handled.
Another iconic neighborhood ripe for exploration is Katong and Joo Chiat, the backdrop for “No Man’s Land,” the latest installment in curator Alan Oei’s series of OH! Open House events that take participants on urban jaunts throughout the city (Jan 22-31). Details have been kept sparse to up the suspense factor: audience members are asked to “meet the man in black at the bar,” who presses a set of hotel room keys on you, the first lead in a thrilling trail through one of Singapore’s most historic and colorful districts.
Credit: Asian Film Archive Singapore
Film buffs, on the other hand, shouldn’t miss the State of Motion bus tours (Jan 16, 17, 23, 24) that leave from the National Library, which is hosting a pop-up exhibition inspired by the golden era of Singapore film almost single-handedly created by the Cathay-Keris Studio during the 1950s and 60s. Get on a bus to check out historic filming locations like the old Outram Prison and the now-defunct kampongs in Siglap, each complemented by newly commissioned artworks by Singapore-based artists.
Credit: National University of Singapore (NUS)
Architect and urban researcher Dr Lai Chee Kien will lead a one-day only (Jan 23, 4-6pm) island-wide bus tour of Singapore’s urban history called “Concrete Island,” inspired by J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name. Partly organized by NUS Museum, Concrete Island kicks off at Changi Airport, hurtling across the length of the city-state on the Pan Island Expressway in order to paint Singapore as a diverse landscape of varying rhythms and intensities.
Credit: Unseen Art Practices
Meanwhile, Carpark B at Gillman Barracks will host SCOUT, a pop-up showcase (Jan 18-24) of works by 25 emerging Singapore artists, all housed in a spiral-shaped “social sculpture” made up of 16 shipping containers created by Jennis Li that captures the breadth of concerns of the younger generation. Curated by Patricia Chen and Joanna Lee, the exhibition encompasses interactive, community-oriented approaches, urban interventions, and innovative takes on sculpture and painting.