One degree north of the equator, the island nation of Singapore has established itself as an economic hub in Southeast Asia, excelling in finance, technology, and commerce, and is now looking to conquer the world of art. The 52-year-old city-state has recently seen an influx in cultural capital, with international galleries opening and the complete overhaul of the former Supreme Court into the National Gallery. There is still a strong focus on art from the region, with most of the public institutions and the annual art fair, Art Stage Singapore, concentrating on Southeast Asian art and artists.
GETTING AROUND Singapore is very easy, with numerous options to bring you from gallery to gallery. Public transportation on the bus or train (MRT) is easy to navigate but might require a bit of walking in the heat. If you'd prefer air-conditioned comfort for your whole trip, taxis, Ubers and Grabs are easily found throughout the city.
There are many options of places to STAY, all at varying price points depending on location. Our recent favorite is the Warehouse Hotel, a stylish boutique hotel on the edge of the Singapore River.
Singapore is hot all year round, apart from bouts of monsoon weather in the middle and end of the year. The best time to GO is in January, to coincide with Singapore Art Week, which includes over 100 events over a two-week period, most notably Art Stage Singapore, the major fair occurring in the island-city.
Built in 1936, these former colonial army barracks were repurposed to become a contemporary arts cluster, housing local and international art galleries, restaurants, a design retailer (Supermama) and more. This should be your first stop to get a condensed view of the Singapore arts scene within a scenic venue surrounded by lush greenery.
German gallery ARNDT(47 Malan Road, #01-25, Gillman Barracks, S 109444) opened its Asia branch in 2013, and has since expanded its roster to include some of the best emerging and established artists from the region. The gallery presents exhibitions that showcase artists and their works within the context of their greater practice.
Recently relocated from the historic Raffles Hotel, and rebranded as CHAN+HORI (6 Lock Road, #02-09, Gillman Barracks, S 108934), this local gallery aims to “provoke, challenge and stimulate” Singapore and Southeast Asia through thought-provoking and strongly curated exhibitions. With Angeline Chan and Khairuddin Hori, former curator at Palais de Tokyo, the gallery works closely with artists to further develop their practice.
FOST GALLERY(1 Lock Road, #01-02, Gillman Barracks, S 108932) was founded in 2006 and has been one of the strongest supporters of Singaporean artists since then. One of the first galleries as you enter Gillman Barracks, FOST presents novel solo exhibitions by artists in various stages in their careers, such as John Clang, Nguan, Heman Chong and more.
Established in 1994 in Tokyo and launched in Singapore in 2012, MIZUMA GALLERY(22 Lock Road, #01-34, Gillman Barracks, S 108939) works with Japanese and Southeast Asian artists to present their works between the two galleries. They often work with external curators to put together fresh group exhibitions that bring together seemingly divergent artists from the region and beyond.
OTA FINE ARTS(7 Lock Road, @02-13, Gillman Barracks, S 108935) was founded in 1994 in Tokyo and has been a pioneer in the promotion of Japanese contemporary art since then. With the opening of their Singapore gallery in 2012, OTA has made an effort to create and promote collaborations with artists throughout the region, supporting artists working across a variety of media, including performance, video and sound.
Recognized internationally as an important force in the art world for the past 20 years, PEARL LAM GALLERIES(9 Lock Road, #03-22, Gillman Barracks, S 108937) represents artists from all over the world and has been a vital player in the East/West dialogue. Pearl Lam has galleries in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore and works closely with renowned curators to present a very strong program whether it be solo shows, artistic projects or group exhibitions. Be sure to check out their newly-opened space in Dempsey Hill as well.
SHANGHART GALLERY(9 Lock Road, #02-22, Gillman Barracks, S 108937) has been a strong proponent in the development of Chinese contemporary art, since it was established in Shanghai in 1996. The gallery represents 40 artists, and regularly collaborates with important art institutions in China and beyond.
One of the more recent additions to the arts cluster, SULLIVAN+STRUMPF(5 Lock Road, #01-06, Gillman Barracks, S 108933) is an Australian import with their main base in Sydney. They represent 29 artists from the Asia-Pacific region, and aims to provide a platform for artists to further develop their practice and gain exposure to the broader Southeast Asian arts community.
SUNDARAM TAGORE(5 Lock Road, #01-05, Gillman Barracks, S 108933) established his eponymous gallery in 2000 in New York City, with galleries opening in Hong Kong and Singapore subsequently. The gallery focuses on cross-cultural dialogues and exchanges that range from the visual arts, to performance art, film and music.
Established in 2010, YAVUZ GALLERY(9 Lock Road, #02-23, Gillman Barracks, S 108937) focuses on contemporary art from the Asia-Pacific, and has a strong curatorial programme that is driven by the social significance of artists and their artworks.
YEO WORKSHOP(1 Lock Road, #01-01, Gillman Barracks, S 108932) is the first gallery you encounter as you enter Gillman Barracks from the main entrance, and is a good one to start at. The gallery has a strong curatorial focus, promoting the works of both local and international artists, as well as hosting a variety of educational programs, such as talks and symposiums.
AC43 GALLERY(231 Bain Street, Bras Basah Complex, #03-39, S 180231) is dedicated to presenting the works of Singapore artists, as well as foreign artists looking to collaborate. The gallery works closely with established and emerging artists to nurture and develop their practice.
Specializing in contemporary sculpture, paintings and ceramic works, ART-2 GALLERY(140 Hill Street, #01-03, Old Hill Street Police Station, S 179369) presents works of artists from all over Southeast Asia. They represent the works of modern masters, from Han Sai Por of Singapore, to Aung Myint of Myanmar.
Situated in the middle of a warehouse compound, ARTSPACE@HELUTRANS(39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, S 089065) hosts pop-up exhibitions by visiting galleries, such as Richard Koh Fine Art, Silverlens Galleries and Ikkan Art. They also have yearly collectors’ exhibitions, displaying rarely-seen works from private collections.
ART SEASONS(50 Genting Lane, #03-02, Cideco Industrial Complex, S 349558) was founded in 2001 with a mission to explore and promote contemporary Chinese and Asian art. Almost twenty years later, the gallery continues to present interesting works from contemporary artists, such as PHUNK and Chen Ke.
With a base in Surabaya, ART XCHANGE(46 Kim Yam Road, #01-13, The Herencia, S 239351) set up their Singapore outpost in 2011. They focus on showcasing the diversity of modern and contemporary art coming out of Indonesia.
GAJAH GALLERY(39 Keppel Road, #03-04, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, S 089065) opened in 1996, and now represents some of the region’s leading artists such as Yunizar and Ashley Bickerton. The gallery recently moved to a 6,000 sq ft warehouse space that has expanded the gallery’s ability to showcase the works of their impressive roster of artists.
GALLERY HUUE(17 Mohamed Sultan Road, 2nd Fl, S 238966) specializes in contemporary arts and crafts. Be sure to check out their space for a range of limited edition ceramics and artworks from emerging Korean artists.
INTERSECTIONS(34 Kandahar Street, S 198892) was founded in 2012 with the goal to bridge the diverse cultures of East and West through art. Their focus is on Southeast Asian artists, particularly from Myanmar and Singapore.
KULT GALLERY(11 Upper Wilkie Road, Emily Hill, C2-5, S 228120) differs from most of the other commercial galleries on this list with its focus on urban and street art. It features works from local and international artists in a variety of media, from prints, to zines, to t-shirts.
VISIONAIRS GALLERY(Capitol Piazza, 15 Stamford Road, #01-65, S 178906) was originally started in Paris in 2009, with a focus on presenting photography as a new artistic medium. The artists they represent use innovative new techniques of artistic production, such as Korean artist Park Seung Hoon with his signature woven film strip photography works.
INDEPENDENT & NON-PROFIT INSTITUTIONS
Find art in an unexpected place with ALOFT AT HERMES (#01-02A Liat Towers, 541 Orchard Road, S 238881), an exhibition space tucked away on the top floor of Hermes’ flagship Orchard Road store. It is dedicated to presenting contemporary art installations and promoting international creativity, with two art projects in the 111sq-meter space each year.
Founded by award-winning art consultant, artist and educator, Daryl Goh, NPE ART RESIDENCY & GALLERY is the art arm of NPE Print Communications (41 Kallang Place, Singapore 339169). NPE has a long creative history stemming back to 1967 when the main activity was photo engraving. In contemporary times, NPE has an ever growing team of designers and technicians, running Singapore’s leading press and communication agency. The artist residency studio has more in-house facilities than any other studio or creative space in Singapore: Artists can upscale their work and push boundaries using high tech fabrication and production processes, digital fine art printing, giclee prints, ultraviolet printing, book-binding and stitching machines, gold leaf stamping, die-cut, embossing and debossing, to name a few.
An independent art space housed in 19 repurposed shipping containers, DECK (120A Prinsep Street, S 187937) presents interesting exhibitions with a focus on photography in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Apart from the exhibition space, there is also a resource library, artist studio, and café.
Located in the heart of the heritage (and now hipster) neighborhood of Tiong Bahru, is GREY PROJECTS (6B Kim Tian Road, Kai Fook Mansion, S 169246), a non-profit artists’ space that houses two galleries, a library, an artist studio and more.
The INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS (ICA)(LASALLE College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street, S 187940) is the curatorial division of LASALLE College of the Arts, a private arts institution in Singapore. ICA is committed to supporting emerging artists and designers from the region through innovative exhibitions in their five gallery spaces.
If you happen to be on Orchard Road, stop by ION ART GALLERY(2 Orchard Turn, 4th Fl, S 238801) for pop-up exhibitions of Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists.
NTU CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART (NTU CCA)(Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, S 109443) is national research center that can be found in Gillman Barracks, with a large space for exhibitions, research symposiums, as well as studios for artists-in-residence. Under the stewardship of the internationally-respected Ute Meta Bauer, the CCA has produced a dynamic program of regional and international projects that consider and facilitate critical discourse in Southeast Asia and beyond.
OBJECTIFS(155 Middle Road, S 188977) is a non-profit visual arts centre that focuses entirely on photography and films. They host photography exhibitions, film screenings, as well as photography and filmmaking workshops, all with the goal to inspire and nurture artists in Singapore.
On a street in the middle of the red-light district is SHOPHOUSE 5 (#5 Lorong 24A Geylang, S 398529), a white cube gallery space that offers an alternate art space for artists and curators to present their exhibitions and installation works.
Now celebrating its 15-year anniversary, STPI(41 Robertson Quay, S 238236) is a print workshop and contemporary art gallery found on the waterfront of the Singapore River. The gallery hosts internationally-renowned artists, such as Do Ho Suh and Ryan Gander, for residencies that focus on experimentation within the mediums of print and paper, making use of STPI’s extensive print facilities.
Housed in a former power substation built in 1926, the SUBSTATION(45 Armenian Street, S 179936) was launched as Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts centre. Since its establishment in 1990, it has built a reputation for presenting pioneering and experimental arts programming.
The GOODMAN ARTS CENTRE(90 Goodman Road, S 439053) is home to some of Singapore’s most well-known artists (such as Donna Ong, Robert Zhao [Institute of Critical Zoologists], and Han Sai Por) and their studios. Although not all the studios are open to the public, you can try contacting them here to schedule a visit in advance.
Housed in a 19th century mission school, the SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM(71 Bras Basah Road, S 189555) has built a strong collection of contemporary Southeast Asian art since its opening in 1996. The main museum building is currently under renovation until 2021, but their Queen Street Wing, dubbed SAM at 8Q, is just around the corner and remains open with ongoing exhibitions.
The ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM(6 Bayfront Avenue, S 018974) is located along the Marina Bay waterfront, in an iconic building designed by renowned architect Moshie Safdie. As the name suggests, the museum considers the intersection of art, science, technology and culture through their exhibitions. A must-see is the museum’s permanent exhibition, FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science, filled with immersive installations by Japanese ultra-technologist art collective teamLab.
The latest addition to Singapore’s public art museums is the NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE (1 Saint Andrew's Road, S 178957), housing a collection of modern art from Singapore and the Southeast Asian region. The museum’s architecture fuses the historical buildings of City Hall and the former Supreme Court with modern additions. Stay tuned for National Gallery’s blockbuster exhibition of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s works opening in June 2017!
The oldest museum in Singapore, the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE(93 Stamford Road, S 178897) not only presents exhibits relating to the history of Singapore, but also incorporates the works of contemporary artists, through visiting exhibitions, the Singapore Biennale, and their annual Night Festival.
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