Part 2: Singapore Art Week 2019 highlights

A round-up of the main draws of the day at the visual arts fair.

Light To Night Festival 2019 (Photo: National Gallery Singapore)

We were across the causeway at the island republic’s biggest annual art initiative, a nine-day celebration (from January 19 to 27) of the visual arts jointly organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board, and the Singapore Economic Development Board. Here are snapshots of the Singapore Art Week through our eyes. 


Taking a break museums and galleries, we make a stop at Design Orchard, which opened just over the weekend, for a preview. Located in the shopping heart of Singapore at the juncture of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road, the retail showcase cum incubation space and rooftop garden is the new home to 61 Singaporean brands. The retail gallery, operated by NAIISE, features local fashion designers, fabric and homeware, accessories, fine jewellery, snacks, beauty products and more. For a higher vantage point of Orchard, head up the stairs on the side to the rooftop area to take a break from shopping, hang out with friends or just to read outdoors.

Then we took a long tour of Little India, where we enjoyed on-site drama performances as well as some of the murals scattered around the area. Particularly interesting is graffiti artist Zulkarnaen Othman aka ZERO’s commissioned work for a LASALLE College of the Arts ARTWALK Little India Project. Inspired by the colourful sights, sounds and smells of the locality, he depicts them in this giant wall mural entitled DIFF/FUSION, interpreting what he sees in geometric patterns.

One of the biggest exhibitions happening during Singapore Art Week (SAW) is Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. that also marks a collaboration between the National Gallery Singapore and Art Science Museum. Respectively offering a chronological narrative and an exposition of the various themes of minimalism, one good advice received about how to appreciate minimalist art is just to embrace and enjoy it, and don’t think too much. At least the artworks make for great Instagram shots, right?*

We also squeezed in some time to drop by the State of Motion 2019: A Fear of Monsters exhibition organised by the Asian Film Archive. Tucked away at a former gas production station, the isolated atmosphere suited the theme. Among mostly digital works was Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann’s outdoor piece, Like the Banana Tree at the Gate (2016), depicting the infamous Southeast Asian ghost, the Pontianak. She associates the feared monster - which is seen here in a state of being frozen mid-movement – with the female identity, and how being suppressed or held back is a frustration most women are familiar with.

Who knew that actress Lucy Liu was first an artist? And still is, for that matter. The New Yorker made her way to Singapore for the first time for a collaborative exhibition with Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao, which was co-presented by arts patron The Ryan Foundation and the National Museum of Singapore. While the artists share many similarities that made the exhibition an enriching dialogue, Liu’s habit of collecting trash everywhere she goes has turned into one of the more alluring works on display. For six years, the Hollywood star cut out spaces out of 200 handmade books and gluing objects she found in them. Visitors get to flip through these books, and perhaps ponder on why she picked certain items, or if they resonate at all with it.

The anchoring art fair of SAW, S.E.A Focus, organised an Artist Cooks Supper Club, a five-course dinner jointly prepared by Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and German sculptor Tobias Rehberger. Held at the beautiful new Siri House at Dempsey Hill – a lifestyle gallery and restaurant operated by Thai property developer Sansiri, the dishes, which included lamb brains, liver noodles and fish sauce ice cream, was interesting, to say the least. Here is Chef Rirkrit looking satisfied after serving over 30 guests that evening.

On our final day in town, we paid a visit to the IMPART Collectors’ Show in ArtScience Museum. Organised by non-profit organisation Art Outreach Singapore and is an annual signature event of SAW, it was a rare chance to view privately owned works of Asian artists. Most buzzworthy was Singaporean artist Jahan Loh’s bronze sculpture, Genesis: God’s Terrarium Adam and Eve (2017), which is owned by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou. But our personal favourite is this oil painting by Japanese artist Takao Iijima, better known as Ay-O. The large wood panels portray two people in embrace, the warm colour revealing intimacy as well as perhaps, passion. Clouds in the backdrop add to the visual of a dreamy scene, but a second look might challenge this viewpoint, maybe taking on a darker or sadder tone.

One a breezy Friday night, what better way to unwind for the weekend than at the Light To Night Festival 2019. The Civic District and its surroundings transforms into one giant arts playground, with public installations, a music stage, live performances, a festival market and museums extending their hours for free visits. Or you could just sit on the grass lawn and soak in the lights, like we did.


 *We were kidding the Minimalism exhibitions being only Instagram-worthy. Look out for our full article on the show in Options’ Feb 11 issue.



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