Former director of Art Basel Lorenzo Rudolf founded Art Stage Singapore because he knew the trend was moving to Asia. “I wanted to go back to the roots, where it’s close to the culture, and shake something up. I wanted to contribute to a development,” Rudolf told Paste Magazine at Art Stage Singapore’s seventh event in January. “Singapore is a hub in Southeast Asia. It’s the ideal place to do [an art show] because you have the security, the lifestyle, the money and the infrastructure already in place.”
Singapore, known internationally for its multicultural, vibrant food scene; as well as its strict laws, high-tech attractions and financial center, is investing more money and time into its art scene. And with newly debuted direct flights out of San Francisco, visiting Americans will need this guide to the top five art spots in the Lion City.
Eva Fedderly is a travel and legal journalist who writes for Travel+Leisure, Esquire and The Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. She’s lived in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and currently resides in Savannah, Georgia.
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Installed in a former Army barracks from 1936, Gillman Barracks is a contemporary art cluster dedicated to Southeast Asian art. Gillman Barracks houses art galleries, Singapore's national research center, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) Singapore, art organizations, restaurants and cafes.
"If you don't want to stay on the surface of a place, you need somebody to introduce you to [local hangouts] … go to a place like Gillman Barracks and the CCA and speak with some of these galleries and you will be on a good track," Rudolf said.
Photo courtesy of Gillman Barracks Programme Office
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Art Porters Gallery
Both the government and private initiatives help contribute to Singapore's developing art scene. Parisian art collector Guillaume Levy-Lambert, a longtime resident, and his business partner, Sean Soh, opened Art Porters Gallery in 2014 as a 100 percent privately funded art gallery. Art Porters houses contemporary art from international artists—mainly from Europe and Asia—and is accessible to both the experienced collector and the novice. Art Porters' first solo show featured Indonesian artist Naufal Abshar's colorful works—some a puzzle of canvases that can be rearranged—that use satire and humor as a way to question life and resolve conflict. Art Porters is fittingly tucked away on a quaint side street in Singapore, contributing to that that exclusive yet original air. The gallery highlights a variety of art, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and digital animation.
Photo courtesy of Art Porters
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Temple Self-Guided Walking Tour
Some of Singapore's best art is not on a canvas or in a museum, but in its architecture and places of worship. Singapore has over 35 Hindu temples, and a majority of these structures draw on Dravidian and Tamil style architecture. The Lion City also has a plethora of mosques and churches that prove architecture is an art. Streets to check out are Waterloo and Queen Streets, which host Catholic churches, a Hindu temple, a Chinese temple and a Jewish Synagogue (that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it's not a joke, and definitely not bad). Two other streets are Telok Ayer Street, one of the oldest streets in Singapore, and South Bridge Road, which is just north of Telok Ayer Street in Singapore's historic Chinatown and houses the Mariamman Hindu Temple (pictured).
Photo by Toh Ming Zong
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Singapore Tyler Print Institute
The Singapore Tyler Print Institute, a four-story creative workshop and gallery in the trendy Robertson Quay neighborhood, doesn't represent artists. Rather, STPI says they represent artists' creations. They research and follow artists from around the world, whose focuses are on print and paper. The STPI board members then carefully select a group of these artists to live and work in the STPI space—much like a startup incubator, only the final products are a lot prettier, in the traditional definition of the word anyway. STPI exhibits their artwork—all of which is created in-house—in the main gallery. Guests are invited to walk through the gallery and the gift shop with multiple pieces for sale. This year, the organization celebrates its 15th anniversary.
Photo courtesy of STPI
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National Museum of Singapore
A cultural and architectural landmark, the National Museum of Singapore is the city's oldest museum dating back to 1887 and houses an extensive collection of contemporary art. One of the institution's goals is to redefine the museumgoer's conventional museum experience. Known for its year-round festivals and immersive art installations (such as the digital art installation, "Glass Rotunda: Story of the Forest" and a photography installation, "Singapore, Very Old Tree"), the museum also hosts eminent Singaporean pastry chef Janice Wong's restaurant, which serves her whimsical and inventive dishes and futuristic desserts.
Photo by Lawrence Wee/Shutterstock