Singapore Art Week 2019 closes on a strong note as art takes over Singapore



Art After Dark x SAW 2019, Gillman Barracks, 25 Jan 2019

Image credit: National Arts Council



Successful seventh edition featured several firsts, from S.E.A. Focus to new partnerships with home-grown and international organisations 


Singapore, 30 January 2019 – The signature visual arts celebration Singapore Art Week (SAW), a joint initiative by the National Arts Council (NAC), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), drew to a close after more than 100 exciting programmes were presented island-wide by art institutions, arts groups and artists, from 19 to 27 January.  


Diverse Programmes for All across Nine Days


From exhibitions and gallery openings, public art and talks, to lifestyle events and art fairs, this year’s SAW programmes took place in both art and non-art venues, from our museums and galleries to more unconventional public spaces, precincts and shopping malls. This made SAW accessible to people from various walks of life, allowing them to deepen their understanding and appreciation of art. There was specially commissioned art in many of Singapore’s public spaces– from Taman Jurong to Little India and the Civic District. Every aspect of SAW 2019 truly lived up to this year’s tagline “Art Takes Over”.


At contemporary arts precinct Gillman Barracks, art lovers and collectors converged to see works by 134 Singapore and overseas artists on show at the galleries and the new boutique fair, S.E.A. Focus by STPI – Creative Workshop and Gallery. The much-anticipated night-time event Art After Dark also drew thousands of visitors to Gillman Barracks for an evening of music, food and art. Singaporean artist Alvin Ong, who presented his first solo exhibition here at Yavuz Gallery, said, “It’s really nice that SAW brought in a much more diverse and wider audience [to Gillman Barracks]. The atmosphere was particularly special during Art After Dark, where the crowds in the gallery made the space seem like an extension of the canvasses.”



Celebrating Singapore and Singaporean artists


SAW also continued to showcase the best of Singapore’s artists, curators and art groups.


Light to Night Festival at National Gallery Singapore returned as a SAW marquee event. Festival Director Suenne Megan Tan said, “Light to Night Festival is part of our ongoing efforts in developing visitors’ engagement with art. Singapore Art Week enabled us to commission home-grown artists to introduce new ways of art encounters, including placing different senses in play with each other and encouraging active public participation. Our Singaporean artists and groups took the opportunity to encourage visitors to reconnect with the self and environment, question what’s beneath the visible, and in the long term, deepen one’s level of appreciation towards art beyond the visual.”


Another familiar favourite was ARTWALK Little India, which returned to celebrate the cultural precinct’s rich heritage via the arts. Well-loved highlights included master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran, while artists ZERO and Shah Rizzal added their unique signature to the walls of the district once more. Murals featuring other young artists participating for the first time were also unveiled.


Other homegrown initiatives included Memories of Singapore River, a video documentary that spotlights the works of three Singapore pioneer artists Lim Tze Peng, Tan Choh Tee, and Low Puay Hua; Of Wax, Dyes and Labour, a fresh and contemporary look at batik by Singapore artists; and the <  > Sim Lim Square Art Residency at the iconic electronics mall. This residency by artist collective INTER-MISSION created opportunities for four artists to engage with shoppers and other retailers at Sim Lim Square, developing new works in response to those interactions.


Curator Urich Lau from INTER-MISSION said, “Unlike usual art residencies which are conducted in an art space, we were able to attract and reach out to a different crowd. Shoppers thought the residency space was a store, and this allowed us to invite them in to look and chat about art, which they might not usually do.”


Other programmes also inspired by the intersection of technology and art included Adaptations by independent art space Supernormal at Gillman Barracks; and Art x Tech for Good presented by Meshminds Foundation which featured works by LASALLE College of the Arts students. These exhibitions showed how digital technology could be integrated into hybrid art practices alongside more traditional media. These innovations in art and technology also pave the way for new modes of access to the arts.



Building Capabilities and Deepening the Appreciation of Art


There were over ten platforms for Singapore and international curators, art professionals, critics, gallerists and collectors to discuss and exchange ideas on multi-faceted topics to nurture and develop the art market.


The Frieze Academy, one of the art world’s most recognised brands, facilitated in-depth art discourses on the synergies between public and private museums. The Art Week Conversations by THEO Arts Professionals reached out to new and existing audiences on collecting in Southeast Asia, while curatorial experts at the IMPART Collectors’ Show presented panel discussions on branding and legacy. There was also a series of eight talks at S.E.A. Focus, covering a wide range of topics such as the art ecosystem and private collecting. Such collaborations nurture a greater appreciation of art, build capability and strengthen the visual arts ecosystem in Singapore. 



A Strong Show of Community Spirit


For this edition of SAW, many Singaporeans and visitors also witnessed how the larger art community and beyond banded together, in the wake of the cancellation of Art Stage. From artists and gallerists to private individuals and corporate businesses, the community reached out to the affected galleries, many of them international, to offer a range of spaces and render help. Their collective efforts also helped create The ARTery pop-up show through the non-profit organisation Art Outreach Singapore. The show was successfully held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre from 24 to 27 January.


Industry observers said the fact that Singapore was able to respond well on such short notice attested to the strength of the visual arts ecosystem, and how the various stakeholders were ready to collaborate. Avid art collector and founding chairman of National Gallery Singapore, Mr Koh Seow Chuan, said, “Efforts by The ARTery and other local galleries and businesses to offer space to stranded exhibitors, is an expression of the can-do spirit in Singapore.” Mariko Kawashima, art advisor to Whitestone Gallery (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taiwan), an exhibitor at The ARTery, said, “We are so excited to come to Singapore every year. Singapore is still a big hub for the Southeast Asian market, and The ARTery has been very successful for us; we received huge support from The ARTery team from day one.”



Looking Ahead


As the successful SAW 2019 wraps up, there is still much in store for Singaporeans and international visitors for the rest of the year. 


Ms Linda de Mello, Director, Sector Development (Visual Arts), NAC, said, “This year’s SAW marked a truly vibrant and appropriate start to our year-long arts calendar. We are delighted that there have been so many ground-up collaborations where art practitioners from different disciplines came together to push creative boundaries to engage both art lovers and new audiences. Importantly, the community came together in friendship and goodwill, and this augurs well for the visual arts ecosystem. Art can enrich our daily lives and we saw this in the myriad of programmes held during SAW. We look forward to the public continuing their encounter with art beyond this year’s SAW, deepening their appreciation of how the arts can make a positive difference to our everyday life.”  


The eighth edition of SAW will return from 11 to 19 January 2020.