2002 - A Record Year for Singapore’s Arts Scene


2002 - A Record Year for Singapore’s Arts Scene


The National Arts Council’s annual statistical round-up of the performing and visual arts showed new highs attained in ticketed attendance and number of performing arts events and exhibitions in 2002.


Arts patrons came out in full force in support of the arts last year. Total ticketed attendance crossed the one million mark, reaching 1,084,192 (15% increase from 2001). Total number of performances grew by 26% to hit 5,177. Both ticketed and free performances achieved new highs of 2,652 and 2,525 respectively.  In the field of visual arts, the number of exhibitions increased by 6% to 551.


Highlights of the Performing Arts scene

Music performances are attracting a larger audience. Attendance at music performances increased by 29% (up 87,000), contributing to the growth of 15% in total ticketed attendance.  Music accounted for 23% of total ticketed performances and 36% of overall ticketed attendance.


Theatre accounted for 67% of total ticketed performances and attracted 44% of overall ticketed attendance.  Theatre performances increased by 22% (319 shows) which was the main driver for the 20% growth in ticketed performances.


Dance generated 8% of ticketed performances and drew 9% of ticketed attendance.  Other multi-disciplinary performances and cultural performances made up the remaining proportion of performances and ticketed attendance.


Foreign performances continued to generate proportionally more attendance than local productions, accounting for 21% of ticketed performances but 35% of ticketed attendance. However, the growth of attendance at local performances outstripped that of foreign performances for the first time in 2002 (22% vs 4%). In fact, the record numbers achieved in 2002 were mainly attributable to the vibrancy of the local arts scene.


The local music scene was especially promising, experiencing strong growth in attendance and enjoying average percentage house of nearly 70%. The number of registered music groups also grew. In contrast, the number of theatre groups declined slightly, and its average percentage house fell, even as the number of local theatre performances rose steeply (27%).


Highlights of the Visual Arts scene

The number of visual arts exhibitions had experienced a sharp 28% increase between 1999 and 2000, due to the injection of Renaissance City funds and the availability of new exhibition spaces. Since then, the annual number of exhibitions has remained steady above the 500 mark. In spite of the economic downturn, this grew by 6% in 2002 to reach a new high of 551 exhibitions.


In testimony to the increasing vibrancy of the local visual arts scene, the number of local exhibitions has consistently grown faster than foreign ones over the past three years.  An increasing proportion of exhibitions during these years was local (64% in 2002 compared with 61% and 53% in 2001 and 2000 respectively). 


Commercial galleries and visual arts groups continued to be the main organisers, accounting for half of all exhibitions in 2002. The People’s Association and Community Centres/Clubs are also becoming more active, organising 8% of all exhibitions in 2002 compared with 2% two years ago.


Painting exhibitions (including Chinese calligraphy and ink painting) were the most common in 2002, accounting for 57% of all exhibitions organised. The number of photography exhibitions doubled in that year, accounting for 13% (69) of visual art exhibitions.


The proportion of government funded visual arts exhibitions grew to 37% in 2002, mainly due to events such as the Month of Photography and Nokia Singapore Art 2001 (which straddled across Dec 2001 /Jan 2002).


Venue utilisation

The majority of audiences attended performances at dedicated performing arts venues. Increases were seen in the attendance of ticketed performances staged at outdoor venues as well as a tendency towards smaller (less than 500 seats) and alternative venues. Arts Housing premises such as The Substation, DBS Arts Centre - Home of the Singapore Repertory Theatre and those at Waterloo and Chinatown Arts Belt, grew in importance. The proportion of performances staged at these venues rose from 19% (422) to 29% (777) in 2002.


Looking ahead

While the 2002 statistics augurs well for the arts, the number of arts events and ticketed attendances for 2003 may be somewhat affected in view of the current economic climate, cuts in private and public funding for the arts and the impact of SARS.