Need a dose of art? Thankfully, Singapore is not short on art exhibitions, especially this January.
2022 opens with a slew of them, most of which are part of the annual Singapore Art Week. This year, the arts and culture event will extend beyond its usual locales (Bugis, Civic District, middle-of-nowhere Gillman Barracks) and into Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
Sitting opposite the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the industrial site will host S.E.A. Focus, a massive, must-see showcase of Southeast Asian contemporary art, as well as the opening of Singapore Art Museum’s new art spaces.
While January is a great month to pay appreciation to local artists (like Faris Heizer, for one), you’ll also be treated to the works of esteemed international talents like KAWS, Olafur Eliasson and the late Nam June Paik.
As you embark on your art adventures all around the island, be sure to refer to our list of new cafés and restaurants to see if any of them are along the way. After all, good food and good art are all you need to have a great weekend. Alternatively, after your visit to the new arts hub that is the Tanjong Pagar Distripark, consider a tipple or two at our favourite bars in the neighbourhood.
Header photo credit: S.E.A Focus, courtesy of Singapore Art Week
The best art exhibitions in Singapore see this January
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.
The ultimate showcase for Southeast Asian contemporary art is back. This year, S.E.A. Focus will revolve around the theme “chance… constellations”, which explores shared histories, geographies and converging cultures that connect artists across the region. Aptly, over 140 artworks from galleries in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and more will be brought together and displayed at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
The line-up of artists is equally diverse, encompassing both established and emerging talents. On our radar are multimedia artist Tammy Nguyen, who has previously shown at the MoMA; Zai Kuning, one of Singapore’s pioneer experimental artists; and Balinese painter Citra Sasmita.
Besides the massive art exhibition, S.E.A. Focus will also host a series of panel discussions dubbed “SEAspotlight Talks”. Artists and professionals in the industry will be offering their insights on the future of the contemporary art world, such as how it will be shaped by the rise of virtual mediums. Whether you’re an art practitioner or appreciator, you’ll definitely find something worthwhile at the event.
Photo credit: Toni Cuhadi, courtesy of S.E.A. Focus Singapore
After checking out S.E.A. Focus, head over to Singapore Art Museum’s new outposts in the same area. The museum has taken over two vast warehouse spaces at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, which will officially open during Singapore Art Week.
There’ll be four opening shows for you to look forward to. We’re especially excited for “REFUSE“, a hybrid of a performative installation and an archival space, as presented by local art rock band The Observatory. For a taste of the apocalypse, there is Korakrit Arunanondchai’s “A Machine Boosting Energy Into the Universe“. Against a setting filled with used electronics, autoparts and clothings that have been refashioned into cyborgs, you can discover the Thai artist’s iconic cinematic video installation, Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3.
In between your art ventures, take a break at the building’s F&B area overlooking the Keppel Harbour.
Photo credit: The Observatory, courtesy of Singapore Art Museum
For art after dark, head to the Civic District to enjoy the annual Light to Night Festival. Cultural landmarks like the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Victoria Concert Hall and the Esplanade will once again serve as the backdrop for innovative light installations and augmented reality (AR) experiences.
Don’t miss “Visions”, an AR exhibition featuring works by KAWS, Olafur Eliasson, and Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen, projected along the façade of the National Gallery Singapore. Over at the Asian Civilisations Museum, be transported by local artist Debbie Ding’s “Memory Portals,” which offers a fantastical view of the Singapore River.
Photo credit: @lighttonightsg / Instagram
After travelling to London’s Tate Modern and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, this major Nam June Paik retrospective has made its final (and only Asian) stop in Singapore. Consider yourself lucky that you get to experience this exhibition, which encompasses five decades of works by The Father of Video Art.
There are over 180 installations to see, but here’s what you don’t want to miss: Sistine Chapel, a reimagining of the Vatican landmark that covers the gallery walls and ceiling with images; TV Garden, featuring 49 television sets tuned to everything from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to Japanese TV ads; and the contemplative TV Buddha installation.
Photo credit: Sistine Chapel by Nam June Paik. Photo by Andria Lo, courtesy of the Estate of Nam June Paik © Estate of Nam June Paik
We named Faris Heizer as one to watch last year, so if you’ve yet to be introduced to the local artist, the best way to do so is through his new solo exhibition at Cuturi Gallery. “Crooners” showcases Heizer’s great taste in music (see painting titles like “The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” or “Nowhere Man”) as well as his empathetic insight into the life of a white-collar salary man.
Across his paintings, Heizer has depicted the familiar figure in moments of vulnerability and melancholy, which might mirror your own feelings about coming into a new year with the same old routines.
Photo credit: “Nowhere Man” (2021) by Faris Heizer, courtesy of Cuturi Gallery
Following a textile art exhibition in 2021, the independent Art Encounters series is back. This time, the spotlight is on local artist Gerald Leow, who has constructed towering kinetic sculptures all along the waterfront Event Plaza outside Marina Bay Sands.
Leow’s artworks pose the question: Do objects have any meaning without humans? Those sculptures, which can be turned by hand or moved by the wind, are as interactive as Leow’s process drawings, sketches and photographs are immersive.
You can explore the latter within Art Encounter’s signature container at the venue, but you can also meet the artist himself if you visit the installation on weekends, when he will be on-site to demonstrate the making of his maquettes.
Photo credit: Maquette 1 by Gerald Leow, courtesy of Art Outreach
We don’t ever need a reason to pay a visit to Basheer Graphic Books, but this month, our favourite bookstore is hosting a pop art pop-up by Artblovk. Curated by Eddie Ching and Lim Cheng Tju, the exhibition questions how visual art moves from natural digital territories — and what comes next. Enjoy striking artworks by illustrators and visual artists such as A Good Citizen (Dan Wong), Comet Girl (Cherie Sim), and more, and later lose yourself in the bookstore where you will be well reminded that print isn’t dead.
Singapore art non-profit, Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya (APAD), is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a new exhibition that wants us to look beyond age. Each artwork aims to overcome issues of marginalisation and age-segregation, and in that spirit, each one was made in collaboration by a pair of artists from different generations. Discover what brings them together or sets them apart at this thought-provoking showcase, featuring artists like Ezzam Rahman, Abu Jalal Sarimon and Fajrina Razak.
Photo credit: Di Mana Dia Anak Kambing Saya by Abu Jalal and Nafsiah, courtesy of APAD