The Singapore Art Book Fair is back this weekend (June 29 – July 1) at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks) and if you have yet to be acquainted with it, it’s the premiere festival that targets visual art books and independent publications.

Organised by festival director Renée Ting, this year marks the first time the 5-year-old festival is going completely autonomous – this means no funding from external bodies nor any affliations whatsoever. Despite what some might view as a handicap, the robust lineup boasting over 60 local and international exhibitors (twice that of last year’s edition) suggests otherwise.

Some of Singapore’s most notable names across art, photography and design will be exhibiting, including the National Gallery, the Substation, Knuckles & Notch, Deck, Foreign Policy, and Atelier HOKO. An array of creatives from UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and more will also be out in force at the fair, including Bananafish Books (organisers of the Shanghai Art Book Fair) and renowned British publisher Phaidon, which has published everything from the works of Annie Leibovitz to the late Yves Saint Laurent’s oeuvre.

Bonus: there’ll even be a room specially dedicated to ‘zines, so look out for that.

This year’s edition also marks a shift in direction for the fair. “The fair this year aims to re-calibrate its focus, creating a platform that is committed to showcasing works that are not just ‘aesthetically pleasing’ or ‘Instagrammable’ but encourage a growth and deeper understanding in the audience’s cultural palette,” says Ting.

How does it do so?

Besides the books and zines that’ll be on sale, there’ll also be a series of talks organised by the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore that aim to tackle interesting topics such as self-publishing (an increasingly prominent trend, both abroad and locally) and the role of art magazines in today’s context. The latter is a real highlight as a panel of notable editors will be in town for the talk, including Mark Rappolt, editor-in-chief of ArtReview.

It’s a challenging change in direction but one that’s sorely needed – given Singapore’s reputation for wanting in critical thinking, any platform that provides such discourse should be welcomed. We’ll see you there this weekend.