singapore art week
Image: Sarah Walker & Melbourne Festival

Visual arts extravaganza Singapore Art Week returns from Jan 17 to 28 next year with more than 100 events transforming museums and public spaces around the island. Giant outdoor murals and projections, film screenings, art walks and performances have been programmed in the annual festival’s sixth edition. It is organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board. Art enclave Gillman Barracks will hold its popular Art After Dark party on Jan 26 and that day launch a new art trail, Disini, with site-specific sculptures, murals and performances which run till September next year.

Another anticipated work of art is Progress: The Game Of Leaders, a roughly 1.5-m-tall interactive sculpture which will be at The Arts House from Jan 22 to 28. It is designed by urban artist Samantha Lo – the “Sticker Lady” who made headlines in 2012 for pasting stickers with slogans around Singapore. This work, first shown at the Melbourne Festival this year, is based on the popular game Jenga. Players stack or remove 72 balsa-wood blocks representing elements of First World nations, such as “increasing globalisation” or “military spending”. The idea is to make the tower as tall as possible.

Lo, 31, hopes players will put themselves in the shoes of world leaders and note that progress comes with compromise. “When we first played it in Australia, people were choosing socially conscious, morally right blocks and trying to avoid the ‘military’ blocks. But you couldn’t avoid it,” she said.

“When people play the game, I want them to see we are all the same. We make unpopular decisions because they seem the best at the time.”

Other events involving young Singaporeans include Artwalk Little India – tours and storytelling performances organised by students from Lasalle College Of The Arts – and film-based works from visual artist Kray Chen and theatre practitioner Irfan Kasban. Irfan, 29, is working with the Asian Film Archive to stage a live recreation of a lost 1947 film, Singapura Diwaktu Malam (Singapore At Night). His work is part of State Of Motion 2018: Sejarahku, the archive’s celebration of Malay-language films produced by the former Shaw Malay Film Productions. State Of Motion includes screenings and tours to film locations as well. Chen, 30, offers a playful take on Chinese wedding customs in the art film, 5 Rehearsals For A Wedding, showcased at Objectifs: Centre For Photography And Film from Jan 17 to Feb 11.

Single and not sold on wedding customs, he says: “What you’re watching is not a wedding. It’s about this person in a way negotiating with themselves and coming of age. It’s looking at my own possible future.”

Giving young artists space to develop is a hallmark of Singapore Art Week, said Ms Linda de Mello, the arts council’s director, sector development (visual arts). Speaking at a press briefing on Nov 14 at the National Gallery Singapore, she added that the goal of Singapore Art Week is to increase audiences for, and appreciation of, the visual arts in Singapore. The marquee event next year is a second edition of the Light To Night Festival, held from Jan 19 to 28.

The festival includes Art Skins On Monuments, an outdoor art trail through eight locations at the Civic District. Buildings in these spots, such as the Asian Civilisations Museum, National Gallery Singapore, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, will have their facades transformed by projections created by 30 local artists and designers. New indoor artworks have also been commissioned for the National Gallery Singapore, as well as a new showcase of work from Buenos Aires-born Rirkrit Tiravanija on the gallery’s Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery.

Singapore Art Week sprung up around Art Stage Singapore, the art fair founded and helmed by Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, the Swiss national who turned the Art Basel fair into a major event. This year’s Art Stage Singapore runs from Jan 26 to 28 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. It will focus on Thai artists, following a trend of highlighting different South-east Asian nations over the years. Mr Low Eng Teong, assistant chief executive officer of the National Arts Council said that visitorship at this year’s Singapore Art Week was 180,000, not including attendance at Art Stage Singapore. When about 1,000 visitors were interviewed by the arts council, 70 per cent were first-time visitors at Singapore Art Week and about 25 per cent had visited the 2016 edition.

Mr Low said: “We hope people will migrate from looking at art to wanting to go for a one-hour talk on art and then maybe supporting the arts. It’s a long process.”

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