If there’s one thing clear about the world of art in recent years, it’s that it is increasingly seeking to move beyond traditional stereotypes of what art can be and even where you can expect to encounter it. Exhibit A: the upcoming Singapore Art Week 2023 (SAW 2023).
Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), this annual showcase is now in its 11th edition and takes place from Jan 6 to 15 this year. In the line-up: over 700 artists and curators from Singapore and around the world, presenting more than 130 programmes and exhibitions to be staged all over the island.
Take artist Justin Loke’s installation, Block Party: Our Neighbourhood Furniture Tetris (below). Staged in front of Pasir Ris East Community Club, it’s part of SAW 2023 as well as NAC’s debut collaboration with People’s Association, which seeks to engage with Community Arts & Culture Clubs in five neighbourhoods across Singapore as part of the NAC’s #ArtsInYourNeighbourhood programme.
A key missive for SAW 2023 is to encourage encounters with the arts in more accessible locations, such as the open space in front of Pasir Ris East Community Club which houses an installation by artist Justin Loke.
There are also other independent showcases in areas such as Woodlands (clock Shoebox Sculpture Biennale 2023 – Sightseeing Sculpture: The Sky, The Land, and The Sea by Sculpture 2052) as well as venues such as the void decks of housing development boards and parks all across Singapore.
While this might surprise some, bringing art to everyday spaces that lie beyond typical art settings like galleries and museums has been an ongoing part of NAC’s commitment towards making the visual arts accessible to all kinds of audiences.
And while cross-pollination between art and other creative disciplines isn’t new, the NAC is putting an even greater emphasis on this starting with SAW 2023, which sees artists collaborating with practitioners from design, technology and even the culinary field.
With plenty to see and cover across the 10-day event, FEMALE has curated our pick of events, experiences and exhibitions that should please both seasoned art connoisseurs and anyone simply looking to dip their toes into Art Week. And to make it even easier for you to plan your SAW itinerary, we’ve broken it all down by neighbourhood.
What is it: An interactive dining experience titled Third Wheeling that’s executed in collaboration with the ever-popular contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant Artichoke.
Who’s behind it: The multi-disciplinary studio Awkward Party, made up of fashion-trained visual artist Sheryll Goh and fashion designer Rachael Cheong of cult clothing and jewellery label Closet Children.
Why visit: A meal at Artichoke is always an enjoyable experience but why not take it to the next level with Awkward Party? Diners to this ticketed event will be assigned seats at random – you’ll have to work together with fellow table-mates to complete your dinner. Getting awkward is all part of the experience – this enterprising duo is known for creating theatrical events that prod at human connections through accessible entry points in pop culture such as food, parties, and music. Besides which, the impossible-to-miss floor-to-ceiling installations are sure to provide plenty of material for your social media feeds. For those who are unable to make any of the seatings (tickets are selling fast), the installations can still be viewed publicly at the restaurant for the entire duration of SAW 23, from January 6 to January 15; it’ll be on display in its ‘lived-in’ state as if viewers have just missed the party. Get your tickets here.
When: January 10 and January 11, two seatings per day (6:30pm and 8:30pm)
Where: Artichoke, 161 Middle Road
What is it: An exhibition titled Pictures in the Mind, presenting works by seven Singapore artists: Daniela Monasterios-Tan, Ernest Wu, Syahrul Anuar, Lim Zeharn, Lim Zeherng, Ang Song Nian and Song-Ming Ang.
Who’s behind it: The photography arts organisation Deck, which also organised the recent Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF).
Why visit: If you missed out on the recent SIPF that was staged last Sept, here’s a good chance to finally check out one of its key venues: Peace Centre. The near-50-year-old mall doesn’t see as much foot traffic these days but the festival managed to bring new and younger crowds into the space, with artists taking up disused retail units to showcase local stories and memories of the building – lending credence to the movement of moving art out of traditional white cube spaces. Think of the new exhibition as the closing act to Deck’s ongoing exploration of Peace Centre, where the artists involved will be exploring photography’s potential to create memories of a place through images.
When: January 4 to January 20
Where: Peace Centre, 1 Sophia Road
What: An interactive visual arts programme titled Let’s Play Ball! – Art That Fits in Your Palm, designed to add a twist to the concept of gachapon, the famous coin-operated toy dispensers invented in Japan. Instead of toys, expect limited-edition artist objects and collectibles designed and created by 10 established visual artists from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.
Who’s behind it: The risograph publishing and print studio Knuckles & Notch, which is known for vividly colourful works that come with a side dish of morbid humour.
Why visit: You mean besides the opportunity to snag portable works of art (we hear they start at $50)? There’s also the kawaii factor that cannot be overlooked and we’re keen on seeing how the artists involved (including names like popular cartoon artist High Nun Chicken) will translate their works into miniaturised versions. The exhibition will also be accompanied by printmaking workshops – perfect for anyone looking to try their hands at this time-honoured art form.
When: January 6 to January 22, noon-7pm (closed on Mondays)
Where: Knuckles & Notch, 261 Waterloo St, #02-25
What: A site-specific work titled S23 that sees Lasalle College of The Arts’ Amphitheatre transforming into a communal resting space that acts as a catalyst for organic social interactions between visitors and artists.
Who’s behind it: The Artists Village (TAV). Started by prominent artist Tang Da Wu in 1988, TAV is the first art colony in Singapore and is known for presenting cutting-edge shows that push the boundaries of Singapore contemporary art.
Why visit: Let’s face it, major art events can be quite exhausting with so many things to check out. S23 wants to be the resting ground where you can take a break in-between shows, share your thoughts on what you’ve seen at SAW 2023 and have a meal with someone you just met. It was inspired by the former S11 kopitiam outlet in front of the old National Library Building, and in an attempt to build on the kopitiam’s traditional social functions, S23 seeks to re-create a public area where relationships between people are kept non-hierarchical and strangers can become friends by chance.
When: January 6 to January 15, 1pm-8pm
Where: Lasalle College of the Arts, McNally Campus, 1 McNally Street
What: The return of Pulp III: A Short Biography Of The Banished Book by artist Shubigi Rao to Singapore. Rao’s work was Singapore’s submission to the prestigious Venice Biennale this year. The work is now making its debut for SAW 23.
Who’s behind it: Rao is the internationally acclaimed artist who’s famed for her ongoing 10-year project Pulp, which explores the history of book destruction and its impact on the future of knowledge. Working in tandem with her on this project is curator Ute Meta Bauer, a veteran who co-curated the United States’ submission to the international contemporary art exhibition in 2015. Together, the duo represented the first ever women-led artist-curator team to take part in the Venice Biennale.
Why visit: Aside from the prestige associated with the work (comprising a book, a feature film and an installation), the themes (book destruction and its impact on the dissemination of knowledge) that Rao deals with are imminently important. One might say that there’s never been a more crucial time to treasure what it represents, given the increasingly fractious state of global politics and the rise of repressive far-right movements.
When: January 6 to January 24, 10am-7pm
Where: Level 4 ArtScience Museum
What: The highly anticipated art fair Art SG, which is finally making its debut since it was first announced four years ago. It will present over 150 galleries from Singapore and around the world.
Who’s behind it: Magnus Renfrew of The Art Assembly (an affiliation of major international art fairs with a particular focus on the Asia Pacific region), together with lead partner UBS. Renfrew is one of the most influential players in the international arts scene, having co-founded other major international fairs like Taipei Dangdai and Art Basel Hong Kong. Alongside Renfrew, veteran curator Shuyin Yang serves as Art SG’s fair director.
Why visit: Billed as Singapore’s and Southeast Asia’s largest art fair, Art SG looks truly to be an impressive beast. The line-up has some of the world’s best galleries in attendance – we’re talking global giants like Gagosian, Pace, and Perrotin, as well as regional and Singapore powerhouses like Richard Koh Fine Art, Yavuz, ShangArt, Gajah and Pearl Lam. Additionally, Art SG will present three other sectors titled Focus (galleries presenting solo or duo artist programmes), Future (dedicated to supporting young galleries under the age of six years), and Reframe (spotlighting artists who work with digital media and technology) – so there’s really something for all kinds of audiences, not just seasoned art connoisseurs. Get your tickets here.
When: January 12 to January 15
Where: Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, 10 Bayfront Avenue
What: The National Gallery Singapore’s signature Light to Night Festival, which is a marquee event of Singapore Art Week and beloved for its popular light-based artworks. This year’s edition goes for the theme of ‘Here and Now’ and explores what it really means to be in the present, drawing attention to art as a platform to document and respond to one’s lived experiences.
Who’s behind it: National Gallery Singapore, in collaboration with other cultural institutions in the area: Asian Civilisations Museum, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, The Arts House, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall and CapitaLand.
Why visit: In total, there are over 60 programmes and artworks by local and international artists cutting across multiple disciplines that invite people to experience them in-person, drawing back to the theme of being in the moment. The popular art “skins” (light projections on buildings) will, of course, be a returning highlight, while many new installations will be making their debut at the festival. Look out for artist Dawn Ng’s There Is A Window In My Eye If You Look In You Will See The Sky piece, which is meant to recreate the circadian rhythm of dawn to dusk. There are also many live performances within National Gallery Singapore that explore collaboration across genres, featuring artists like Aisyah Aziz, Lalit Kumar, Anise x Sonia Kwek and many more. With so many things to check out, you might as well have dinner in the area – hit up the outdoor market (across St Andrew’s Road and Empress Lawn) that boasts over 50 food and beverage stalls. Check out the full line-up of activities here.
When: January 6 to January 26
Where: #01-01 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Road
What: Textures, the annual literary festival that celebrates Singapore literature is making its return to its original home ground of The Arts House, after two years of bringing local literary arts to the heartlands.
Who’s behind it: The festival is organised by Arts House Limited.
Why visit: Curated by critically-acclaimed, multi-disciplinary artist Jason Wee for a third consecutive year, this year’s festival comes with the poignant theme of ‘Arrived Home’, which invites audiences to explore and question ideas of domesticity and belonging. The festival aims to marry the literary arts with other art disciplines such as theatre and architecture. Among the highlights is an installation by artist Priscilla Quek (pictured) in collaboration with The Substation. Titled Multifacted Corners of #05-478, the work recreates the artist’s parental home, inviting visitors to contemplate the relationships and mundane interactions of the everyday at home.
There’s also an emphasis on Singapore women writers and creative practitioners. Three popular novels by local writers Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen, The Java Enigma by Erni Salleh, and This Is Where I Won’t Be Alone by Inez Tan will each be brought to life by award-winning actresses Serene Chen and Shafiqhah Efandi in a dramatised reading directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall. And of course, there are on-site bookstores offering a spread of titles by Singaporean authors covering various genres and languages that will likely prove to be a popular draw.
When: January 6 to January 15
Where: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane
What: The fifth edition of the fair S.E.A. Focus, which as its name implies, specialises in Southeast Asian contemporary art.
Who’s behind it: The fair is organised by the print-focused creative studio STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery
Why visit: Within a short five years, the fair has firmly established itself as a Singapore Art Week fixture. If ART SG is the mega-watt international art fair in town, then S.E.A. Focus is the intimate sibling that presents perhaps a closer and tighter look at Southeast Asian contemporary art. There are only 25 galleries taking part but they’re all top names from the region, such as Yavuz Gallery, TKG+, and Silverlens. The fair is known for its tight curation of established and emerging names – so it’s definitely always a highlight to check out if you want to get a sense of the region’s pulse, no matter the year. Get your tickets here.
When: January 6 to January 15, 1pm-8pm
Where: Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road, #01-05
What: An exhibition titled Table Manners, which presents the works of four artists and collectives Hoo Fan Chon, Elia Nurvista, Kawita Vatanajyankur, and collective Cang Tin – all of whom take food as the subject matter of food to highlight complex social and cultural issues.
Who’s behind it: The show is staged at the buzzy multi-concept space Appetite, which is a R&D kitchen, record bar, art gallery and events venue rolled into one.
Why visit: From exploring the role of fish in Chinese banquet dining culture to the labour and machinery behind mass farming and the impact of colonisation on the agriculture of Vietnamese highlands, the artists are all known to individually utilise food as a lens to investigate wider interconnected systems such as globalisation, migration and environmental damage. This of course ties in well with Appetite’s reputation for looking at food through the philosophy of cross-cultural connections. International relations may often be pictured as politics, diplomatic talks and the like, but isn’t food a much more palatable (yes, pun intended) way of looking at the topic?
When: January 3 to April 15
Where: Appetite, 72A Amoy Street
P.S. you don’t have to be dining at Appetite in order to view the exhibition – make a booking to check out the works at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: A site-specific installation titled Wayang Spaceship that presents a futuristic vision of Chinese street opera infused with technology and science fiction.
Who’s behind it: The critically acclaimed Singapore-born, Berlin-based artist Ming Wong, who won a Special Mention at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 for his solo presentation at the Singapore Pavilion. The work was commissioned by Singapore Art Museum and supported by Sun Venture.
Why visit: Wayang, commonly known as Chinese street opera in Singapore, is typically depicted as an esoteric and traditional art form. In Ming Wong’s hands though, the image we have of it is transformed; every night at 7pm, the installation comes “alive” through an array of light, sound and moving images, evoking the colours of Chinese opera scenes and costumes from a distant space and time. The installation invokes the history and evolving form of Chinese opera through the years. However, it also combines it with Ming Wong’s own interest in how technology drives historical narratives and the future of Asia. The artist will also be present at the installation on the night of January 14 (7:15pm-10pm) for a special performance combining “voice, music, light and electric dreams”, in collaboration with the iconic audio-visual collective Syndicate to mark the run-up to the Lunar New Year.
When: On now till January 31
Where: Container Bay, rear entrance of SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road
P.S. If you’re a fan of the artwork and the artist, be sure to head down to Gillman Barracks. Parallel to the ongoing installation at the museum, there will be a related exhibition titled Ming Wong: Pictures from the Wayang Spaceship featuring new photographic collage prints (populated by time-travelling heroes and Wayang players) that will debut at Ota Fine Arts Singapore gallery this month.
What: The ongoing mega contemporary art festival that is the Singapore Biennale 2022 (officially named Natasha), which is staged once every two years.
Who’s behind it: Natasha is helmed by a four-person curatorial team comprising co-artistic directors Binna Choi, Nida Ghouse, June Yap and Ala Younis (all of whom are art practitioners or working in art institutions).
Why visit: If you’re already at SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark for the Wayang Spaceship installation (see previous entry), be sure to allocate some time to check out Natasha. Though it kicked off last Oct, it’s designed to be a multi-layered event, with more events and activations slated to take place progressively over its five-month run. For SAW 2023, get ready to partake in new artworks and workshops, such as What is Taste?, a popiah ‘making’ workshop by artist Wu Mali. There will also be free admission to the Natasha ticketed exhibition, held across two weekends (January 6, 7, 13 and 14), with a series of exciting programmes that will feature works by exciting artists such as Haegue Yang (South Korea) and Berny Tan (Singapore), among others.
When: On now till March 19, with specific dates for certain events
Where: SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road
P.S. Beyond Natasha’s primary stage at SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, there are also new artworks elsewhere. These include 12 new pieces at No. 22 Orchard Road, and artist Shooshie Sulaiman’s living installation titled Kancil Mengadap Beringin (The Mousedeer Comes Before the Banyan Tree) on Lazarus Island.
What: A site-specific commission by artist Tiffany Loy titled Lines in Space that sees a room transformed into a large loom.
Who’s behind it: Non-profit arts organisation Art Outreach commissioned the buzzy textile artist for this project.
Why visit: Textile art has long suffered snubs from the fine arts world that’s perceived as a craft more than art. However, Loy is well-known for taking textiles and fabric research to the next level, as seen through her signature multi-dimensional large-scale woven sculptures. The work contains floor-to-ceiling suspended and plaited cords and is designed to be a labyrinth, playing with visitors’ perception of depth and hopefully create a heightened sense of awareness of how people navigate space.
When: January 4 to January 22
Where: 5 Lock Road, #01-06
What: A multi-part work titled Fated love sky. It consists of an online film, an exhibition and a closing party using humour and parody to address the themes of femme joy, healing and power.
Who’s behind it: Artist Chand Chandramohan and arts producer Racy Lim, who together form the curatorial group Fated love sky (yes, Fated love sky is both the name of the group and the exhibition).
Why visit: Riffing off the concept of a “motel of love” and self-love, expect a mix of video, mural and tactile installations that are said to be cheekily sensual in nature. Emerging artists Howie Kim, Leann Herlihy, Mithra Jeevananthan, Rifqi Amirul Rosli and Weixin Quek Chong have come together to create variously sweet, odd and precarious simulations for this project. The closing party on January 28 (staged at The Projector) will be hosted by comedy queen Preetipls, which might give you an idea of the sort of energy the organisers hope to exude. For more details, head to Fated love sky’s Instagram page.
When: January 6 to January 15 (for the exhibition), January 28 (for the closing party)
Where: 1 Lock Road, #01-01 (for the exhibition) and The Projector, #05-00 Golden Mile Tower (for the closing party)
What: Australian artist Patricia Piccinini’s first commercial solo exhibition in Southeast Asia.
Who’s behind it: Piccinini is one of Australia’s most seminal art figures who previously represented the country at the Venice Biennale in 2003.
Why visit: If you enjoyed Piccinini’s popular exhibition Patricia Piccinini: We Are Connected, which is still ongoing at ArtScience Museum, you’ll want to follow up by catching her new exhibition which will be staged at Yavuz Gallery. While there aren’t many details as of press time on the trajectory of this new body of work, Piccinini is famed for her hyper-realistic sculptures that typically depict transgenic creatures and human-animal hybrids. And beyond their shock and awe factor, these fantastical creatures are in fact the artist’s way of raising important questions about ethical issues such as cloning and genetic engineering.
When: January 6 to February 5
Where: 9 Lock Road, #02-23
What: Gillman Barracks’ signature late-night event, back after a hiatus.
Who’s behind it: The arts enclave.
Why visit: Started in 2014, this event has always been a popular affair with over 8,000 people in attendance at previous editions each time, thanks to its heady combination of novelty, live music and seeing art in a new light. While there won’t be any music or party element at this year’s edition, most of the enclave’s galleries will stay open late to showcase their works to the crowd, which typically skews towards a younger and more diverse audience than the usual art collectors. And while gallery owners have previously stated that they don’t expect this twice-yearly outing (it has been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic) to be about making sales, Art After Dark remains a key event with which to raise awareness among younger audiences, who may go on to be potential collectors.
When: January 13, from 7pm
Where: 9 Lock Road
What: The annual multidisciplinary public arts festival set in the cultural precincts of Little India and Kampong Glam. Since Singapore Art Week 2022, Artwalk has expanded into the Katong-Joo Chiat area.
Who’s behind it: Lasalle College of The Arts and the Singapore Tourism Board, with the support of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.
Why visit: The popular Artwalk series has grown from a small event since its start in 2015 to a bustling three-week-long affair, before the pandemic brought it to a halt in 2019. It is back in full glory for SAW 2023 and is taking a thoughtful look at the neighbourhoods that first birthed the event by seeking to bring these spaces and histories alive through dance performances, fashion exhibitions, pop-up dinner theatre experiences and even a traditional Indian art-making workshop. Head to Artwalk 2023’s website for the full line-up.
When: January 6 to January 15, various times
Where: Various locations throughout Little India
What: A (second) solo exhibition titled Shape of Land by the fast-rising artist Khairulddin Wahab.
Who’s behind it: Artist Khairulddin Wahab and Cuturi Gallery, which represents him.
Why visit: This would be a good place to start for anyone seeking an introduction to colonialism and how it intersects with environmental history in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Khairulddin’s poetic tableaus are known for weaving narratives drawn from those inter-connected topics and are based on found images and archival materials. The latest show by this 2018 recipient of the prestigious UOB Painting of the Year explores this fascination with colonialism further – specifically the colonial use of geography to accumulate information, wealth and power.
When: January 7 to January 29
Where: Cuturi Gallery, 61 Aliwal Street
What: Aliwal Urban Art Festival (AUAF), the popular showcase of Singapore’s vibrant urban culture scene.
Who’s behind it: Not-for-profit organisation Arts House Limited.
Why visit: AUAF is always a boisterous affair and this year’s edition seems to up the ante. For starters, there is the notable collaboration between Zero, the founder of renowned urban art collective RSCLS, and Yogyakarta-based graffiti artist Tuyuloveme. The duo will be refreshing the side wall of the Aliwal Arts Centre with a mural representing the artists’ response to each other’s unique practice. Then, there’s the involvement of 12 prominent urban artists, which includes heavyweights like Sam Lo and Speak Cryptic, who have been challenged to create new works in the tabula scalata format in front of a live audience. There are also live street art painting sessions, indie band performances and a block party curated by acclaimed street dance duo, Scrach Marcs.
When: January 14, 12pm till late
Where: Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street
What: A solo exhibition, titled The Fool, by the Singapore illustrator who goes by the moniker Comet Girl.
Who’s behind it: Comet Girl is known for an ultra-colourful, anime-esque aesthetic that’ll likely be catnip for cottagecore-types. Her show is staged by Artblovk, a pop-up independent gallery platform dedicated to supporting emerging Singaporean visual art talents, with a focus on pop culture and contemporary themes, particularly in the field of comics, films and games.
Why visit: How many times have you looked at an artwork and wondered what it might mean? At The Fool exhibition, Comet Girl intends to throw that approach to the wind through her series of light-hearted, bright and illustrative creations. After all, why can’t an artist create for the sake of creation, instead of always having to ascribe deeper meanings to art?
When: January 6 to January 15, noon-8pm
Where: Studio Neon Singapore, 32 Haji Lane
What's In Store In 2023 For The Singapore Visual Artists And Image Makers Making Waves Overseas