Choose your adventure: Get on the bus 175 to see art displayed at bus stops along the way. Hop on an MRT train adorned with art from end to end. Drive through a carpark exhibition without getting out of your car. Catch critters scurrying around the island ala Pokemon Go. Or shop in a mall filled with artists’ collaborations with the mall’s tenants.
Of course, if you prefer to enjoy art the old-fashioned way, you could drop in at the dozens of exhibitions in galleries and museums across Singapore. If you want to be even more “boring”, you could just stay home and take in the wealth of digital art created just for the week.
Any way you look at it, the Singapore Art Week (January 22 to January 30) will be a frenzied period for anyone who genuinely loves art, as there are over 300 artists and curators putting out their best works around the island and in cyberspace.
Now in its ninth year, the national art event has grown in size and ambition over time. But this year’s edition appears even more so, as the arts community thinks up new ways to bring art to the people under the restrictions of Covid-19.
Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board, it has branched out into the physical and virtual worlds as never before.
Tay Tong, NAC’s director of sector development for visual arts, says: “This ninth edition is a mark of our times. Many of these programmes actively respond to the current challenges. Artists have adapted quickly, experimenting with new modes of creation by leveraging on technology, and rethinking how to collaborate internationally, with travel restrictions
As the pandemic still inflicts damage on the sector, Mr Tay sees the event as a “coming together of our community, and acknowledging its innovation, resilience, and spirit of solidarity that have been demonstrated greatly in these times”.
AR Tech comes forth
One event emblematic of the new Singapore Art Week is Inner Like The OutAR, an art show that combines physical sensations with virtual thrills. Set in a hallucinatory space filled with coloured lights and weird soundscapes, visitors will be handed iPads that allow them to explore digitally coloured forests and strange plants.
The art show ‘Inner Like The OutAR’ promises a blend of live thrills and digital fantasies.
Artist Reza Hasni conceptualised the show as a response to how more people are spending time in nature during the pandemic. The sly irony, of course, is that the show lets you experience these psychotropic environments indoors using Augmented Reality (AR) technology – a simultaneous comment on how we often substitute digital visual experiences for real life.
Presented by art programming consultancy Mama Magnet, its founder-curator Tulika Ahuja says: “We wanted a strong participatory element that can capture and hold the attention of our visitors. Attention spans are very short; if a work of art wants to say something, it needs to engage its audiences in fresh, innovative ways.” As an added attraction to social media fans, the space features many spots for selfies.
Meanwhile, another AR project has imaginary critters jumping around and interacting with you. Inspired by Pokemon Go, artist Alvin Tan of design collective Phunk worked with other artists to create fictitious flora and fauna scattered around Gillman Barracks, viewable on your smartphone via a QR code.
The artists hope to obtain funding that’ll allow them to extend their magical world to the rest of Singapore. Tan says: “Our reality was altered by the pandemic, but it gave rise to augmented reality . . . Now is an exciting time for artists as we’re pushed to experiment with new mediums and ways of engaging with them.”
At Wild Critters, you’ll find strange animals interacting with you, like this long-tentacled creature.
Collectors unite online
In recent years, one of Singapore Art Week’s marquee events was S.E.A. Focus, a selling exhibition that brings some of the best galleries, artists and collectors together. Though it doesn’t call itself an “art fair”, it operates like one, and has helped fill some of the commercial void left behind by Art Stage’s departure in 2019.
Because of travel restrictions, however, this year’s S.E.A. Focus is not able to physically host non-Singaporean galleries and guests. Hence it has gone hybrid, with a selection of terrific artworks physically displayed at Helutrans, and the rest shown online.
Among the 27 galleries participating in the event are Lehmann Maupin (which has galleries in New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London) and Edouard Malingue Gallery (which is based in Hong Kong and Shanghai).
Its project director Emi Eu says the pandemic has brought about significant changes to the art world: “But we see them as opportunities to reach out to a global audience and help them discover South-east Asian art from Singapore.”
Meanwhile, another annual marquee event is the Impart Collectors’ Show, which brings to the public priceless art belonging to private collectors. Last year’s show featured works by blue-chip artists such as Kehinde Wiley (who famously painted Barack Obama) and Bharti Kher (who’s collected by Tate Modern and recently tapped by Dior for the Dior Lady Art project).
Ernesto Klar’s Relational Light is one of the works collected by Wiyu Wahono, featured in the Impart Collectors’ Show.
The pandemic, however, has prevented overseas collectors from travelling to Singapore for a showcase. So the organiser, Art Outreach Singapore, has created videos that take you into the beautiful houses and offices of
major collectors to see their private collections. They include Singapore’s Woffles Wu and Jim Amberson, Indonesia’s Wiyu Wahono and India’s Sangita Jindal.
Summing up the spirit of Singapore Art Week 2021, Tay says that event reflects on “what is lost in the pandemic”. But, instead of wallowing fruitlessly in regret, it explores “what new opportunities have emerged from it, and how one can look ahead into the transformation of the arts for the future”.
Visit artweek.sg for details
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