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The Blockbuster Minimalism Exhibition Is Here — This Is Why You Shouldn't Miss It

The next blockbuster exhibition that’ll be taking over your social media feed looks likely to be Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. Taking place across both the National Gallery Singapore and the ArtScience Museum (a collaboration between the two), the five-month exhibition running till April 19 is reportedly the first survey of Minimalist art held in Southeast Asia — featuring 150 works from over 80 artists and 40 composers, across both venues.

But first, you don’t want to walk into the exhibition without at least knowing the base premise of Minimalism. It was a significant movement with American roots that date back to the ’60s, cutting across various mediums such as art and music that partially arose as a reaction against the Abstract Expressionism of earlier decades. Defining characteristics include an emphasis on materials (usually utilitarian or industrial in nature), geometric or architectural structures/silhouettes and basically, cutting out superfluous, gestural details.

Now that’s enough with the art blather (thanks Google) — above, the pieces that caught our eye.

Sunflower Seeds (2010) by Ai Weiwei
Comprising of millions of sunflower seeds, these look like the real deal but are actually made of porcelain, each was individually handmade by Chinese artisans in Jingdezhen, a city in China historically known for its porcelain industry. Ai’s intention? To challenge the long-held notion of “Made in China” and its typically negative connotations. Room for one colour (1997) by Olafur Eliasson
In this work, the space itself literally becomes the art — instead of the usual practice of putting art into a space. The famed Icelandic-Danish artist reconfigures the space using mono-frequency lights to transform it into a room filled with a single colour — while it sounds like quite a simple idea, it perfectly adheres to the concept of Minimalism. Be forewarned though, it can be quite a disorienting experience. Impenetrable (2009) by Mona Hatoum
What looks like a cube of hanging threads from afar is actually rods of barbed wire — 441 in total. Neon Light Installations (1970–2002) by Peter Kennedy
Inherently pretty, this installation by Australian artist Peter Kennedy is a surefire hit just based on visuals alone… Which makes us wonder, was it ahead of its time? Cargo (2018) by Sopheap Pich
Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich makes a critique of global trade i.e. capitalism with his life-sized installation that’s meant to appropriate shipping containers, which typically hold innumerable goods. His are see-through instead and hold only air — “revealing the relationship between what is inside and what is outside.” Clever. Mega Death (1999/2016) by Tatsuo Miyajima
Mega Death sounds like an odd title but it refers to the immense number of lives lost during the 20th century due to man-made factors such as wars. (In case you’re interested, it’s estimated to be at least 108 million.) The LED numbers count down from nine to one — skipping zero in the process — that refers abstractly to the Buddhist cycle of life and death. Haumea (2016) by Tawatchai Puntusawasdi
This piece is meant to resemble the eponymous celestial entity it’s named after — in reality, Haumea is a dwarf planet that orbits the Sun far beyond Neptune. Due to its fast-spinning nature, the planet is actually shaped like an oval rather than the traditional sphere. + and - (1994 - 2004), Mona Hatoum
Inspired by the famous rock gardens of Japan, Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum’s installation looks like a clock but it’s really quite existential. The arms simultaneously create and erase concentric circles in the sand, meant to signify existence and non-existence.