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These New Singaporean Art Spaces Aren't Your Typical Galleries

Popping up in far-flung, unexpected, even divey locations, and championing the ideas and work of emerging artists in unorthodox ways, these are the gallery equivalents of Vetements. Keng Yang Shuen reports on Singapore's second wave of guerilla art spaces.

Supernormal: Started by creative studio Modular Unit, Supernormal – located in a mixed-used block on Kreta Ayer Road – is meant to be an “inclusive” alternative to established galleries and public programmes. Self-funded, it aims to serve as an accessible art platform for the public as well as emerging artists. Pictured here: the debut solo exhibition “Thought Lines” by local mixed media artist Berny Tan

In-between space. That’s the curious term artist/designer Ong Kian Peng of creative studio Modular Unit uses to describe his gallery Supernormal, which opened last July at a mixed-use housing development along Kreta Ayer Road. In fact, he’d rather visitors see the venue as a “project space” than label it as a gallery.

Depending on one’s affinity towards the arts, the latter term often connotes anything from pristine white walls to deathly silence and intimidating curators. That might be changing though, with the crop of new art spaces sprouting up across Singapore.

Most are small (Supernormal rings in at just 250 sq ft) and are run by young artists and/or creative types (they’re usually a hybrid of both). More significantly, they’re typically located at unexpected, out-of-the-way nooks, and espouse an unpolished, DIY aesthetic. In short, they’re anything but the industry standard of an art exhibition space; the anti-white cube so to speak.

Take the four-month-old I_S_L_A_N_D_S. Started by art gallery exhibitions executive Pey Chuan Tan with support from skate shop owner Ariff Shariff, it redefines the idea of concept spaces by literally having no walls – the art is displayed within eight window cases in a public corridor on the third floor of the highly retro Peninsula Shopping Centre. Tan says she opted for this atypical format because she wanted to present art in an out-of-the-box context.

I_S_L_A_N_D_S: A passion project by exhibitions executive Pey Chuan Tan and skate shop owner Ariff Shariff, the four-month-old initiative presents artworks in window display cases flanking a corridor on the third floor of Peninsula Shopping Centre. Tan hopes that both artists and viewers take away with them new ways of making and presenting art. Pictured here, the works of multimedia artist Vanessa Lim Shu Yi

“I chose the windows because they look as if they’re situated within an enclosed space, yet it remains a public linkway. It’s great for presenting art to new and non-art audiences – perhaps even regular passers-by, who might then look forward to new exhibitions,” she explains. She says the creative results far outweigh the challenges of displaying art in this format.