Home-grown brands Supermama and Creamier open at Gillman Barracks

Contemporary art cluster Gillman Barracks will welcome some new tenants this year, while other galleries are departing.
Contemporary art cluster Gillman Barracks will welcome some new tenants this year, while other galleries are departing. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Contemporary arts cluster Gillman Barracks is having something of a revival. Super Mama is opening there as is Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf. Creamier, the ice cream parlour, is another new tenant. Meanwhile, Galerie Michael Janssen, which had brought in several big shows including an Ai Weiwei solo in 2013, has closed.

Contemporary art cluster Gillman Barracks is having something of a revival.

Home-grown design label Supermama is opening there, as is Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf.

Creamier, the ice cream parlour, is another new tenant.

Meanwhile, Galerie Michael Janssen, which had brought in several big shows including an Ai Weiwei solo in 2013, has closed.

From July, Supermama will retail its signature design products in Block 47. The space was previously occupied by Japanese gallery Tomio Koyama.

I felt the project has not taken off as envisioned by all of us who have left so far. It could be the best location for galleries in the entire region and in Asia, it has all the infrastructure, but challenges remain.

GALLERIST MICHAEL JANSSEN on his decision to leave Gillman Barracks

Apart from its products, its proposed Design Museum will present exhibitions by international creatives and craftsmen. Design lovers can expect to see new exhibitions every two to three months.

In addition, there will be a regular design market, Shizuka Fair (Introvert's Fair), which will showcase emerging design talents from Singapore and the region.

The Design Museum and Shizuka Fair will both be held in Block 47, where they take up 1,485 sq ft .

On the decision to move to Gillman, Mr Edwin Low, founder of Supermama, tells The Straits Times: "Gillman Barracks combines the best of art, history and nature and makes it the perfect fit for us.

"We are excited to be part of this precinct as design and art are complementary and can lead to greater collaborations between the design and the art community."

Food and beverage is also getting another boost.

Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream and Coffee, known for its ice cream and waffles, opens at the end of the month next to Sundaram Tagore Gallery at Block 5A in Lock Road. Like Red Baron, a cafe in the Barracks, it will offer more affordable and relaxed all-day cafe options.

With Creamier opening, there will be seven F&B outlets, up from three when the place opened three years ago.

Mr Low Eng Teong, director, Sector Development (Visual Arts) of the National Arts Council, says the new additions have been made in response to feedback received.

He says the new tenants "will complement the galleries and visual art organisations in the Barracks and add to the diversity of our tenant mix as well as enhance the visitor experience".

In May, Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf takes up the space previously occupied by Filipino gallery The Drawing Room.

Gallery directors Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf, who were in town recently and have shown in every edition of the premier contemporary art fair Art Stage Singapore, say they wanted to "build on the relationships" they have forged with Singapore collectors.

Gillman Barracks was the only space they had in mind for a physical gallery presence here.

Once they open, they join other established international and Singapore galleries in the art cluster, including Sundaram Tagore, Arndt, Pearl Lam, Shanghart, Mizuma, Yavuz Gallery and Fost.

This brings the number of galleries to 11, down from the previous 17.

Last April, nearly a third of the 17 galleries decided not to renew their leases, citing low human traffic, poor sales and a "slow start" as reasons for leaving.

But other key tenants, including visual art organisations the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Art Outreach and Playeum's Children's Centre for Creativity, now have a strong presence.

The news comes as there are two more exits from Gillman Barracks, including a high profile one.

It is shutters down for Galerie Michael Janssen. Janssen, an established German gallerist with international connections, has decided to focus on his home base in Berlin.

In an e-mail response, he says: "After three years, I felt the project has not taken off as envisioned by all of us who have left so far.

"It could be the best location for galleries in the entire region and in Asia, it has all the infrastructure, but challenges remain."

When contacted about this exit, the Economic Development Board, one of the developers of the Barracks, points to "rental arrears" and said the gallery was not able to renew its tenancy.

Platform Projects, another art space, is closing too. One of Platform's board members and co-founders, Ms Shareen Khattar, says the decision to shut down operations has nothing to do with the location. Rather, it is because the art scene here has changed since Platform started operations.

The announcement comes as Platform Projects ends the year- long lease of its exhibition space.

The Government-backed art enclave, which opened in 2012, aims to create a contemporary art hub in Asia akin to Beijing's famous 798 District.

About $10 million was spent to renovate the 6ha area off Alexandra Road, which used to house British military barracks.

Of late, the art enclave has seen a spike in visitorship when there are open houses and special events such as the recently concluded Singapore Art Week and the popular Art After Dark event, where galleries stay open until late at night.

A talk by star photographer Steve McCurry, for instance, drew more than 200 enthusiasts to Sundaram Tagore Gallery on a Saturday. Last month, the coordinated openings at the various galleries were packed as well.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'New players at Gillman Barracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe