Forum: Reviving Gillman Barracks should be a priority

Queen's Own Hill And Its Environs by Robert Zhao Renhui displayed at Block 22 Gillman Barracks. PHOTO: ROBERT ZHAO RENHUI

The departure of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA) will not only be a significant loss to the Singapore art scene but will also have a major impact on the very existence of Gillman Barracks itself (NTU Centre for Contemporary Art to close Gillman spaces, Aug 24).

This latest news reinforces the points I brought up in a previous Forum letter about the problems of sustaining independent art spaces in Singapore (Arts companies need permanent homes to grow, July 28).

It was reported that NTU CCA is folding because the Economic Development Board is cutting its funding to the centre.

Since its launch in 2013, the NTU CCA has made a significant contribution to the development of the contemporary art scene in Singapore, bringing in international shows and hosting artist residencies for local creatives.

It is not far-fetched to say that NTU CCA, being the anchor tenant, has been bringing in the crowds to Gillman Barracks.

The NTU CCA is the latest in the number of art galleries and spaces that have departed from Gillman Barracks, including major players such as Chan + Hori Contemporary and Pearl Lam.

It is well known that Gillman Barracks has been suffering from low footfall, among a number of issues.

There has never been a sense of excitement or vibrancy whenever one visits the enclave, as compared with overseas art spaces such as 798 Art Zone in Beijing.

Gillman Barracks opened to much hype in 2012, and as part of a master plan to transform Singapore into a global arts hub. Regrettably, it has not lived up to that status.

Reviving and revitalising Gillman Barracks by going back to the drawing board should be a priority if we aspire to become an important player in the regional and international art scene.

Jeffrey Say Seck Leong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2020, with the headline Forum: Reviving Gillman Barracks should be a priority. Subscribe