Discover art in unlikely places at Singapore Art Week

A past edition of the Light To Night Festival (above) in the Civic District, which will return for Singapore Art Week next year.
A past edition of the Light To Night Festival (above) in the Civic District, which will return for Singapore Art Week next year.PHOTO: NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE

When Singapore Art Week (SAW) returns in January next year, art will spring up at bus stops and in an MRT train, a mall and other less conventional spaces.

The island's annual visual arts festival runs from Jan 22 to 30, with more than 100 physical and digital events featuring more than 300 artists and curators from Singapore and beyond.

The art exhibition Bus.Stop.Art. involves artistic installations and interventions at bus stops along route 175, which travels from Geylang to Clementi.

At Funan mall, Creative Unions, a "mall-wide art activation" by curatorial firm Neighbourhood, will see artists and the mall's tenants team up for projects such as capsule lines of clothing created by fashion labels and artists working together.

SAW, which is entering its ninth edition, will have more than 40 commissioned works - its largest number so far.

Other festival highlights range from Inner Like The OutAR at Gillman Barracks, a large-scale installation that uses augmented reality; to Moo Moo Park, a drive-through exhibition at the carpark of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre that blends art with interactive technology.

Then, there are the usual art-week events such as the National Gallery Singapore's Light To Night Festival in the Civic District; Artwalk at Little India by Lasalle College of the Arts; and the Asian Film Archive's State of Motion series, in which artists will explore the idea of a "South-east Asian Futurism" at the Marina One mixed-use development.

S.E.A. Focus by STPI - Creative Workshop & Gallery, a showcase of contemporary art from the region, also returns with an online exhibition and a presentation of selected artworks at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

SAW is an initiative by the National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

Mr Tay Tong, NAC's director of sector development for visual arts, says in reference to the festival's tagline: "Art Takes Over takes on a whole new meaning as SAW 2021 not only crosses the walls of galleries into streets and homes, but also transcends time and space in the digital realm.

"This is also a reflection of the larger evolving arts scene, where audiences are increasingly able to enjoy art anywhere and everywhere and are no longer confined to a physical location or the conventional white cube."

On the potential impact of the pandemic on festival attendance, he says: "I wouldn't worry too much about it. The SAW team did a straw poll which asked, 'Do you prefer to watch online or offline?' and 85 per cent said they preferred offline.

"That's why a lot of us are doing a blended and hybrid approach - so we can reach our audience in different ways. I've found that by doing programmes on the digital sphere, we are reaching out to audiences who could not be physically here."

STPI's executive director Emi Eu says S.E.A. Focus will be a "very different experience" as it has done away with the usual art-fair layout of gallery booths.

"Whether the sales will be down or up, I cannot tell, but we know the immediacy of impulse-buying will not be there."

She adds: "Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire art world has pivoted onto digital platforms quite quickly. We are finding that there are more and more collectors willing to buy art from a digital platform because they know the galleries and artists.

"We hope this hybrid presentation (online and at Tanjong Pagar Distripark) will garner the same results, if not better."

• For more information, go to Some digital programmes are already online

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2020, with the headline 'Discover art in unlikely places at Singapore Art Week'. Print Edition | Subscribe