'Just too crowded' at hipster market Artbox Singapore

Big turnout yesterday at Artbox, where stalls selling food, trinkets and lifestyle products were set up. Some visitors on Good Friday had complained about poor crowd control, lack of proper spacing between stalls and, well, just too many people.
Big turnout yesterday at Artbox, where stalls selling food, trinkets and lifestyle products were set up. Some visitors on Good Friday had complained about poor crowd control, lack of proper spacing between stalls and, well, just too many people.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The crowd at Artbox Singapore on Saturday (April 15). ST VIDEO: LIM YAOHUI

Housed in metal containers bedecked with fairy lights, the quirky industrial chic of hipster market Artbox promised to be an instant success.

Its 320 booths selling quirky crafts and Instagrammable foods were deluged with visitors over the long weekend - but did it live up to the hype? Some of those who turned up on Good Friday, like Ms Maria Ibrahim, 42, felt that their visits were a let-down - because it was simply too crowded.

"We managed to explore a little, but couldn't stop for long at the stalls because the crowd was moving," said the teacher, who was there for less than half an hour.

Many of those who visited the market - a local edition of the vastly popular Artbox in Bangkok - that day voiced their annoyance on social media. Among the complaints: poor crowd control, lack of proper spacing between stalls and, well, just too many people.

Some said they queued for up to 30 minutes to get a drink, while others said that events previously held in the same area - such as Gas- troBeats - were better organised.

Those who visited yesterday, however, seemed to be more prepared for the crowds.

"We saw news about the crowd online, but we thought why the heck not just come down anyway," said Mr James Yap, 47.

The sales director was with his wife and son, and queued 15 minutes for the much-talked-about dragon's breath candy - a dessert chilled with liquid nitrogen that makes it look as if the person eating it is breathing smoke.

"We're mainly here for the food - the other shops were not that interesting to us. It's very crowded, so if it could be spread out a bit more, it would be much better," he said.

Mr Lee Haoming, who is behind the local edition of the popular Thai street market, said the set-up is very similar to that of the original one in Bangkok.

"Artbox Singapore is very close to the original concept from Bangkok in terms of spacing and the open-air market feeling, with some added features like the beer garden," said the co-founder of Artbox Asia.

He said the event space of 50,000 sq ft at Bayfront Event Space beside Marina Bay Sands is "not a small space at all".

"If we'd known that bringing the concept of Artbox here would be such a hit with Singaporeans, we might have looked for a bigger set-up," he said.

He added that Artbox Asia is looking at how it can improve things in future.

Those who wish to visit today and next weekend are advised to take public transport. The nearest MRT station is Bayfront. Peak hours for the market are between 5pm and 8pm. Admission is free.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline ''Just too crowded' at hipster market'. Print Edition | Subscribe