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Singapore often gets a bad rap when it comes to the arts. As a young country with no natural resources, it follows that Singapore’s biggest export is talent – the result of a gruelling and competitive education system that, until very recently, expected students to follow traditional business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career paths. Lately, however, the arts scene is burgeoning, both through government initiatives like the Singapore Biennale exhibition and the #BuySingLit campaign, as well as through grassroots campaigns run by artists themselves. Here’s a whirlwind tour of the Lion City for art lovers.
As implied by the name, the core focus of the ArtScience Museum is on the meeting point between art and science. Exhibitions highlight the common ground between these two disciplines, which often seem completely opposite to each other at first glance. The venue is deceptively large, home to nearly 50,000 square feet of space for shows – recent ones include the Titanic and the animation of DreamWorks. Future World is the latest permanent exhibition, where art installations come to life based on visitor interaction.
Insider tip: Buying tickets in advance can help you to skip the queues, but you have to choose a specific day to visit. If you want to keep your plans open, keep in mind you can buy tickets online and then jump the queues and pick them up immediately.
ArtScience Museum 6 Bayfront Ave, Singapore. T: +65 6688 8888
The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) houses a collection of contemporary art by Southeast Asian artists. Besides the collections, the gallery itself, housed in a former 19th-century mission school, will leave an impression on colonial-era architecture fans. With the Singapore Biennale finishing up on February 26, the next big event at SAM is a|edge, an annual exhibition organised by the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts. SAM also has a permanent area dedicated to the Learning Gallery, which aims to encourage a love for art in children.
Insider tip: The Singapore Art Museum offers free entry every Friday from 6pm–9pm.
Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Rd, Singapore. T: +65 6589 9580
Hidden in plain sight is the ION Art Gallery, found on the fourth floor of the shopping monolith at the corner of Orchard and Patterson. This gallery showcases multimedia contemporary art by local and emerging artists from all over Asia.
Insider tip: Admission to the gallery is free. From the gallery, take the lift up to ION Sky for beautiful views of the island, without paying a penny.
ION Art Gallery 2 Orchard Turn, ION Orchard, Singapore. T: +65 62388228
The Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film is one of the major hubs in Singapore for emerging art – think exhibitions and screenings as well as education programmes in photography and filmmaking. Currently, the Between Home and Home exhibition displays the photography work of a dozen young Singaporeans examining the evolving youth culture of the nation. And next up on the itinerary, EverydayClimateChange will showcase a curated collection of photographs showing the effects of climate change spanning the continent.
Insider tip: It’s worth checking the events calendar before you visit, as the weekends are full of workshops and talks by local and international artists.
Objectifs Gallery, 155 Middle Road, Singapore. T: +65 6336 2957
The name CAD stands for coffee, art and design. This tiny haunt sits on Haji Lane, on the outer edge of historic Kampong Glam. The café is easy to miss, so just keep your eyes peeled for the striking blue, white and orange street art splashed across the building. Besides great fairtrade coffee, there’s a constantly changing collection of works by local artists.
Insider tip: Regardless of what Google says, CAD Café is not actually closed; it’s just changed management and is now connected with Blujaz next door, so take advantage of its happy hour while you’re here!
Artistry is a café and gallery in one. With minimalist décor allowing patrons to concentrate on what’s really important – enjoying an artfully created latte or the artworks on the walls – Artistry is a dream for people who like well-organised spaces. The café serves up your standard fare of coffees, but if you’re feeling peckish, the kitchen rustles up a delicious chilli crab cake that’s not to be missed. In the evenings, poetry readings and musical performances are also thrown into the mix a few times a week.
17 Sungai Pinang, Singapore 199149. T: +65 6298 2420
Insider tip: Ernest Zacharevic, famous for his street art in Georgetown, Malaysia, has a few murals around the neighbourhood.
Experience culinary art in a completely new way at NOX Dine in the Dark. Your evening will start with a cocktail and an appetiser, before you’re led up a staircase with diminishing lights until you reach total darkness. In pitch black, a pre-set menu is served, with diners encouraged to use their heightened sense of smell and taste to not only enjoy, but also identify, their food. Following your meal, you’ll return to the bar downstairs and write down what you thought was dished up for dinner, before receiving a card detailing the menu to see how your guesses compare to the real deal.
269 Beach Rd, Singapore. T: +65 6298 0708
Singapore’s newest French bistro, Ginett Restaurant & Wine Bar, opened just two weeks ago to rave reviews. Serving up hearty French cuisine and wines starting at just $6 (£4.80) a glass, a meal at Ginett is the perfect way to wind down after you’ve spent the day touring the nation’s galleries. And really, what better way to discuss and critique the art you’ve seen than over a glass of red?
200 Middle Rd, Singapore. T: +65 6809 7989