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Soft Realities
Photograph: Third Street Studio

The best upcoming art exhibitions in Singapore

Keep up with our round-up of the best art exhibitions and showcases happening around town

Dewi Nurjuwita
Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
&
Dewi Nurjuwita
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As Singapore opens up, its cultural calendar is brimming with more things to do. Art lovers in Singapore are in for a treat this October, with plenty to do around the island. There are various exhibitions – from big-scale affairs (we're talking renowned international artists) to smaller-scale, independent ones – to check out. And they're great for groups of twos, too. Experience impressive sculptures at National Gallery Singapore or broaden your horizons and brush up on your art knowledge at independent galleries. Keep up with our round-up of the best art exhibitions and showcases happening around town. 

RECOMMENDED: This is what going to Singapore's museums look like in the 'new normal' and the best museums in Singapore

  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • City Hall

The Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden perched atop the National Gallery Singapore is now home to a new large-scale installation by Antony Gormley. On display from August 6 to October 30 next year, Horizon Field Singapore (2021) will be exhibited alongside three other sculptures that trace four decades of Gormley's practice: Sense (1991), Close V (1998), and Ferment (2007). Placed at key locations throughout the Gallery, these works form a sequence of what the artist calls “acupuncture points” within the architecture, activating their surroundings and provoking connections with their audience. 

The exhibition offers an introduction to the artist's extensive body of work, which draws on a range of traditions and ideas including Buddhist sculpture and philosophy, minimalism and quantum physics. Many of Gormley's works encourage viewers to focus their attention on their own movement and perception in relation to the surrounding space. 

  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Marina Bay

Set to make its global premiere at the ArtScience Museum on June 12, this multi-sensorial exhibition re-imagines videogames as a captivating 21st-century art form – one that avid gamers and contemporary art lovers can appreciate under one roof.

Taking centre stage are six large-scale, immersive commissions by six of the world's leading videogame developers including Kojima Productions, Enhance, thatgamecompany, Tequila Works, Media Molecule, and David OReilly. These developers have partnered with six leading media design studios including Rhizomatiks, Field.IO, The Mill, Marshmallow Laser Feast, onedotzero, and The Workers to birth kaleidoscopic worlds and sonic landscapes that will engage your senses.

Each of these jazzy realms is driven by a unique theme – Synthesia, Unity, Connection, Play, Narrative, and Everything. From "seeing" sounds and "feeling" visuals to experimenting in both the physical and virtual worlds, these installations will have you tapped into your imagination the moment your step inside the gallery.

A global collab, Virtual Realms is curated and organised by UK's arts and learning organisation the Barbican, with celebrated videogame designer – and the brilliant mind behind Tetris Effect and Rez Infinite – Tetsuya Mizuguchi as co-curator. It's also a co-production with Singapore's ArtScience Museum and Australia's Melbourne Museum.

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  • Art

Taking over a new project space, 136 Goethe Lab, is Soft Realities. It's a site-specific, multimedia installation featuring installation artist and architect Fiona Tan, inter-disciplinary artist and designer Finbarr Fallon, and media artist Ong Kian Peng. The exhibition showcases building materials, light, video and sound elements assembled intuitively in response to the space and its surrounding environment.

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Raffles Place

STPI's latest exhibition, On Time, features new works by four Singaporean artists: Adeline Kueh, Jason Lim, Ian Woo and Zul Mahmod; curated by Marc Gloede. Each established names in the Singapore art scene, in their own rights, these artists also happen to have taken part in a residency with STPI one after another in 2021. 

The exhibition inspects the role of time in the artist' production period during their STPI residency, as well as the experience of time during and of an exhibition. The range of works on view spans print to sculpture, relief to installation – all addressing the impact of time on manifold levels. 

They invite the audience to encounter and reflect on the facet of time that is most obviously embedded in the artworks: the time of production. They further consider the role of the audience’s engagement and ask: how much time are we spending with each work and how might our perception of it change over time?

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centres

Some of the first Sikhs in Singapore came from the Punjab region of India in the late 19th century, sailing from the port of Calcutta to join the Sikh Police Contingent under the colonial administration here at the time. But that's not the only story to tell. Uncover the lesser-known stories, and celebrate the rich heritage and culture of the Sikh community in Singapore with the Indian Heritage Centre's second community co-created exhibition: Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold. It's also the centre's first-ever exhibition on Sikh heritage.

The exhibition features more than 450 artefacts from over 50 local and international private collections, institutional collections, as well as Singapore’s National Collection. And they're all split into three parts to help you navigate with ease: Roots, which explores the origins of Singapore’s Sikh community; Settlement, which presents the narratives of Sikh migrants; and Contemporary Perspectives, which offers glimpses into the experiences of contemporary Sikhs, highlighting the ever-evolving Singaporean Sikh identity and the community’s contributions to the nation.

  • Art
  • Outdoor art
  • Marine Parade

"Complex, messy, raw" – that's the Jalan Besar that you're invited to explore on this mini art walk with OH! Open House. Refuge for Strangers tackles the evolving, multi-faceted neighbourhood by highlighting the stories of four contemporary communities that call Jalan Besar home. During the 90 minute tour, enter the world of transient workers, sunset trades and disappearing clans alongside works by four artists: Alan Oei, Subhas, Min-Wei Ting and Nature Shankar. Their works are scattered across the neighbourhood in secret places and trade shops, each giving visitors a new way of approaching and understanding the communities that inhabit Jalan Besar. 

This special OH! art walk edition's theme, Refuge with Strangers, grapples with the strangeness of Jalan Besar. After all, there's an intangible otherness we may never truly experience. In the independent arts organisation's words, "perhaps that's all Jalan Besar has to be – a space where outsiders can seek refuge and shelter to build their own communities, where there's space for freedom, diversity and complexity."

 

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  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Marina Bay

Escape to alternate realities at the ArtScience Museum's new and permanent gallery space VR Gallery. Outfitted with state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) headsets and controllers, this is where the museum will be rolling out novel immersive experiences for visitors in the coming months. 

VR Gallery launches on July 10 with Hyperrealities, a VR exhibition featuring works from beloved contemporary artists Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor. This is the first time some of them are using VR, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality technologies to present their ideas. Nevertheless, these masters of art have you in for a treat: their multi-sensory artworks will have you gaping at elusive rainbows, feeling the visceral horror of rising sea levels, and taking a trip into – yourself. 

If you're craving a behind the scenes look at the curatorial and artistic process, don't miss the Expanded Realities talk series episode with Daniel Birnbaum, the Artistic Director of Acute Art, who is the collaborator behind Hyperrealities. Birnbaum, himself a leading contemporary art curator, will share all about his work with internationally renowned artists, and how Acute Art facilitated new works by artists using immersive technology for the first time.  

  • Art
  • City Hall

Singapore Art Museum's latest exhibition, The Gift, explores how the act of gifting transforms an ordinary object into something much more meaningful and emotional. It then becomes an embodiment of a relationship, a social act, or even an obligation to another. 

The Gift is one of four related exhibitions in an ongoing transnational project titled Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories initiated by the Goethe-Institut. It draws upon the project's broader themes of interwoven histories, performed narratives and embodiment.

Marvel at artworks and historical materials from the collections of SAM and partner institutions such as Galerie Nasional Indonesia, MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, and Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The Gift invites visitors to consider a multi-dimensional view of artworks and materials from across geographies and their relation to one another. You'll find artworks by local artists such as Tang Da Wu, Ho Tzu Nyen, Donna Ong and Salleh Japar alongside international artists like Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman and Holly Zausner. Bringing visitors through a complex journey, the exhibits are presented as intimately connected through narratives, agencies, and histories, inspiring new meanings and perspectives.

 

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  • Art
  • Marina Bay

Art and music lovers, get excited: ArtScience Museum is celebrating its 10th birthday with a new exhibition. Opening on August 28, Orchestral Manoeuvres features over 32 artists and composers from eight countries who explore sound through sculpture, installation and music.

Orchestral Manoeuvres, curated by ArtScience Museum, celebrates this art form through the work of some of the world’s leading artists whose explorations of the sonic landscape encourage visitors to listen more closely to the sounds around us. The exhibition presents sound art projects, early music notation, experimental scores, noise-making sculptures, video installations and contemporary artworks. One of the key highlights is a presentation of the landmark artwork, The Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff, which will be showing for the first time in Southeast Asia.

One of the key highlights is a presentation of the landmark artwork, The Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff, which will be showing for the first time in Southeast Asia. Also watch out for renowned artists like English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, the one and only Yoko Ono and an iconic figure of early Futurism, Luigi Russolo.

 

  • Art
  • Raffles Place

Calligraphy artist Malik Mazlan and haiku poet Dave Tai are introducing new perspectives to canvases created from drafts, past projects and personal items by refreshing them with haiku and calligraphy. And from April 12, the Afterwords exhibition will travel into the heartlands following its showcase at the Singapore Chinese Culture Centre. Check it out at nine public libraries across Singapore and find out how Afterwords highlights the longevity of the written word and how wastepaper can be recycled creatively to form new works.

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  • Art
  • Public art
  • Raffles Place

A common misconception is that you have to go to a museum or gallery in order to appreciate art. But National Gallery Singapore is out to prove that wrong. The gallery brings art closer to the heartlands by turning void decks into a gateway to art. The People's Gallery, which has been rolled out island-wide, has transformed more than 25 open spaces into galleries for the public to discover 50 surprising artworks by Singapore and Southeast Asian artists – using QR codes and Augmented Reality (AR) technology. 

This initiative marks the Gallery's 5th anniversary – and aims to extend the positive impact of art to audiences beyond the gallery-hopping crowd away from the walls of the museum. The works selected, from an abstract figure painting titled Reclining Nude (undated) by Chia Wai Hon to Tan Lip Seng's striking photograph of Samsui women in Two Workers (1968 reprinted in 2017), aim to provide fresh perspectives on modern Singapore and Southeast Asian art.

But hold up, that's not the most exciting bit. The works of art pop up in AR, via an interactive microsite when the public scan the QR codes on the pillars of designated void decks. The works are accompanied by written labels, with several pieces complemented by multi-lingual audio guides (in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil) and Art in 90 seconds videos – personal stories about the artworks told by people of the Gallery. 

  • Art
  • Rochor

Who says you need a time machine to travel back in time? With OH! Open House's new permanent immersive art experience, all you need is a pair of comfy shoes, inquisitive eyes, a good listening ear, and a whole lotta curiosity.

Following its "sleepwalking" digital art trail Days — and counting, the independent art organisation is back on the streets to tempt you with a site-specific, multisensory walk around Jalan Besar. Titled New World's End, the Singapore Tourism Board-supported night tour is slated to officially launch on July 2.

The audio-guided walk combines fiction and history to reveal the stories of the iconic New World Amusement Park, as well as the rich history and heritage of Jalan Besar. Set against the backdrop of the now-defunct landmark in the 1960s, it starts at OH! Open House's new home at 85 Desker Road before taking you down back alleys, hidden rooms and fantasy spaces where you'll uncover the secrets and romance of a pair of young lovers: cinema projectionist Kiran (voiced by Salif Hardie) and New World Cabaret dance hostess Rosa (voiced by Moira Loh). 

 

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  • Art
  • Arts centres
  • Raffles Place

It's a new beginning for The Substation, after moving out of their iconic Armenian Street digs earlier this year. This contemporary arts centre is back with SeptFest 2021 (the second one this year) – this time in a completely digital format. Running from now till October 31, the festival is happening in two parts. This month, revisit SeptFest 2020 through four full-length documentation videos of previously showcased multidisciplinary performances. In October, we delve deep into this SeptFest's theme of Alternative Voice(s) through intimate Sunday Morning Conversations with selected artists on Facebook Live, who will talk about their challenges and accomplishments with supporting alternative voices in the community. 

 

  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • Marina Bay

ArtScience on Screen is back this October. This time, ArtScience Museum presents a curated programme of films in conjunction with the Singapore Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia and Archifest 2021. The films are selected as a love letter to cities, celebrating its urban spirit, textures, its people, and how we can all build a more inclusive world. 

This edition of ArtScience on Screen features a total of seven feature films and three short films ranging from film festival picks, cult-classics and verité-style documentaries. Start with Roy Andersson's About Endlessness (2019), which won the Silver Lion award for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival 2019. Film buffs also shouldn't miss the Southeast Asian premieres of three films: 종착역 (Short Vacation) (2020), Taming The Garden (2021), Moriyama-San (2017). Additionally, three short films will also be screened together as part of Textures Of The City (Shorts): Flags & Debris (2020), Architectural Desires (2016), Membrane (2020). 

 

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  • Art
  • City Hall

From the same people behind Future World, this art installation brings to life sixty-nine works from the William Farquhar Collection of National History Drawings within the museum’s Glass Rotunda. Look forward to roving animals, digital flora and seasonal weather in an expansive forest created by Japanese digital art collective teamLab, which seamlessly unfolds into a a virtual and visual landscape, immersing visitors in the story of Singapore's journey from its colonial past to its present-day modernity.

  • Kids
  • Festivals
  • Raffles Place

Got a mini Picasso at home? Unlock your child's creativity with the third edition of Gallery Children's Biennale. But with the current restrictions, expect a comeback like nothing before. Instead of the usual labyrinth of interactive artworks at National Gallery Singapore, the bi-yearly multi-sensorial art experience returns with its first-ever hybrid edition from May 22, 2021 until December 2022.

The inaugural "phygital" edition kicks off with an online experience via a kaleidoscopic microsite on May 22, followed by on-site art installations at National Gallery Singapore on September 4. And that's not the only first. With the microsite, the Biennale also goes global for the very first time too, making its exciting arty programmes available to children all around the world.

Guided on the inquiry "Why Art Matters", the Biennale highlights the importance of home, diversity, time and the environment through art and imaginative play. The curious kiddos can look forward to interactive online adventures, immersive storytelling sessions, and digital artmaking with local and international artists as well as fellow children from other countries.

When it comes to the artworks, the Biennale is not short of eye-catching online works and on-site installations that families can engage with. These are specially created by nine local and international artists including Dinh Q Lê (Vietnam), Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan (Philippines/Australia), Jeremy Sharma (Singapore), Joyce Ho (Taiwan), Khvay Samnang (Cambodia), Nandita Mukand (Singapore/India), Nona Garcia (Philippines), Sandra Lee (Singapore), and Speak Cryptic X ADDADDADD (Singapore).

While we live in these changing times, the Biennale hopes to inspire children everywhere to navigate through life with empathy and confidence, all while nurturing critical skills such as curiosity, creativity and character-building. Plus, with an extended period that stretches till the end of next year, there's ample time for the kids to tap into their imagination and explore their creativity. For more information, visit childrensbiennale.com

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  • Art

The ArtScience Museum’s first-ever permanent exhibition is a world of high-tech, immersive digital art installations. Featuring a plethora of works by award-winning Japanese art collective teamLab, Future World will be constantly updated with new works over the years. Highlight pieces include Transcending Boundaries, where visitors can meander through the digitally-rendered garden featuring waterfalls that log in accordance with the laws of physics, butterflies that fly away upon touch, cherry blossoms that scatter like they would in the wind and more, as well as Sanctuary, where visitors can take a break and meditate in this tranquil space. 

Five new digital artworks have been added, four of which are part of the opening gallery City in a Garden. The new additions include the Southeast Asia debut of Proliferating Immense Life, A Whole Year per Year – a giant interactive mural of blooming flowers – and Enso - Cold Light, which shows a digital drawing of an enso (a symbol of enlightenment, the universe and equality) gliding into existence before slowly dissolving into nothingness. The Sanctuary gallery, designed as a quiet haven for Future World's visitors to reflect and meditate, will also see a new addition. The Way of Birds shows a movement of a flock of birds which respond to the visitors' presence as they fly. The birds leave behind a trail of light as they fly through the space, dissolving the boundaries between the artwork and visitor. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • City Hall

Something you won't find in history books, 'A Voyage of Love and Longing' marries illustrations from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History with the world of Malay literature, including lyrics from love ballads, classical texts and pantuns (rhyme quatrains) – all to give you an insight into the natural history collection from a fresh, lyrical angle. See how the drawings on display portray the flora and fauna featured in tales of love and longing from the Malay world.

Inspired by the practice of belayar (voyage) in the Malay Archipelago during the 19th century, the engaging showcase is designed in a way where you can immerse yourself in it and experience the complex emotions seafarers felt at different points of a sea voyage, from departure to return. Expect innovative use of interactive, digital activities, and on-site displays to activate the drawings from the storied collection. You can also take home a memento of your favourite drawings and poems, or share them with others by creating a digital postcard at the exhibition before you leave.

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  • Art
  • Rochor

If you have passion for the written word, check out the National Library's latest permanent exhibition, The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines. Located on level 11 of the National Library Building, the exhibition is divided into five zones and features original copies of Singapore's earliest newspapers and a fun, fake news-busting game for the whole family. Don't miss the interactive exhibits, which draws from NLB's rich collection of over 120 Singapore newspaper titles published since the 1820s. 

The best places to catch some art

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