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Shaping Visions
Photograph: STPI

The best upcoming art exhibitions in Singapore

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

By Time Out Singapore editors

Art can uplift spirits – which is why it is more important than ever now. Our museums and galleries may have been shuttered for a few months this year, but they've welcomed art lovers again. Thinking of broadening your horizons and catching some culture this month? Keep up with our round-up of the best art exhibitions and showcases happening around town. From a National Geographic exhibition which highlights the effects of plastic pollution on Mother Nature to a showcase of works by five celebrated Cultural Medallion recipients, there's bound to be something that piques your interest this month. 

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Diana Rahim
Photograph: Diana Rahim / Singapore Art Museum

1. Time Passes by Singapore Art Museum

Art Singapore City, Raffles Place

Singapore Art Museum – in collaboration with National Gallery Singapore – introduces Time Passes, a timely response to the challenging times plaguing Singapore's arts sector. As part of a nationwide art initiative Proposals For Novel Ways of Being, the new exhibition is guest curated by Samantha Yap and conceived as a corridor of time that echoes the indeterminate passage of our days as we navigate the pandemic that is still raging on – and the detritus it will leave behind. 

Conceptualised during the 'circuit breaker', the exhibition stages our return to one another and to shared public spaces. The works in the exhibition manifest acts of care-taking through the handling of different materials, and the commitment towards uncovering possibilities of living and relating even during tumultuous times.

An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season
Photograph: National Gallery Singapore

2. An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season

Art National Gallery Singapore, City Hall

As part of the art initiative, Proposals for Novel Ways of BeingNational Gallery Singapore introduces its latest visual feast: An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season. The Gallery's space is decked by the immersive, mixed-media installations, sound and movement performances, and site-specific artistic interventions of 10 young Singapore-based artists including Kin Chui, Priyageetha Dia, Aki Hassan, Ila, and Norah Lea. These intriguing works aim to turn on the light bulb on new ways of thinking and doing, all for a more humane future.

Planet or Plastic
Photograph: Jordi Chias

3. Planet or Plastic?

Art Photography ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay

ArtScience Museum is teaming up with National Geographic to showcase Planet or Plastic? from September 12 to March 28, 2021. It's the first exhibition to launch at the ArtScience Museum since its re-opening after the circuit-breaker. It's set out to raise awareness through more than 70 powerful photographs and videos as seen through the lenses of National Geographic photographers and explorers who have witnessed – and are still doing so – the devastating impact of plastic pollution on the natural world, especially in the oceans.

Highlights of the exhibition include a photograph of a loggerhead turtle ensnared in an old plastic fishing net by award-winning underwater photographer Jordi Chias who won the One Earth award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2010 with this image.

The exhibition also gives visitors a chronological timeline of plastic, starting from its invention just over a century ago to its mass consumption today. There's no denying that plastic has benefitted the world through its many uses including extending the shelf life of fresh food, and saving lives when made into airbags or helmets. However, many plastics remain unrecycled, and instead, are disposed of improperly, leading to the global plastic pollution we are facing today.


STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery
Photograph: STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery

4. Shaping Visions

Art STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery, Raffles Place

STPI brings together five of Singapore's legendary artists in one exhibition with Shaping Visions, an annual special exhibition. The exhibition showcases the work of five celebrated Cultural Medallion recipients: late master of Chinese ink Chua Ek Kay, pioneering collage artist Goh Beng Kwan, leading sculptor Han Sai Por, seminal performance artist Amanda Heng and renowned watercolour painter Ong Kim Seng. 

This is definitely an exhibition for the books – because it marks the first time these esteemed practitioners showcase their works together, celebrating their immense artistic contributions. Shaping Visions shines a spotlight on Han's organically shaped stone sculptures and woodblock prints, Chua's gestural rhythms in scenes of nature and the city, Goh's evocative portrayals of abstracted spaces and movements in collage and painting, Heng's intimations of humanity's connectedness within shared spaces and with each other, and Ong's lithograph prints and watercolour paintings that invoke our sentiments towards shifting landscapes. 

Throughout its run from September 27 to November 15, the annual special exhibition will be supported by a diverse array of public programmes including tours, workshops and artist talks – so head on down and get cultured. Previous annual special exhibitions at STPI include Takashi Murakami: From Superflat to Bubblewrap, David Hockney: A Matter of Perspective, Zao Wou-Ki: No Boundaries, and The Mystery of Picasso's Creative Process: The Art of Printmaking.  

Photograph: National Museum of Singapore

5. #NeverBeforeSG

Art Singapore City, Raffles Place

#NeverBeforeSG, Singapore's first and largest online art showcase presented by National Museum of Singapore, aims to capture our collective state of mind as we move into a new normal – chaos, self-isolation, community spirit and all.  Over the past few months, we've seen art institutions, artists, theatre practitioners, and more creatives banding together for various collaborations that mostly take place online. But brace yourselves, because this is Singapore's largest online art showcase so far. 

Fashion designer veteran and multi-disciplinary artist Yang Derong has curated a sprawling collection of 140 works by photographers, writers, architects, and other creatives. Arranged in nine chapters that reflect various themes on the circumstances during Singapore's 'circuit breaker' period, they showcase a stark, visual documentary of our psyche in these unprecedented times. In doing so, Derong hopes to capture the emotions of Singaporeans during this challenging time. 

The nine chapters include digital video essays by photographer Chia Aik Beng that depict people in the community still going outdoors despite the restrictions during Singapore's lockdown, drawings by singer-songwriter Dick Lee and children’s book illustrator Lee Kow Fong (Ah Guo) that represent home, two fashion designers' unique take on full-body PPEs to pay tribute to healthcare workers and more. 

Scribble Town
Photograph: National Heritage Board

6. Scribble Town

Kids Exhibitions Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Novena

Whether you've fallen victim to bullying or have been on the other end of it, reflect your own experiences with this interactive exhibition at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (SYSNMH). Especially for kids aged between nine and 12, the exhibition features comic artwork that takes visitors on a quest to save the fictional world of Scribble Town alongside characters Sam, Dan, and Lydia. Through the adventure, observe the interactions between the characters and gain a better understanding of the different types of bullying, how and why bullying occurs, and the corresponding impact on the involved parties.

Archifest 2020
Photograph: ADDP Architects in collaboration with OWIU Design

7. Archifest

Art Singapore City, Raffles Place

In response to global warming, architects all over the world, including Singapore, are exploring various responsible designs and architectural ideas that could benefit ecology and humanity – think climate change, public health, social equity and cultural continuity – and ultimately save our world.

Themed 'Architecture Saving Our World', this year’s Archifest invites all to delve deeper into the city's urban environment, examine the role of architecture in today's global climate, and get inside the mind of an architect from September 25 to October 31. It's slightly different this year as the annual festival launches its very first hybrid edition, featuring a myriad of immersive online and offline programmes including online forums, virtual exhibitions, hybrid workshops, decentralised islandwide pop-up activities, and an inaugural virtual Pavilion.

Some key highlights to check out include the SIA-LES Archifest Pavilion Reclaiming Connectivity. The inaugural virtual Pavilion relooks at what is current, in the hopes of inspiring reflections on humanity's fundamental need for connection amidst the current reality of social distancing in public spaces. Another major programme is the hallmark SIA Conference where 12 esteemed design and architecture pros from Singapore and beyond gather to discuss three sub-themes – radical indigenism, design empowerment, and empathic interventions.

Edible Garden, Pocket Gardens Surprise
Photograph: Gardens by the Bay

8. Pocket Gardens Surprise

Things to do Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay

Take a closer look at every nook and cranny of the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, and you might just find a mini garden. No two are the same as these mini garden displays rotate every fortnight as part of the Pocket Gardens Surprise. The ongoing Edible Garden features vegetables and herbs grown for use in the kitchen, highlighting the importance of food security and resilience.

For a limited time only, snap a selfie next to a giant teacup at It’s Always Tea Time (until October 11), marvel at the dreamy canopy of trailing flowering and foliage plants at Hanging Gardens (until October 25), take respite amidst the luscious shades of green at An Urban Oasis (October 5 to November 1), and observe the versatility of ornamental epiphytic plants at Plant Library (October 12 to November 8).

Heman Chong
Photograph: Heman Chong

9. Walking in the City by Heman Chong

Art Contemporary art Singapore Art Museum, City Hall

Singapore Art Museum (SAM) may be closed now for a renovation, but its latest exhibition will be displayed on SAM buildings' hoardings along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street until December 6. So if you're in the area, keep a lookout for the free outdoor artworks, accessible at all times. 

Part of the Walking in the City series, it presents specially commissioned artworks on the hoardings currently installed around the perimeter of the museum buildings along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street. The second commission of the series is by Singaporean artist Heman Chong, who represented Singapore at the 50th Venice Biennale. Artist Heman Chong presents two exhibitions: titled Safe Entry and Writing While Walking And Other Stories.

Safe Entry, presented on the hoarding along Bras Basah Road, is a cheeky take on the QR code which has become ubiquitous in Singapore recently. It takes the form of a mural produced by repeating a single, enlarged QR code, which links to a video of the artist on a long walk in Changi Airport's Terminal 2 during Singapore's 'circuit breaker'. Writing While Walking And Other Stories, on the other hand, comprises 2,581 words written by artist Heman Chong and his iPhone 11 during an eight-hour walk around Singapore. In this piece, he explores a new method of artistic production by merging walking and writing into one process. The text was written in a free-flowing state, with no structure, plot, context or word limit in mind – only completed when the artist entered a state of wordlessness. As you walk the length of the image, you'll find that each frame is presented in a staggered tile pattern across the hoarding, appearing to become animated.

Reuel Rendon
Photograph: Reuel Rendon

10. Between Analog and Digital

Art Contemporary art Hatch Art Project, Tiong Bahru

Hatch Art Project is celebrating its move into the hip Tiong Bahru neighbourhood by throwing a grand opening show – subject to safe management measures, that is. The all-day opening takes place from 1pm to 9pm on September 24, showcasing twelve new artworks by five of the region's rising artists, who are also participants in the upcoming Art Jakarta Virtual 2020. 

Check out intriguing artworks such as Reuel Rendon's Ethereal Chaos and Memories of Tomorrow, which references classical paintings by Jacob Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck respectively; Natisa Jones I Had Such An Amazing List and Set the Tone; and Iabadiou Piko's Mencari Yang Terbentuk Series #1 and The Quarantine Blue. 

Future World
Photograph: ArtScience Museum

11. Future World

Art ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay

Five new digital artworks have been added to the ArtScience Museum's iconic Future World exhibition , 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. 

National Museum of Singapore
Photograph: Vernon Raineil Cenzon/Unsplash

12. Never Before

Art Singapore City, Raffles Place

The global pandemic has roused a confusing mix of emotions ranging from fear, anxiety, loneliness to hope. Never Before, an online exhibition presented by The National Museum of Singapore, aims to capture our collective state of mind as we move into the new normal. Designer Yang Derong has curated a sprawling collection of 137 works by photographers, writers, architects and more. Arranged in nine chapters, they showcase a stark, visual documentary of our psyche in these unprecedented times. Access #NEVERBEFORESG for free on The National Museum of Singapore's website. 

Children of the Sun
Photo: Khoo Sui Ho

13. Suddenly Turning Visible: Art and Architecture in Southeast Asia (1969-1989)

Art Galleries National Gallery Singapore, City Hall

Interested to find out the connections between art and architecture in Singapore, Bangkok and Manila? Suddenly Turning Visible: Art and Architecture in Southeast Asia illuminates the lesser-known links between art and architecture, and the role of institutions in the development of art in the region. The exhibition showcases artworks from the period (1969 to 1989) alongside archives, and newly commissioned and restaged works. 

The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines
Photograph: National Library Board

14. The News Gallery: Beyond headlines

Art National Library, 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. 

Photograph: Reza Hasni

15. Centre For Altered Togetherness

Art Singapore City, Raffles Place

For a kaleidoscopic virtual feast, immerse yourself in the participative online exhibition featuring the technicolour art of Singapore-born and Berlin-based artist Reza Hasni. Embark on a virtual, free-roaming journey through six illustrated worlds, set in the current time of expanding cyberspace. The exhibition also allows visitors to interact with each other while deepening understandings of the dynamic relationship between the online and offline world.

The best places to catch some art


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