Despite being a young nation, Singapore is steeped in history and heritage. Here’s what we love about the city’s art and culture scene.
One of Singapore's largest and most impressive museums, the Asian Civilisations Museum has seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The first floor of galleries charts the story of trade across the region, while the second floor presents systems of faith and belief and the third features materials and design used in Chinese ceramics from the Han to the Qing dynasty.
The iconic durian-looking arts centre opens its doors to visitors who are eager to have a closer look at the world-class space. Uncover how the concert hall is engineered to keep out even the slightest external noise and vibration. Be amazed at how the hall, which has hosted renowned musicians from all around the globe, can be adjusted to mimic the acoustics of a tiny room or a large cathedral.
Art and science blend seamlessly in the form of high-tech pieces at the Future World exhibition. Observe how the two seemingly contrasting entities come together in the world’s first Artscience Museum at MBS. Open your mind to the futuristic sphere of cutting-edge interactive installations and explore how art and science shape the world that we live in.
Formerly a Catholic boys’ school, the intimate building that now houses the Singapore Art Museum features a number of small, unusual and hidden gallery spaces scattered throughout the building – many of which house longrunning exhibitions showcasing their impressive collection of South-East Asian contemporary art, including a number of notable ‘pioneer’ works.
At Indian Heritage Centre
With a glowing glass façade inspired by stepwells that are commonly found in South Asia, the Indian Heritage Centre has a wealth of artifacts dotted around its five galleries. It documents and explores the history and culture of Indians, especially in relation to Singapore, all the way from the 1st century to the present day.
At The Intan
Once you step into The Intan, chances are you won’t ever want to leave. The private Peranakan home-museum in Joo Chiat gives visitors a taste of old-world Peranakan charm during its Tea Tour, which touches on Peranakan history, culture and even embroidery craft.
Revisit your good ol’ childhood memories at the Mint Museum of Toys, home to a world-class collection of vintage toys and collectable items. Ignite your child-like wonder with the thousands of toys and items on display throughout its four levels.
Journey to Singapore’s past with the National Museum of Singapore’s History Gallery and Modern Colony Gallery. The former traces the progress of the little red dot – from our years as an underdeveloped island to becoming a modern city. The latter offers a peek into the bygone days of Singapore as a British crown colony in the 1920s and 1930s.
At The Star
Ever wondered what happens when the likes of Ed Sheeran and Nick Jonas come to Singapore to perform? Go behind the scenes with the front of house and backstage tour by The Star. Listen up as the guides share juicy stories of stars like Jason Mraz and Tony Bennett.
At Haw Par Villa
Here's something a little offbeat. Haw Par Villa is a weird and wonderful theme park that opened in 1937 that's packed with ulticoloured statues and tableaux – some looking rather neglected– depicting scenes from Chinese history and mythology. The highlight is the Ten Courts of Hell (responsible for childhood nightmares for generations of Singaporeans) where small-scale tableaux show human sinners being punished in a variety of hideous and bloodthirsty ways – in extremely gory and graphic detail. It’s a safe bet that you'll never see anything like it anywhere else.
Get a designer art fix inside Hermès. Situated on the third floor of the high-end designer store, this space opens whenever they have shows going on – their exhibitions are generally site-specific installations, and ironically, feature some of the most interesting and conceptual pieces around. Hermès art spaces can also be found in Berlin, Tokyo and New York.
Learning grace and poise
At Singapore Dance Theatre
Witness firsthand the blood, sweat and tears that go into the art of ballet at Singapore Dance Theatre’s One @ the Ballet. The in-studio dance display happens once a month on Saturdays at 1pm and each session is narrated by artistic director Janek Schergen to give viewers a deeper understanding of the art form.
#07-02/03, Bugis+, 201 Victoria St, Bugis.
Situated on an islet in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake, the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is an idyllic venue for open-air concerts, with the audience sitting at the water’s edge. Of the monthly concerts held – from jazz, Latin and classical to pop and R&B – the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free, biannual SSO in the Park is the most popular.
At the Malay Heritage Centre
Walk in the footsteps of the Malay royals of yore by visiting the Malay Heritage Centre. The 160-year-old building used to be the royal seat and palace of the last Sultan of Singapore. Get a glimpse of the rich heritage of Singapore’s Malay community with six permanent galleries spanning two levels of the centre. Learn all about Kampong Glam’s glory days as a booming port town before Raffles landed in 1819.
The name Peranakan describes both a rich culture and a unique ethnic group, arising from the meeting of Chinese and Malay peoples. They’re known for their delicious cooking, but if you can’t wrangle a dinner invitation, head to the ten-gallery Peranakan Museum for the world’s largest and best overview of Peranakan life over three floors. Explore documents and artefacts – jewellery, silver, furniture, textiles and crockery predominate – brought to life through interactive and multimedia stations.
At National Library
With a central borrowing library, reference library and a digital library in tow, National Library aims to be more than just a place for book-reading. Showered with architectural awards before it even opened, the building is designed as two towers, linked by walkways and walled almost entirely with glass. The spacious reference section on the upper floors offers great views of the city. There are some small exhibition spaces, and it also houses the Drama Centre, which regularly showcases local productions.
Housed in Parkview Square, affectionately known as the Gotham building to locals because of its imposing nature, the Parkview Museum regular hosts rotational exhibitions that showcase everything from Italian Renaissance art to ocean conservation. Pop by to see what's on this month and enjoy a cocktail at Atlas, a gin-focused bar with over 1000 bottles of the spirit, while you're at it.
A 380-seat space in Robertson Quay, KC Arts Centre is home to the Singapore Repertory Theatre, which heads up The Little Company. Plays staged by the troupe fall into two age categories – under five and six to 12 – and include titles like The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Rapunzel and Three Little Pigs. It’s ideal for drama lovers to introduce your kids to the imaginative world of performance. Expect an hour or two of fun-filled theatrics, with laughs all around and loads of engaging interaction between the actors and the little ones.
At STPI – Creative Workshop and Gallery
Established in 2002, the gallery promotes artistic experimentation in the mediums of print and paper, and boasts contemporary artworks in collaboration with various international curators, collectors and gallerists. At its Creative Workshop space, you’ll find artists in residency – both local and international – that challenge conventions in art with lithography, etching, screenprint, papermaking and relief print.