A family-friendly guide to the Gallery Children’s Biennale

If you’re visiting town with the family soon, hop over to National Gallery Singapore for an arts extravaganza that even the little ones will enjoy
Children's Biennale in National Gallery
Tran Trong Vu: The Sonnet in Blue
Time Out Singapore in partnership with National Gallery Singapore |
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Singapore is much more than a paradise for food and shopping – the city is also home to many arts venues whose treasures are as wondrous for the kids as they are for the grown-ups. But if you’ve only time to visit one, make a pit stop at National Gallery Singapore.

The gargantuan gallery is holding its first-ever Gallery Children’s Biennale that, despite its name, isn’t only for the kids. As part of the arts extravaganza, the Gallery transforms into a carnival of immersive installations and artworks by the likes of Yayoi Kusama , Mark Justiniani and teamLab, to name a few. So while the children explore all the colourful nooks and crannies of the Biennale, you can hop on a guided tour or get hands-on in one of the many art workshops.

Check out our family holiday guide to all the events, note the dates in your calendars, and come ready to feast your eyes.

Gallery Children’s Biennale is at National Gallery Singapore until Oct 8. Free for Singaporeans and PRs; $15-$20 for non-residents, which is inclusive of admission to all the other galleries except Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow.

Basement 1

YayoiKusama_The Obliteration Room, Children's Biennale in National Gallery

The Obliteration Room

By Yayoi Kusama (Japan)

Get up-close with this piece by Yayoi Kusama, one of most influential artists of contemporary art. Kids can take part in this ever-evolving artwork – and experience Kusama’s world through her near-obsessive screen of polka dots – when they paste multi-coloured circular stickers all over the room’s whitewashed furniture and walls.

Until Oct 8. Concourse Gallery 2, Level B1, Supreme Court Wing.

Mark Justiniani, Children's Biennale

Firewalk: A Bridge of Embers

By Mark Justiniani (The Philippines)

A walk across this 12-metre-long bridge feels like a suspension between two worlds and states of consciousness. Under it, the installation seems to burrow endlessly into the ground, depicting the (fictional) archaeological site of the former Supreme Court. Here, you’ll find objects – toys, books and more – that represent the transition from childhood to adulthood. A word of advice, though: those with vertigo may want to take extra care as this installation uses reflective material to create the illusion of infinite depth.

Until Oct 8. Concourse Gallery 2, Level B1, Supreme Court Wing.

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Children's Biennale, teamLab

Homogenizing and Transforming World

By teamLab (Japan)

It’s like how the movies portray the future in a hundred years: glowing orbs that change colour, produce sounds and trigger subtle changes in neighbouring globes when touched. Except this time ’round, you’re not actually watching your favourite blockbuster on TV. teamLab, a collective from Japan, melds art, science and technology to form this symphony of sound and light – made to mimic the way each of us, in this internet age, is inextricably connected to one another.

Until Oct 8. The Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery, Level B1, City Hall Wing.

Ian Woo, Children's Biennale

Rock & Sphere

By Ian Woo (Singapore)

Composed of vibrantly coloured rock-like and spherical objects, this installation by Singaporean artist and musician Ian Woo encourages kids to engage in open-ended play. This means they are free to take apart the foam objects and reassemble them – with full permission and unbridled liberty to do as they please. Woo hopes to pique their imagination, and using their creativity, young visitors are urged to rearrange the intriguing ‘rocks’ and ‘spheres’ to form new connections between colours and shapes. 

Until Sep 24. Auditorium Anteroom, Level B1, City Hall Wing.

Level 1

Chng Seok Tin, Children's Biennale

Being Yourself

By Chng Seok Tin (Singapore)

Be taken on a personal, retrospective journey through a series of woodcuts recreated from the works of Cultural Medallion winner Chng Seok Tin. But for the kids, this tactile installation lets them make their own prints by shading a piece of paper that’s placed over the woodcuts – it's an analogy for Chng’s near-complete loss of vision, and these five works are testament to her life and the unflappable human spirit.

Until Oct 8. Padang Atrium, Level 1.

Vincent Leow, Children's Biennale

From Rochor to Kallang

By Vincent Leow (Singapore)  

Wooden birdcages hang on 20 'towers' of this installation – each coloured in a shade inspired by the blocks of Rochor Centre. Fashioned after the soon-to-be demolished flats, these cages were created in response to the familiar Singaporean themes of moving, migration and relocation. Listen for the sounds of the cityscape on this ‘neighbourhood walk’, and follow Vincent Leow on his contemplations on the meaning of home. 

Until Oct 8. City Hall Foyer, Level 1, City Hall Wing.

Level 2

Lynn Lu, Children's Biennale

Duplet

By Lynn Lu (Singapore)

This meditative work by Singaporean performance artist Lynn Lu offers a space for quiet respite from all that running around. At Duplet, she invites you to sit under a giant cloud with a partner, focus on answering ten questions, and experience being present in the moment. Like meditation through art, Lu encourages visitors to reflect on relationships, themselves and their surrounding world.

Until Oct 8. Singapore Courtyard, Level 2, City Hall Wing.

This Changed My Life

By Lynn Lu (Singapore)

Long ribbons stretch out across the room, each bearing a handwritten note by visitors that tell of their dreams and regrets. You’re encouraged to write one yourself, then drape the ribbons around the room, adding to the artwork and forming a collective web of personal anecdotes – yes, this installation grows the longer it remains on display.

Lu takes inspiration for This Changed My Life from Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. In his book, the Italian author tells the story of a nomadic community that archives important events in their lives by stretching strings across rooms, and moving to another city once the strings completely fill the space.;

Until Oct 8. Singapore Courtyard, Level 2, City Hall Wing.

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Children's Biennale in National Gallery
Photo: Robert Zhao

A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World, Children's Edition

By Robert Zhao (Singapore)

This isn’t your average science class – in his installation, the photographer uses art to give a lesson on nature and explore man’s relationship with the planet. Through activity cards and images of animals, plants and habitats, try and distinguish the natural from the man-made while learning about the species and specimens that have been subject to human manipulation.

Until Oct 8. Social Table, Level 2, City Hall Wing.

Level 3

National Gallery Singapore, Children's Biennale

The Sonnet in Blue

By Tran Trong Vu (Vietnam)

Amid this swirling sea of carefully handcrafted blue flowers, be whisked away on a journey through the dreams of the young that are written on the blooms. Enjoy a hundred poems penned by schoolchildren from Singapore and the region – they were compiled and submitted to the Poetry Festival Singapore – that provide personal insights into the hopes and aspirations of kids today.

Until Oct 8. Supreme Court Foyer, Level 3, Supreme Court Wing.

Activities

Paper Planet, Children's Biennale
Photo: Martin Reddy

Free guided tours

There are numerous themed tours that anyone can sign up for at no additional cost. If you want additional nuggets of information on your Gallery Children’s Biennale journey, Dreams and Stories: The Dreamcatchers is the tour not to miss.

Follow a museum-appointed docent – the tour is available in English and Mandarin to deepen your understanding of the inspirations behind the featured installations, and the creative vision that went into the making of the Biennale.
Tours in English every Wed & Sat 5pm; tours in Mandarin Aug 12, Sep 9, 5.30pm.

For a quirkier experience, sign up for The Incredible 5 Series tours in August. From ‘Must-touch Artworks’ to ‘Sensorial Experiences’, each of these docent-led tours has a unique theme that invites you to view the artwork through different lenses. There are 20 slots for all guided tours, so register early as tours are based on a first come, first served basis.

Various timings. Registration opens 20 minutes before each tour at the Tours Desk located at Basement 1. Aug 4, 5, 11 & 12. 6.30pm & 7.30pm.

Puppets & imagine-nations, Children's Biennale
Photo: Artsolute

Family art workshops

Sep 10

Get creative at these workshops designed for parents and their kids to collaborate. Create your own bandana inspired by the polka dots that characterise the works of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama; learn printmaking techniques inspired by Cultural Medallion winner Chng Seok Tin’s woodcuts; create imaginary creatures inspired by Robert Zhao’s installation. A word of advice: tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to get yours soon.

Keppel Centre for Art Education, Level 1, City Hall Wing. 1.30-3pm. $20/adult-child pair; $30/adult-child trio.

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