Singapore’s Art World

I’ve spent the last few days in Singapore look at art galleries and meeting up with street artists because my wife was attending a conference. I tried to see a cross section of Singapore’s visual art world. From the high-brow end of Singapore art government galleries, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and 8Q, the new contemporary art wing of SAM. To the commercial galleries, the contemporary art spaces and an artist-run gallery. I saw the art by emerging artists, art students, street artists and designers.

I’ve been to Singapore a couple of times before and I once wrote a directory of arts and culture websites for LookSmart, back in 1999. And most recently I published two interviews about street art in Singapore in this blog (Street Art in Singapore and Graffiti in Singapore II). So I met up with the guy’s that I’ve been exchanging emails with Rozaimie Sahbi (aka Slac), and self described, low-brow (stencil, batik and caricatures) artist and art teacher Kamal Dollah, in Singapore. Kamal brought Luthfi Mustafah (aka The Killer Gerbil) along and it was great to meet him. Thanks guys for showing me around. And a special thank you to Kamal for the excellent Malay lunch, not only was it good but I eating three new vegetables and a type of snail is an excellent experience.

Myself & Kamal Dollah

Myself & Kamal Dollah

There are many connections between Singapore and Melbourne because many Singaporean artist study at RMIT and other Melbourne tertiary institutions. Singapore’s street art has been influenced by contact with Melbourne street artists: Slac mentioned Drew and The Killer Gerbil recently visited Melbourne’s Blender Studios and the Everfresh Crew.

I saw some excellent contemporary art on exhibition at Osage Gallery and also at 2902 Gallery in the same building at the Old School on Sophia Rd. The Old School is prosaically an old school that has been converted into studios, galleries and other similar creative businesses.

Osage Gallery is a contemporary gallery, with some excellent spaces well light spaces with extremely high ceilings. The exhibition that I saw “Found & Lost” explored the limits of drawing and Khiew Huey Chain’s post-minimalist site-specific installation “Existential Construct” was the most spectacular piece in the exhibition. Using string drawn tight between nails “Existential Construct” created careful lines in the largest of Osage Gallery’s spaces.

2902 Gallery specializes in contemporary photography and a regular program of new exhibitions. The gallery is very new; it opened this year on the 29th of February, hence the name 2902. There are three gallery spaces, gallery lighting and humidity control, an important feature in Singapore’s environment. The exhibition that I saw featured the first graduating class of Singapore’s photography students. In another gallery design students were exhibiting “All Future Parties” – I only found the galleries at the Old School because of the signs for this exhibition.

wall painting outside 2902

wall painting outside 2902

Singapore is not a noted internationally for its artists but that is no reason to ignore it. I won’t and I am trying to write more about Singapore’s art world. The art scene in Singapore is marginal, it has cultural, social and political problems but it is definitely improving.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

2 responses to “Singapore’s Art World

  • kamaldollah

    Hi Mark,

    Impressive report. We were happy to meet you. If you come this way again, we’ll upgrade your culinary experience.

    Kamal Dollah.

  • Jay Dee

    Hi Mark – thanks for adding some info on the Singapore art scene. I remember either reading or talking to someone about her experience of Singapore’s art schools. All the students were amazed that she dared to paint on such a large canvas! Apparently it had something to do with the politics involved?? Looking forward to hearing more.

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