Arts Review Singapore

Civic District Outdoor Festival: A Timeless Encounter with Art



Ever imagined the Padang would be overrun by giant rabbits? Or two siblings in charge of the flow of time would take over some of our most iconic museums? If you want to be a part of this fantastic world, then all you have to do is head on down to the Civic District this August for the inaugural Civic District Outdoor Festival!

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Organized by the National Gallery, the Civic District Outdoor Festival takes place over two weekends in August, where the civic district will transform into a festive land of art and wonder. Heading down on opening night, we were welcomed on the 6th floor of the National Gallery with a tasty cocktail from Smoke and Mirrors, making for a perfect start to the night as we toasted against the gorgeous view of the skyline as the sun set.

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We then headed down to the Padang itself, where a group of gigantic white rabbits had been set up all over, as part of Australian artist Amanda Parer’s work Intrude. The rabbits even lighted up as night fell, casting a white glow over the Padang as they towered over the tiny children running circles around them and posing for photos. Many of these children of course, belonged to families who had set up picnic mats all around the Padang grounds, chatting away and eating food.

The highlight and central narrative to the entire festival was an art work entitled Hemera’s Dream. Written by Chong Tze Chien, with video by Brian Gothong Tan and music by Don Richmond, Hemera’s Dream is a digital multimedia projection that played on and incorporated the facades of four of the most iconic buildings in the civic district at various times, namely the National Gallery, the Arts House, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, and the Asian Civilisations Museum. Visitors were encouraged to catch each segment of the video work as they walked the ‘projection trail’ that would lead them to all four of the buildings, telling the story of two siblings in charge of turning the wheel of time, before a mistake sends the world into chaos. A visually stunning work that dwarfed us with its sheer size and made full use of its unusual screens, it was a fitting start to our journey at the festival.

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Besides the projection trail, within the National Gallery itself, exhibitions were open till late, and there were even live music performances by local musicians such as Joie Tan and Jack & Rai. As foodies of course, we were most excited by the food market set up right outside the gallery, with vendors like food van Kerbside Gourmet and don-makers Ninja Cuts hawking their food. We were pleasantly surprised though when we headed over to Empress Lawn in front of the Victoria Theatre to discover the arts and craft market. Over there, we discovered a whole host of other food stalls that weren’t as crowded as the ones out front.

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In particular, we visited one of our favourite stalls and a regular sight at most festivals: marshmallow specialists Wicked Cream. For the Civic District Outdoor Festival, they’ve specially created two new flavours: Pink Lemonade and Bubblegum, and of course, will skewer them with a stick and toast them for that gooey, s’more goodness. Wicked Cream will simultaneously be setting up shop at Feastival over at the National Museum this weekend, so do give them a visit at either location if you’re in the area!

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At the arts and crafts fair, we also discovered homegrown pin-makers Pins & Pongs. Sourcing their designs from artists both local and overseas, these guys sold a variety of fascinating and intriguing pins, including a personal favourite of ours: a pin based off Damien Hirst’s iconic ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’, or better known as ‘the one with the shark in a formaldehyde tank’. Besides the fair, you can also purchase their pins online here


Overall, for its inaugural edition, the Civic District Outdoor Festival is a great way to spend your night on the weekend with your family and friends, enjoying the art and seeing the area in a whole different light. Come down for a lovely light show, and lose yourself in the world of imagination the National Gallery has crafted for all to enjoy.

The Civic District Outdoor Festival takes place around the National Gallery over two weekends: 4th –5th and 11th – 12th August from 5–11pm and is free to attend. For more information, check out their website here

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