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Singapore Art Week 2019: Art Takes Over Comes To An End

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The seventh edition of Singapore Art Week 2019 drew to a close this week. Organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), this year’s edition saw over 100 programmes presented from 19 to 27 January.

While this year’s edition saw some endings (controversial ones, we’re looking at you Art Stage), it also brought with it plenty of new initiatives too. Over the nine days of Art Week, the island truly became awash in art as not only the regular art venues played host to events, so did non-conventional spaces such as precincts and shopping malls, making art that much more accessible to the public. From Taman Jurong to Little India and the Civic District, art took over the whole city for this edition of SAW.

Over at contemporary arts precinct Gillman Barracks, 134 Singapore and overseas artists came together to present the brand new boutique fair, S.E.A. Focus by STPI – Creative Workshop and Gallery, while the twice-yearly Art After Dark also drew thousands of visitors for an evening of music, food and art. ARTWALK Little India, a familiar favourite, also made its return, and in fact, continues to run till this weekend, seeing Little India filled with art and celebrating its rich cultural heritage. Highlights included master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran, while artists ZERO and Shah Rizzal added their unique murals to the walls.

The National Gallery Singapore’s Light to Night Festival returned as one of SAW’s marquee events, to which Festival Director Suenne Megan Tan says: “Light to Night Festival is part of our ongoing efforts in developing visitors’ engagement with art. Singapore Art Week enabled us to commission home-grown artists to introduce new ways of art encounters, including placing different senses in play with each other and encouraging active public participation. Our Singaporean artists and groups took the opportunity to encourage visitors to reconnect with the self and environment, question what’s beneath the visible, and in the long term, deepen one’s level of appreciation towards art beyond the visual.”

Other homegrown initiatives included Memories of Singapore River, a video documentary that spotlights the works of three Singapore pioneer artists Lim Tze Peng, Tan Choh Tee, and Low Puay Hua; Of Wax, Dyes and Labour, a fresh and contemporary look at batik by Singapore artists; and the <  > Sim Lim Square Art Residency at the iconic electronics mall, an initiative by artist collective INTER-MISSION for four artists to engage with shoppers and other retailers at Sim Lim Square, developing new works in response to those interactions. Says INTER-MISSION member and < > curator Urich Lau: “Unlike usual art residencies which are conducted in an art space, we were able to attract and reach out to a different crowd. Shoppers thought the residency space was a store, and this allowed us to invite them in to look and chat about art, which they might not usually do.”

Setting the foundations for the future, over ten platforms for Singapore and international curators, art professionals, critics, gallerists and collectors to discuss and exchange ideas on multi-faceted topics to nurture and develop the art market, local and beyond. The Frieze Academy facilitated in-depth art discourses on the synergies between public and private museums, while The Art Week Conversations by THEO Arts Professionals reached out to new and existing audiences on collecting in Southeast Asia. A series of eight talks were also held at S.E.A. Focus, covering a wide range of topics such as the art ecosystem and private collecting, all setting the cogs in motion to nurture a greater appreciation of art, build capability and strengthen the visual arts ecosystem in Singapore.

Even the cancellation of Art Stage proved unable to shake artists and the art community’s faith as they banded together to affected galleries to render help via The ARTerypop-up show through the non-profit organisation Art Outreach Singapore, still maintaining its venue at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre and housing these abandoned galleries from 24th to 27th January. Perhaps this is a key indicator that our art scene, while still young, is very much bonded by a strange sense of kampung spirit, proving it by how quick to action and ready to collaborate they were. Says founding chairman of National Gallery Singapore Mr Koh Seow Chuan: “Efforts by The ARTery and other local galleries and businesses to offer space to stranded exhibitors, is an expression of the can-do spirit in Singapore.”

Says Ms Linda de Mello, Director, Sector Development (Visual Arts), NAC: “This year’s SAW marked a truly vibrant and appropriate start to our year-long arts calendar. We are delighted that there have been so many ground-up collaborations where art practitioners from different disciplines came together to push creative boundaries to engage both art lovers and new audiences. Importantly, the community came together in friendship and goodwill, and this augurs well for the visual arts ecosystem. Art can enrich our daily lives and we saw this in the myriad of programmes held during SAW. We look forward to the public continuing their encounter with art beyond this year’s SAW, deepening their appreciation of how the arts can make a positive difference to our everyday life.”

Singapore Art Week 2019 ran from 19th to 27th January 2019 across various locations. The eighth edition of SAW will return from 11 to 19 January 2020. For more information, visit their website here

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