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Art What!: Art takes over the city once again with Singapore Art Week 2021

We’re finally coming to the end of a rather harrowing year, and as we move into 2021, the arts scene seems determined to start off on a note of hope, with the return of Singapore Art Week (SAW) this January. Jointly organised by the National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), SAW 2021 is set to continue the trend of recent festivals, taking place in a hybrid physical/digital format, as it celebrates the arts scene’s resilience, innovation and solidarity in these unprecedented times.

In line with SAW’s annual theme “Art Takes Over”, SAW 2021 (marking the ninth edition) ‘takes over’ with more than 100 programmes across both physical and digital platforms, with this year’s edition featuring  the largest number of commissioned works to date (over 40). Going beyond the confines of the physical into the digital space, SAW will bring the visual arts to everyone and everywhere – from arts and cultural institutions such as National Gallery Singapore and arts spaces within Gillman Barracks; to unconventional public spaces and neighbourhoods including Bras Basah Complex, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, national parks, bus stops and more. With over 300 artists from Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, The Netherlands, UK and USA involved this year, a plethora of exciting arts programmes await, with something suitable for arts enthusiasts of all ages.

“‘Art Takes Over’ takes on a whole new meaning this year, as SAW 2021 not only crosses the walls of galleries into streets and homes, but also transcends time and space in the digital realm. This is also a reflection of the larger evolving arts scene, where audiences are increasingly able to enjoy art anywhere and everywhere, and are no longer confined to a physical location or the conventional white cube,” said Tay Tong, Director of Sector Development (Visual Arts) at NAC.

Signature SAW events and crowd favourites are set to return in January including the well-loved Light to Night Festival 2021 based on the new theme of “_____-In-Progress”; State of Motion 2021: [Alternate/Opt] Realities by Asian Film Archive; ARTWALK at Little India by LASALLE College of the Arts; and S.E.A. Focus 2021 by STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery. Alongside familiar programmes, festival goers may look forward to new offerings that present a refreshed look at the visual arts, such as Singapore’s very first mall-wide art activation Creative Unions by Neighborhood – an art-meets-retail programme that brings unexpected crossovers by pairing local artists with fashion, food and lifestyle tenants at Funan. Visitors can also look forward to experimental art presentations with The Hours After by Ren Zi and Eugene TYZ, an international collaboration across five time zones culminating in an after-hours gallery experience turned art treasure hunt beyond Gillman Barracks; or immerse themselves in Inner Like The OutAR by Reza Hasni and curated by Tulika Ahuja, a first-of-its-kind large scale interdisciplinary installation to use Web AR, or augmented reality via smartphone browsers, to re-create an audio-visual simulation of our natural world.

With the entanglement between online and offline platforms this year as a result of the pandemic, SAW 2021 invites audiences to explore and dissect the impact of digital mediums on human connection through the visual arts. For instance, Networked Bodies by Supernormal is an exhibition that investigates communication and intimacy through the internet, with digital works, media installations and works housed on social media. Shifting Between by Our Softest Hour plays on the seams of the digital and physical realms, inviting audiences to explore the shifts in how they engage with and experience intimacy and vulnerability; and Otherworlds: Non/digital realities by INSTINC invites artists in Singapore and Hong Kong to look into the issue of translating works from reality to virtual reality (VR), and vice versa.

Each year, SAW also welcomes an international audience, drawing in art collectors, enthusiasts and artists from around the world. As the peak visual arts event in Asia, SAW 2021 will continue to take the lead in bridging connections and conversations across Singapore and our global partners through SAW Art Symposium, featuring a series of curated talks, panel discussions and fireside chat topics. Join the conversation with SAW stakeholders at POWWOW organised in partnership with Art & Market to discuss new ideas and networks for the future of art and explore how exhibitions can comfortably inhabit both virtual and physical spaces. In the spirit of encouraging critical discourse on Asian art history and curating, art enthusiasts can also look forward to Asian Art in the 21st Century – Narratives of History and Curation by Sotheby’s, a panel discussion led by art historians and curators.

Starting from today, festival goers may already get a teaser of programmes to come for SAW 2021. Housed on the SAW Digital page, audiences can enjoy a myriad of digital offerings that supplement January’s physical programmes. A notable highlight on the website is the 360° view function which will allow visitors to explore virtual exhibitions from the comfort of their homes, presenting the visual arts in new and experiential ways that may be accessed anytime and anywhere.

“Navigating the uncertain waters of the pandemic has showcased the resilience of our artists, as they have quickly adapted to these extraordinary times, experimenting with new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality so that they may continue presenting art and creations in a fresh and innovative manner. Beyond the works itself, what is essential for SAW 2021 is to ensure opportunities for our artists through our commissions. Additionally, we have seeded the possibilities to build new capabilities and encouraged new modes of creation through the digitalisation of the arts as an alternative platform not only to reach audiences but as a canvas for artworks. With that, we look forward to SAW’s ninth edition with great hope and anticipation,” adds Tay Tong.

SAW 2021 runs from 22nd to 30th January 2021 across various locations. More information available on their website here. Check out the digital offerings already available here

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