Monday, July 18, 2011

A public-private partnership to enhance Singapore’s cultural profile

A decade ago, visitors interested in art and design were, for the most part, limited to contemporary-art-shy commercial galleries and exhibitions at foreign cultural centers like the Goethe-Institut or Alliance Française.

There were — and still are — institutional options like the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Philatelic Museum and the Singapore Art Museum, which became the city-state’s first visual arts center when it opened in 1996 (and will remain as such until the National Art Gallery, Singapore opens in two years), points out Naomi Lindt of The New York Times in a recent article.

As for local fashion design, it barely existed; most people shopped at brand-obsessed malls. True to its hands-on, centralized nature, the government believes it can change this image. With the stated goal of turning Singapore into a ‘global arts city’ by 2015, it has invested more than a billion dollars over the last 20 years in new museums and cultural institutions like the $487 million performing arts center, Esplanade and SAM at 8Q, a space dedicated to cutting-edge work at the Singapore Art Museum.

It has lured starchitects like Moshe Safdie and Norman Foster to build glittering new hotels like the Marina Bay Sands and the Capella Singapore, and recruited the art world icon Lorenzo Rudolf to organize Art Stage Singapore, an Art Basel-like event that debuted in January. Some 32,000 visitors showed up to see works by artists including Anish Kapoor, David LaChapelle and Takashi Murakami.

While the government of Singapore is luring international artists and architects, local gallery owners, artists and entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to nourish homegrown art and fashion and, at the same time, challenge the image of a buttoned-up Singapore, better known for its sparkling high-rises and mall culture than an independent arts scene.

Where to see art in Singapore
  • Light Editions, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 6223-1102 (by appointment); lighteditions.com.sg

  • Ikkan Art International, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 9088-7056; ikkan-art.com

  • Rojak: Information at farm.sg

  • Post-Museum, an independent performance-gallery space with an attached vegetarian cafe in Little India. 107 Rowell Road; (65) 6396- 3598; post-museum.org

  • Valentine Willie Fine Art, 39 Keppel Road; (65) 8133-1760; vwfa.net

  • White Canvas, 78 Guan Chuan Street; (65) 6220-8723; whitecanvas-gallery.com

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