You enter the city they call the Red Dot and you don’t see the artist turning up inside you? Chances are you are in a wrong country. Art in Singapore is almost ubiquitous, which is constantly transcending into international levels. Art has been an important element of Singapore since it was born into the third world in the 60s. For a tourist to land in Singapore and not appreciate the sculptures, the paintings, the artwork, and the visual arts is like going to the Australian coast and not marvelling at the corals. Art is everywhere in Singapore, and slowly the country is trying to become the cynosure of the world when it comes contemporary art. No wonder it has at least ten cultural events going on a daily basis in different parts of the country. So, what has led Singapore to become the art hub of the world?
Art Scene in Singapore
In August 2015, Singapore celebrated its 50th anniversary with much pomp and circumstance despite losing its founding father Lee Kuan Yew few months earlier in March. Credited for transforming it into a compeer of first world nations, LKY helped it resurrect its sagging economy soon after gaining independence from the English in 1963. Almost fifty-five years later, other than the things that involve money and stocks, the Lion City is also responsible for creating, developing, and maintaining a section that has taken over the world’s artistry. A section that has metamorphosed into something international and which has helped Singapore establish itself as a cultural destination and an authority on Southeast Asian art: the Singapore art scene.
The Government Stimulus
The government is highly supportive of the growing popularity and receptive of the fact that Singapore is now being considered as an art hub. According to official statistics, its funding for arts and heritage increased by almost fifty percent from SG$ 280.6 million (US$ 202.6 million) in 2010 to SG$ 427.3 million (US$ 308.6 million) in 2013. Compared to how funding goes through sludgy bureaucracy in the West and other parts of the Easter neighborhood, in Singapore most of it goes to development of actual museums and international galleries. In 2015, such funding gave rise to Affordable Art Fair Singapore and Art Stage Singapore – two exhilarating Singapore art festivals which have succeeded in bringing close to 65,000 visitors in their maiden dos itself. For the art milieu, it is a remarkable number.
Singapore’s authority in Southeast Asian art has only increased in the previous half of the current decade. The National Arts Council has stated that the country’s population and multicultural diversity has influenced artists. This not only helps new artists to create art but also attracts foreign artists and connoisseurs. For instance, during the Chinese New Year, which falls between January and February, the streets are filled with scarlet decorations. Orangish artworks festooned all over the city are bound to make everyone stop and stare. It is what pumps up the art scene for the Singaporeans with lights, colorful artworks, and several processions adorning the city. Another of hundreds of such examples is former Olympian sailor Charles Lim’s ambitious project called Sea State. The project hopes to “explore the biophysical, aspirational and cerebral contours” of Singapore. And it has already received acclaim in other parts of the world.
Power of Art Museums in Singapore
But, what really makes or at least qualifies Singapore as the art hub of the world? Where does it stand right now on the museum culture scene? For starters, the number of museums are only increasing. They continue to showcase visual arts and sculptures that are truer and closer to the human nature. Letting people to reflect on themselves, their myriad and surreal thoughts and identities is a sure way of going beyond borders. This is one point where Singapore succeeds in putting its neighbour and competition rival Hong Kong behind.
There were more than 5400 registered arts and cultural companies in 2013 compared to 25% in 2012. This report, which is part of a 2014 Singapore Cultural Statistics circular, shows how art in Singapore is expanding. One can only imagine how that number has changed over the years.
High number of museums and cultural centres mean high level of exposure to the people. As is a proven method of gaining attraction – if there is a museum in a city, there are going to be visitors. Which is then going to turn them into connoisseurs. This is the hypothetical reasoning behind the explosion of the art scene in Singapore. Especially museums and art galleries, which are getting more visitors now than ever.
If you are going to be in Singapore for some time, then don’t forget to check out various Singapore Art Museums.
Festivals Pumping It Up
Since the first Singapore Biennale in 2006, the city has come a long way with additions to venues, centers, and festivals such as the Gillman Barracks, Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Centre for Contemporary Art, and the Fort Canning Arts Centre. The 2013 edition of the Biennale saw a record-breaking 560,000 footfalls. This was easily surpassed, but under-reported, in the case of the 2016 edition that also tasted virtual reality. In 2015, National Gallery Singapore housed world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian art, pulling visitors from around the world. Another crowd favorite is the Art Stage Singapore which was first introduced in 2011. Compared with the city’s biggest arts extravaganza, Singapore Art Week, the former falls behind only by the volume. Otherwise, both the events are highly anticipated in the art circles in Singapore and elsewhere in the world.
Art in Singapore – Going the Right Way
Even though Singapore is on the right path, some critics feel there is still a long way to go. Venka Purushothaman, an official at the Lasalle College of the Arts, recently pointed this out. He said, “An arts hub is not only about being a destination. While Singapore becomes a homing site for the arts, it is important that we do not just have a domestic mindset to the arts. (We should) look at how Singapore can play a role globally in the art world. Having Singapore artists, writers, curators and art leaders working internationally can definitely help. They can work as influencers of global cultural flow so as to proposition Singapore as a site of global art.”
He is right when he says that artists need to try to bridge the gap between their international peers. They can do this by taking inspiration from the international art scene. For we all know, diversity is never enough. It has to go on and on.
Art in Singapore is at a far great level than when it started to take off in the last decade. Over the years, the city has seen the birth of countless museums, cultural centers, and festivals. Today, these are flocked by thousands of citizens and tourists every month. Singapore has already managed to become an authority on Southeast Asian art. And, it is about time that it becomes the art hub of the world. Looking at the evidences, it sure looks possible and ridiculously imminent.