As a South East Asian hub and a former British colony, with resources focused on finance and trading, you could be forgiven for thinking that Singapore’s artistic credentials might be somewhat limited. But despite its status, and its diminutive size as a country, this multicultural destination has a fast-growing creative scene, with everything from street art to major museums and contemporary gallery spaces. Here are five places to explore Singapore’s artistic riches.
The big hitter: National Gallery Singapore
What Singapore’s National Gallery is a must-see for any art lover, and can be found on St Andrew’s Road in the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, where it takes up an impressive 64,000 square metres. Not only does it offer the city’s biggest art collection, it’s the largest public offering of Singaporean and South East Asian modern art in the world.
You’ll see The two long-term exhibitions, Between Declarations and Dreams and Siapa Nama Kamu?, explore Singapore’s position as a cultural crossroads, and the region’s artistic presence since the 19th century.
Don’t miss The Rotunda Library at the centre of the Supreme Court Wing. Formerly the law library, it’s worth seeing as much for its architectural elegance as for its wealth of research materials.
1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957; +65 6271 7000
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The contemporary marvel: Parkview Museum
What Privately owned Parkview Museum is home to a stunning range of contemporary pieces but is still free to enter. Visitors are treated to the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dalí works outside Spain – keep your eyes peeled for his sculptures outside the front doors – plus pieces from an extensive collection of contemporary Western painters, Imperial Chinese stone Buddhist carvings and even ancient bronze pieces.
You’ll see An impressive range of thought-provoking art. The curators don’t shy away from more challenging subject matters, and past exhibitions have included Disturbing Narratives, Intriguing Uncertainties and On Sharks and Humanity.
Don’t miss The gallery is closed until April 2020 while a new exhibition is installed, but even if you’re not able to go inside, it’s worth visiting for its Art Deco architecture alone. It’s locally known as the ‘Gotham Building’ thanks to its resemblance to Batman’s fictional home city.
600 North Bridge Road, Parkview Square, Level 3 Singapore 188778; +65 6799 6971
The futuristic hub: ArtScience Museum
What Housed in Moshe Safdie’s iconic lotus-shaped building on Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum – as its name suggests – combines the worlds of art, science and technology under one roof, in a series of large-scale exhibitions spanning everything from particle physics to space exploration.
You’ll see The museum’s permanent exhibition, Future World: Where Art Meets Science, features 16 installations that utilise cutting-edge light techniques and video for a dazzling, immersive experience that explore topics from the seasons to water particles.
Don’t miss If you’re travelling with young children, plan your visit for a Friday, when you can get free entry for up to four kids with each adult ticket purchased. At the other end of the scale, the third Thursday of each month sees the museum open until 10pm for ArtScience Late, featuring free performances and buy-one-get-one-free entry to exhibitions.
10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956; +65 6688 5555
The modern workspace: STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery
What A unique modern art gallery with an airy, minimalist feel, which focuses exclusively on works of print, paper and lithography. The STPI’s featured exhibition rotates throughout the year – it recently hosted Genevieve Chua: Twofold, a print and paint artist from Singapore who explores optically deceptive imagery.
You’ll see As well as being home to exhibitions and lectures, the STPI is very much a living space, and contains a busy workshop where you can quietly watch its artists in residence working on their latest projects. Expect to see all manner of techniques, from screen and relief printing to intaglio (incised carving).
Don’t miss The institute’s stylish gift shop is full of arty souvenirs, high-end prints and other unique gifts – worth a visit in its own right.
41 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238236; +65 6336 3663
The morphing murals: Chinatown’s street art
What Despite its clean-cut image, Singapore has its fair share of graffiti and street art, which includes a growing number of renowned artists whose work you can discover on foot as you explore the city. One such is Yip Yew Chong, who has more than 70 murals dotted across the city, especially around Chinatown.
You’ll see Chong’s many artworks hark back to Singapore’s heritage. From a recreation of a 1970s Cantonese opera adorning the junction of Temple Street and South Bridge Road, to Paper Mask & Puppet Seller at Mohamed Ali Lane, inspired by a former Singaporean tradesman, his work brings glimpses of the city-state’s history into the present.
Don’t miss There are also plenty of other artists at work in the Chinatown neighbourhood. Around Banda Street, you’ll find Colouring Banda Street, a collaboration between the Kreta Ayer Residents Committee and PwC Singapore (PriceWaterhouseCoopers). There’s so much to see – it’s recommended you spend at least half a day if you want to get a full picture of the island’s colourful street-art culture.