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The Art of Gift-Giving (Kids’ Edition)

If you’re an art-loving parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, it’s only natural to want to share your passion for art with the little people in your life.  In this season of festive gift-giving, we’ve gone and done the work for you – battled hordes of shoppers, endured the ring-ting-tinging of Christmas muzak, exchanged murderous looks with (and muttered more than a few silent curses at) other drivers, looked online and in stores, to find the best art-y presents for the season. A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the grown-ups’ list and now … with only three shopping weekends left to go …  here’s our list of the best art-y presents for the little (and not-so-little) ones in your life!

1.    The Bookworm

What better gift for the little bookworm in your life than a book (or two, or three) about art? These days, we’re glad to see that there’s no shortage of great art books for kids, tweens and teens to be found, both in bookstores and online. So we thought we’d shine the spotlight on the ones that focus on what we at Plural particularly love  – Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art and artists. Here are some of our favourites.

The National Gallery Singapore’s Awesome Art books

These beautifully illustrated, full-colour, hardcover books (there are currently two in the series) each feature twenty artworks from the National Heritage Board‘s collection and they are, indeed, pretty awesome! They are a great way to introduce that special child in your life to art, by engaging him or her in ways that are both accessible and interesting. With a selection of artworks and artists from every Southeast Asian nation and spanning a range of mediums, materials and artistic styles, the books will soon have your mini art historian familiar with wood-block printing and Chinese ink painting, Cubism and Abstract Art, FX Harsono and Chua Mia Tee. I learnt more than a thing or two myself reading these books – and they were a whole lot more fun than art history texts! The books are available at the National Gallery Singapore‘s museum shop, Gallery & Co, children’s bookstore Woods in the Books and online specialist bookseller Select Books.

The Singapore Art Museum’s Let’s Discover Contemporary Art! series

The Singapore Art Museum has always been great at engaging, educating and reaching out to kids and young people. In this series, it attempts (quite successfully, we think) to introduce them to contemporary art by focusing only on a single artist and his artistic practice, rather than a number of different artists and artworks. One of the books in the Let’s Discover Contemporary Art! series, meant for children ages 9 and above, for example, focuses on the practice of Thai contemporary artist Natee Utarit and shows how the artist takes a classical art form, painting, and pushes traditional boundaries to explore innovative and interesting new ways to tell his stories. Another book in the series, meant for young adults, explores the practice of Singapore artist Vincent Leow. The books are designed as activity books, allowing the reader to read, scribble and sketch his or her way to learning about contemporary art. You can’t purchase these books at the Museum itself, but they can be bought online from Select Books.

Sonny Liew’s Warm Nights Deathless Days: The Life of Georgette Chen
Book cover, Warm Nights Deathless Days: The Life of Georgette Chen. Image credit: Sonny Liew

Yes, you read right, the Sonny Liew, Eisner-Award-winning, NAC-grant-rejecting Singaporean graphic novelist and artist Sonny Liew, wrote and illustrated this lovely little biography, in comic strip format, of one of Singapore’s best-loved pioneer artists, Georgette Chen. What can I say? It’s Sonny Liew, it’s Georgette Chen, it’s charming and delightful, yet doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. It tells the story of the artistic life – its joys, as well as its challenges and struggles – and Sonny Liew is eminently qualified to tell it. A child will certainly enjoy it, but, like all the other books mentioned here, it would also make many an adult very happy to find this under the tree at Christmas! The book is available at Gallery & Co at the National Gallery.

 2.    The Fashionista

Dreaming that your little tot will grow up, go to SOTA, and end up an artist or a curator? Why not tell the world, right now, by putting him or her in a T-shirt that says “Junior Curator” or “Fine Little Artist”? Creative careers are cool! He or she could also wear the likeness of your favourite Singapore artist (perhaps some of that artistic genius will rub off?) on his or her chest. Liu Kang or Georgette Chen? Take your pick! The Ts (and others) are available at Gallery & Co, along with the cutest little transparent umbrellas, with cartoon drawings of Vincent Van Gogh, Yayoi Kusama and Georgette Chen (yes, again – she’s such a favourite!) on them.

Junior Artist and Junior Curator Ts
Liu Kang and Georgette Chen Ts

3.    The Creative

If there’s a child in your life who likes nothing better than to muck about with crayons, paints, stickers, glue and glitter, here are some suggestions for gifts he or she will love.

Supermama’s Sticker Books

We love Supermama, the gallery store that works closely with design and art studios in Singapore as well as traditional craft facilities in Japan to produce meaningful omiyage/お土産 (contemporary giftware) that represents Singapore’s artistic heritage and culture. These lovely sticker books, illustrated by local artists, will delight any child (or child-at-heart) and will also, hopefully, spark some interesting conversations about various iconic parts of Singapore, old and new, including our mangrove swamps, ubiquitous hawker centres, scenes from old Katong and idyllic kampong life of the past. Find them at Supermama’s flagship store on Beach Road, at their Gillman Barracks outlet, or at their online store.


Faber-Castell Crayons, Pastels and Coloured Pencils

Everyone knows that an artist, even a little one, needs the right tools in order to create a masterpiece. The Faber-Castell family has been making the finest pencils for more than 250 years and has long been a favourite of artists, both professional and hobbyist. Their range of products now includes paints, crayons and marker pens for little hands, as well as drool-worthy, handsome wooden boxes of coloured pencils in every shade and hue. Check out their flagship store at ION Orchard and you are sure to find something to delight any young artist from toddler to teen and beyond.


4.    The Party Animal

There’s nothing like gathering around a board game after a festive feast to bring everyone together, young or old. Unfortunately we could only find one board game that’s Southeast Asian art-centric and it’s actually not merely a game, but a work of art in itself. Issued in a limited edition of 400 and not readily available, we decided to save that for another article, as there’s no point in recommending a gift you can’t easily buy!

Here’s one that you can buy online on Amazon and it’s a classic Parker Brothers game, first launched in 1970, called Masterpiece. It’s essentially a game about the art market, with players competing to bid on potentially valuable artworks and negotiating with other players to trade them, the aim being to amass the most valuable portfolio and win the game. I road-tested the game with my family and it was a resounding success! We had lots of fun pitting our “bluffing” skills against each other, as players possess asymmetric information about the value of the artworks they possess, with some being forgeries with a value of zero! The game features well-known Western works of art so it’s also a good opportunity to introduce these works to the kids.

So there you have it, folks, our PluraList of great art gifts for kids. We hope they bring much joy and delight to the child who receives them. It only remains for us to wish all of you dear readers the happiest of holidays with friends and family!

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