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Plural’s 6 Favourite Upcoming Events at Singapore Art Week 2021

The Next Most Famous Artist, Monday Blues, 2020

It’s that time of year again, folks, when ‘art takes over’ and Singapore Art Week (SAW) breathes fresh life into the post-Christmas and New Year slump. We may be heading back to the realities of a new, pandemic-driven workday grind, but some truths remain universal. We at Plural Art Mag take particular comfort in the idea that art is, and always will be, around us to soothe the soul and provide respite from the everyday challenges of life.

SAW returns this January with a brand new digital arc. For the very first time, SAW will adopt a hybrid approach with over 100 programmes threading across both physical and digital platforms. Indeed, the tagline “Art Takes Over” is infused with 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. Overseas and unable to travel to Singapore as a result of the pandemic? SAW 2021 has got you covered with its vast array of digital experiences, accessible from all over the world.

Read on, as we take you through our 6 favourite events at SAW 2021.

1. Tigers and Art : ART SG and UBS Discussion Series

In 2007, Tim Etchells, Sandy Angus and Magnus Renfrew launched ART HK: Hong Kong International Art Fair, a seminal event that was later acquired by the MCH Group, and which evolved into the glitzy diamond in Hong Kong’s visual art scene – Art Basel Hong Kong. Most recently, the trio launched Taipei Dangdai, which held its acclaimed inaugural edition in January 2019. These gentlemen are now primed to work their magic in the city-state of Singapore with the hotly anticipated launch of ART SG in November 2021, an art fair that bills itself as being “set to be the leading art fair in Southeast Asia.”

Why Singapore, one might ask?

ART SG answers this question succinctly, referring to Singapore’s “safe-haven reputation, (with) a new generation of Singapore-based professionals who enjoy a high standard of living commensurate with earnings, as well as wealthy second-homers particularly from the surrounding countries of China, Indonesia, and the Philippines.”

Can Etchells, Angus and Renfrew pull this off?

If like us, you’re buzzing with curiosity about ART SG and its leading partner, financial powerhouse UBS, keep an eye out for the ART SG and UBS Discussion Series: Tigers and Art: The Economic and Social Demographics and Buying Pattern Context of the Art and Luxury Market in Southeast Asia. This Discussion Series takes a close look at Singapore’s rise as a financial centre and role as one of the four Asian Tigers from the mid-20th century into the 21stcentury, as well as the development of its art and luxury market alongside other neighbouring countries.

This digital event taking place on 29 January is highly recommended for budding and established collectors, as well as anyone who might be curious about the byzantine world of the economics of the art industry. It’s a fairly long wait till November 2021, but this Discussion Series offers audiences an exclusive first glimpse at ART SG’s big plans for the Singapore art market. More details here.

2. Singapore Art Week Art Symposium

Singapore Art Week Symposium 27-29 Jan 2021

Arts and cultural policymakers step into the spotlight with this inaugural series of talks which will take the form of a hybrid digital-physical presentation, livestreamed from Singapore’s historic Victoria Theatre over the period of 27 to 29 January 2021. Spearheaded by Singapore’s National Arts Council and produced by our very own team at Plural Art Mag (ok, we will admit a tiny bit of bias with this pick), the SAW Art Symposium will feature a series of curated talks, panel discussions and fireside chats led by local and international cultural leaders and policymakers.

Covering topics relevant to the arts ecosystem in Singapore and its global partners, this edition of the Symposium will reflect upon arts and culture in pandemic times and beyond. It’s a rare chance to pick the brains of art industry movers and shakers, for absolutely no charge at all. Join us for the physical talks if you’re based in Singapore, but if not, we’ll happily meet you online. More details here.

3. S.E.A. Focus

If you’ve missed overseas travel over this past year, 2021’s S.E.A. Focus presentation from 20 to 31 January 2021 will allow you to take an artistic voyage across Southeast Asia through its art. Now in its third edition, this dynamic yearly art fair has become something of a hallmark in the regional art scene. It’s a tightly curated fair of local and Southeast Asian galleries that melds buying opportunities with art historical analysis and collector education, creating a heady mix of artistic vision and market-driven vigour. This year, galleries will be presenting works both in a physical space at Tanjong Pagar Distripark (S.E.A. Focus Curated), as well as online with digital partner Artsy (S.E.A Focus Digital).

The physical show, titled hyper–horizon, is a response to the waves of change and possibility seizing Southeast Asia as it seeks to spur urgent focus on the place and vitality of art in testing times. If you’re based in Singapore, look out for the unique exhibition space designed by architect Randy Chan of Zarch Collaboratives, situated in the uber-cool, stripped-down environs of an industrial park.

If you’re based overseas, stop by S.E.A Focus Digital or take part in its virtual talks, tours, visits and panel discussions. We’re particularly looking forward to seeing the works presented by regional creative favourites ROH Projects (Indonesia) and SILVERLENS Galleries (Philippines).

Says Isa Lorenzo, Co-Director of SILVERLENS, “SILVERLENS will be doing a 2-person show of bold Philippine male artists: Pow Martinez is a young and exciting painter, highly collected by young collectors (in the Philippines) and abroad; and Gregory Halili, a miniaturist painter who is quite established. We had a solo show of his while we were in Gillman Barracks, and (he) was a part of the Singapore Biennale 2016.”

More details on S.E.A. Focus can be found here.

Crowds thronging a previous edition of S.E.A. Focus. Image courtesy of STPI Gallery and S.E.A. Focus, Singapore.

4. The IMPART Collector’s Show

Ask any art enthusiast what their favourite part of the art world is, and chances are you’ll get the reply, “visits to collectors’ homes.”

Small wonder then that Art Outreach’s annual collector-driven exhibition, IMPART, is one of the most hotly anticipated events in each SAW calendar. First introduced in 2017, the IMPART Collectors’ Show features local and international art from the exclusive and private collections of prominent collectors around the world, allowing audiences the special chance to view privately-owned artworks that are not typically available for public viewing. This year, with one eye on COVID-19 safe distancing concerns and another cast firmly towards the future of art presentations, the 4th IMPART Collectors’ Show goes fully digital, bringing to online audiences what is impossible to convey in person.

It draws together rare footage of installations that are site-specifically embedded in private collectors’ homes, both in Singapore and overseas. The presentation is titled Leap of Faith, and runs from 19 to 31 January 2021, offering participants the unique experience of viewing privately-owned works as they are meant to be displayed – within the confines of a personal home, or in special artwork-specific sites. It’s an opportunity not to be missed for anyone who’s curious about how established collectors engage with art, or anyone who’s seeking inspiration to build their own art collections. It will also feature interviews with esteemed collectors such as Wiyu Wahano, Lito and Kim Camacho, Woffles Wu, Jim Amberson, Sangita Jindal and Eric and Suzanne Syz. More details can be found here.

Deni Ramdani, Zero Degree, 2017, Wiyu Wahono Collection
Deni Ramdani, Zero Degree, 2017, Wiyu Wahono Collection. Image courtesy of Indra Leonardi.

5. Bus.Stop.Art.

“Stop in the name of love,” sang the Supremes, but we’d urge you to do the same in the name of art. It won’t be difficult either, not if you happen to be on bus 175, winding its way through the city of Singapore. Curators Amelia Abdullahsani and Merryn Trevethan have put together a magical journey through the city which features art installations and interventions by Singapore-based artists at bus stops along the east-west route of bus 175. This exciting island-wide project takes art out of museums and galleries and into the public realm where Singaporeans live, work, and commute, bringing a much-needed sense of joy and wonder to the everyday.

According to the curators, “Bus.Stop.Art. aims to challenge the perception of what public art can be.” They explain that “the project was conceived during the pandemic, and it invites audiences to consider how we relate to public spaces and the urban environment.”

Merryn Trevethan, Bus Stop Art, 2020
Merryn Trevethan, Bus Stop Art, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

Additionally, the choice of the bus 175 route was not accidental. It was chosen, as the curators elaborate, “because it travels from the heartlands, through the civic district, and ends up in an arts cluster… (showing) that art really is for everyone and can be seen and enjoyed by everyone at any time of the day and night.”

Featured artists include Hafiiz Karim (The Next Most Famous Artist), Alecia Neo, Perception3, Yen Phang, Rizman Putra, Sebastian Mary Tay, Andy Yang, Madhvi Subrahmaniam, Hélène Le Chatelier and Merryn Trevethan. This free event runs from 21 Jan to 3 Feb 2021, is available to view 24 hours a day and, in line with its egalitarian mission to make art accessible, is totally free. More details here.

The Next Most Famous Artist, Monday Blues, 2020
One of the works in the presentation, as seen at a bus stop – The Next Most Famous Artist, Monday Blues, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

6. For the House; Against the House

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of OH! Open House and their innovative brand of art outreach. In previous editions, the team brought audiences into private homes and historic neighbourhoods, situating art in unexpected places, showcasing its ability to draw meaning and emotion from the people, objects and histories associated with its immediate physical environment.

OH! Open House’s first edition at Niven Road in 2009
A throwback from OH! Open House’s first edition at Niven Road in 2009. Image courtesy of Pink Blue Photography and OH Niven Road.
OH! Emerald Hill 2008
OH! Emerald Hill, which took place in 2018, saw artworks placed in the historic and quaint Singapore neighbourhood of Emerald Hill. Image Courtesy of OH! Open House.

For this edition of SAW, the team takes on a rather more provocative stance, adopting the theme For the House; Against the House where the art presentation takes the form of a debate where “artworks, not words, make arguments.”

Drawing from the private collections of Jo and the DUO Collection, curators John Tung and Syed Muhd Hafiz set propositions for artists to respond through their practices. Audiences are then challenged to take a stance and participate in the debate, using the displayed artworks as their starting point.

“Everyone has something to say; it’s important to have a space to say it. Rather than cultivating passive viewers, the debate format of For the House; Against the House challenges audiences to adopt an active stance in defending their perspectives,” says Tung.

“Within the programme, the artists and artworks play a mediatory rather than instructive role in establishing the contemporary milieu, placing the onus on programme-goers to define the times for themselves.”

For the House; Against the House is presented as a digital experience, over the period of 23 to 24 Jan and 30 to 31 Jan 2021, with a physical component that is ticketed. The physical programme includes a private tour of the artworks and collections, and a live debate. More details can be found here.

With over 100 unique programmes occurring over nine days, 2021 life looks set to be just like a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump would say. Piqued by the vast array of options but still not sure where to start? Don’t worry – head on over to the SAW website, where you can download a programme guide that can help you plan your personal SAW adventure.


This article is produced in paid partnership with Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Art Week. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.

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