Creative Intersections: In the Year of the Tiger at Funan Mall, is an exhibition that takes art out of traditional spaces like museums and galleries, and brings it directly to consumers in one of the trendiest malls in town.
In this month-long art-meets-retail programme, launched as part of Singapore Art Week 2022, shoppers can take in artworks that have been seamlessly paired with the mall’s shops, across the diverse categories of food, fashion, lifestyle and more. Presented by Funan and curated by curatorial consultancy and agency Chan + Hori Contemporary, Creative Intersections challenges and interrogates conventional assumptions about art and art spaces.
The showcase features 21 artists and 15 brand and artist collaborations that range from limited-edition unique products and workshops, to installations and in-store displays. As exhibition co-curator Deborah Lim explains, the chosen theme In the Year of the Tiger relates naturally to the upcoming Chinese Year of the Tiger, but also delves much deeper into Singapore’s own connection with tigers – the creatures inscribed in our history and whispered about in mythology and folklore. Each of the artists in the project has accordingly referenced different aspects of the ‘tiger’ theme, as a starting point for their creative explorations and visions.
You might be wondering if this artistic presentation succeeds in its objectives, and whether it manages to achieve what more traditional art shows seek to do.
Does it move audiences and engage with their emotions?
Does it inspire creative reflection?
The answer is a resolute and definite ‘yes.’
Lim confronts the potential dilemma head on, acknowledging that “there is an association that art in a mall tends to be more commercial or built around hype.”
However, she explains that the artists and creatives in this project were selected for their “strong identities and research-oriented practices.”
So, what does the art look like?
First of all, it’s immediately apparent that the line-up of artists in this showcase reads very much like a list one might find at a cutting-edge gallery or hot contemporary museum.
Artist Divagaar presents Tigris Territories, an illustration which highlights the majestic Malayan Tiger and Tiger Orchid flower. Taking cues from wild jungles, this artwork takes the form of colourful privacy screens located within the co-working space of lyf.
Isabelle Desjeux and Ricky Lim of The Green Capsule present a collaborative work in the form of a large-scale terrarium with an LED-lit landscape.
Desjeux offers acrylic etched renderings of the most common wild native plants or weeds around Singapore, inserted into a landscape designed by Lim – spotlighting these oft-forgotten roadside beauties which have lovely flowers and medicinal properties of their own. The ‘tiger’ here is referred to in a more oblique sense, with the artists reminding us that we should not shower attention on larger, eye-catching animals such as tigers, at the expense of less dramatic (but equally valuable) creatures and plants.
Sebastian Mary Tay’s Bubblemania offers up a public print installation in collaboration with LiHO TEA, one which is composed of repetitive circular forms made from imprints of condensation markings from bubble tea cups. The bubble markings vary in density through the space of the print, extending from one end of the colour spectrum to the other. The marks can be read as shadows of time, encapsulating an experience of satisfaction, imagination and celebration, shared poetically in a common space. The work alludes to the memories, impressions and symbols of tigers which have left their marks across time, and which take on new significance through shared conversations and encounters.
Another hallmark of this exhibition is its showcase of NFT (non-fungible token) work. In a nod to Funan’s own history as a beloved one-stop shop for all things technological, Creative Intersections cleverly integrates the worlds of art, technology and shopping to both educate the public, and create new entry points for the appreciation and purchase of art.
As Lim explains “It is not possible to deny that money and transactions are an integral part of the art scene; and we didn’t want to shy away from that.”
So, if you’re curious about the white-hot NFT market, perhaps stop by designer toy and collectibles retailer, BLAXK by ActionCity. There, you’ll find a mini-exhibition of artworks, including NFTs displayed digitally, which can be purchased through the quick scan of a QR code, with shop staff to guide you through the purchasing process. To round things out, a four-part series of talks on NFTs will be held at BLAXK between 14 January to 13 February 2022.
Artist Toby Tan (also known as ‘Tobyato’) has also produced a series of physical works that respond to various pop culture tiger references ranging from “paper tiger” and “tiger parents,” to “eye of the tiger.” His display in BLAXK is composed of a centrepiece of hand-painted skateboard decks, wooden panel cut-outs, and a live painting studio area.
NFTs pop up again in the most unexpected of spaces—Love, Bonito’s fashion boutique. In line with brand’s ethos of accompanying Asian women through the various stages of their lives, artist Kristal Melson conveys an image of the feminine and the fierce, with particular reference to the notion of the tigress. The artist’s delicate works underscore the phrase that “there is no courage without grace.” Her pieces manifest themselves through physical displays interspersed subtly throughout the Love, Bonito store, as well as in the creation of an NFT (whose proceeds of sale will eventually be donated to charity).
Of course, no Singapore NFT showcase would be complete without representation from top-selling local artistic sensation Shavonne Wong, who has also collaborated with Funan to create a new collection of works. Wong’s pieces feature in many famous art collections, including most recently, that of actor Idris Elba. Presented at different angles similar to a photoshoot or film scenography, Wong’s NFTs for Creative Intersections will reveal scenes where an elegant female character shares space with, and shows affection towards, majestic tigers.
Baby steps towards the future of art?
As Lim tells us, “collaborations such as these are the baby steps towards building a more discerning community that appreciates art, culture and everything in-between.”
It’s a statement that we absolutely agree with, because in any event, what is art without an audience? Creative Intersections takes art out of inaccessible spaces and merges it effortlessly with Singapore’s favourite mainstream pastime– shopping.
Visit Funan Mall between 14 January and 13 February 2022, and prepare to have your assumptions about ‘mall art’ well and thoroughly upended.
Click here to find out more about Creative Intersections.
This article is produced in paid partnership with Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Art Week. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.