Art lovers rejoice as Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2024 returns to our sunny island for another installation of 150 incredible visual art experiences, with over 400 artists participating.
From street art to world-class private collections, this year’s tagline “Art Takes Over” greets us with open arms with something for everyone. Happening from 19 – 28 January 2024, you can look forward to a slew of exhibitions, community art ventures and more, that promises to bring people from all ages and walks of life closer to art.
With such an array of offerings, don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed or out of your depth – we bring you our yearly overview of the 6 events you definitely should not miss this SAW, complete with the perfect one-liners to sound smart with your friends, date, family, kids or anyone else you’d care to art-hop with.
1) ART SG 2024
Returning to Singapore for its second year is international contemporary art fair ART SG, organized by The Art Assembly and presented by Founding and Lead Partner UBS.
The fair promises a diverse representation across geographies, with participation from 116 galleries spanning 33 countries. Notable international galleries, including Gagosian, White Cube, and Thaddaeus Ropac, will participate once again, alongside 38 new galleries, such as Kaikai Kiki Gallery (founded by none other than Takashi Murakami) and Asia Art Center, making their inaugural appearances.
Beyond the galleries, visitors can also look forward to a curated FILM programme developed in collaboration with the ArtScience Museum, and large site-specific installations as part of the PLATFORM sector. A TALKS programme, curated by Founder and Director of ‘in-tangible institute’ Zoe Butt, features thought leaders from the art world in bipartite sessions on critical issues within the Southeast Asian ecosystem. Former National Gallery Singapore curator and film and new media specialist Sam I-shan leads the FILM programme – we’re looking forward to her selection of Southeast Asian films for the fair.
What to say to sound clever: “What a compelling convergence of contemporary aesthetics and cultural discourse!”
Event details: ART SG runs at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands, from 19 to 21 January 2024, with a VIP Preview on 18 January. Click here for more information.
2) Simryn Gill & Charles Lim: The Sea is a Field
Ever thought of how you’d traverse the ocean dividing Port Dickson and Singapore? Turns out, the path is less than straightforward. A collaboration between artists Simryn Gill and Charles Lim as part of the SAM Fellowship programme, “The Sea is a Field” is their exploration of the space between their residences.
Utilising local ferries across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, the artists embarked on a trip between the two in August 2023. With Lim capturing observations through video and Gill using photography and text, they narrate stories encompassing everyday crossings, migrations, and borders that resonate with the cultural and political history of the region.
Moving beyond the stereotypical gallery setting, the exhibition is set in a portside warehouse, which the artists view less as a finished exhibition space than “a zone of convergence for their solitary and private undertakings and their public iterations”.
Curators Selene Yap and Chanon Kenji Praepipatmongkol share a glimpse of what visitors can look forward to: “Looking through the warehouse shutter doors to Keppel Terminal, visitors will see remnants of cranes and shipyard elevators, reminders of maritime trade activity that has now been moved to the new Tuas Mega Port, which is built on reclaimed land. The site carries memories of old journeys and logistical pathways, while also being part of a new geography of the Greater Southern Waterfront that is coming into being.”
What to say to sound clever: “This work isn’t just about navigating the sea between Port Dickson and Singapore, but also the intricate relational waters between two artistic minds.”
Event details: The Sea is a Field runs from 12 Jan to 21 April 2024 at Block 37, SAM, Tanjong Pagar Distripark. Click here for more information.
3) Some Exercises in Futility
When we say something is futile—whether it’s obsessively closing and reopening the same three apps on your phone, or, like Sisyphus from Greek myth, endlessly pushing a boulder up a hill and watching it roll back down–it’s rarely a compliment. But what if the futile could be oddly fruitful?
As curator and artist Berny Tan recounts, Genevieve Leong approached fellow artists Fiona Seow, ila, Marvin Tang, and Ryan Lim Zi Yi for a group show after a rejected residency proposal. The resulting exhibition considers futile actions and objects—think soft, floppy tabletops, and spoons with holes carved in their middles—and the ways they might compel us despite their apparent meaninglessness. Noting that artists’ “futile exercises” often “turn into a fruitful new direction later,” Tan explains: “Of course there is a kind of irony in the whole project, because the existence of these works is arguably proof that the artists’ efforts have not been in vain. But at the same time, we hope that we are challenging the audience’s ideas of what is considered productive or purposeful.”
While the five artists work in various mediums, they share an interest in the marginal and/or ephemeral and a subdued, meditative visual style. Visit Some Exercises in Futility for a gentle respite from the usual Art Week hustle, and ponder how, as Leong suggests, “a seemingly absurd and pointless action can be the starting point of some interesting possibilities.”
What to say to sound clever: “I wonder how our world would change if we all thought as much about processes as we do about finished products.”
Event details: Some Exercises in Futility runs from 18 January – 4 February at Shun Li Industrial Complex, Block B #05-18, 705 Sims Drive. Click here for more information, including details for public programmes.
4) Our Children by Tang Da Wu
Local art aficionados will recognise Tang Da Wu for iconic installation and performance pieces like Earth Work (1979) and Tiger’s Whip (1991), which draw from the international avant-garde while remaining firmly rooted in the cultural contexts of Asia and Singapore.
From founding one of Singapore’s first art collectives to being a pioneer of contemporary and conceptual art, Tang’s presence in Singaporean art history is nothing short of titanic. On SAW’s opening weekend, arts non-profit Art Outreach affords audiences an opportunity to see Tang in action as he restages Our Children, a performance piece first presented at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2017.
Our Children references a Teochew opera parable about a young goat drinking its mother’s milk. Compared to 2017, says Art Outreach’s Director of Partnerships & Programmes Eve Hoon, “This new performance will encourage a more robust spirit of questioning and exploration, actively involving both performers and the audience in reflecting on the enduring values of filial piety and cultural ideals.”
If you miss the opening performance, you can still participate in embroidering the original tapestry from 2017 and gain insight into Tang’s practice through interview and rehearsal footage. Artworks that address themes of craft and parent-child relationships, by artists such as Chuah Teang Teng, Amanda Heng, and Christopher Myers, will also be on show.
What to say to sound clever: “Did you know that Tang Da Wu also has a sculpture called Our Children, which is now in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum?”
Event details: Tang Da Wu will restage Our Children on 20 January 2024 (6-7pm), at Gillman Barracks Carpark B. The exhibition takes place from 12 January – 4 February 2024, at Art Outreach, 5 Lock Rd, #01-06 Gillman Barracks. Click here for more.
5) Immortal Words
Science and art, two seemingly contrasting fields, are brought together by Indonesian-born Singaporean contemporary artist Boedi Widjaja in his interactive artwork Immortal Words, created in collaboration with geneticist Associate Professor Eric Yap.
Presenting his decade-long research into body, memory, language and encoding, Boedi delves into the linguistic relics of our ancestral history by encoding “fossil words” – words believed to have endured since the Ice Age 15,000 years ago – into DNA.
Here’s the fun part – audiences get to participate by collecting these “fossil words” through DNA-infused keycaps, small books and capsules available in gachapon (popular Japanese vending machine-dispensed toys in a capsule) vending machines at different locations! Boedi explains that the capsule machine format allows him to “experiment with the act of buying an art collectible at a highly accessible price…as a form of audience engagement” and to reach audiences in public spaces.
Within each capsule, Boedi adds, “is a piece of bioart – a micro vial that contains an ‘ultraconserved word’ that is materialised in synthetic DNA molecules. Each vial has 30 trillion molecule strands.” You’re not going to find that in any other gachapon machine!
What to say to sound clever: “This work is a testament to the harmony between cultural resonance and technological innovation, bringing the past and present together.”
Event details: Immortal Words runs from 19 – 20 February 2024 at Black Box, Centre 42, Waterloo Street with free admission. Find out more here.
Singapore Art Week runs from 19 – 28 January 2024. Click here to find out more.
Header image courtesy of ART SG.
This article is produced in partnership with the National Arts Council. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.