Exhibition: 16 January ­‐ 27 March 2016, ArtScience Musuem
Awards: 19 January 2016, Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands

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Head slide 160129 the honey combers
29 Jan 2016

Rave or Rant: Why Singapore Art Week Should Never Cease to Exist

Whenever we’re ringing in a brand new year, I totally dread it. Something about having to restart and recalibrate makes it way too exhausting to even think about it. Yet, while I don’t exactly welcome January with open arms, January is ironically one of my favourite months of the year (well, it comes second after April ’cause April is my birthday month). The only, but however the biggest, redeeming factor of January was of course the highly anticipated Singapore Art Week. For an art enthusiast like myself, it was the beacon of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

From art fairs and gallery openings to curatorial tours and interactive activities, Singapore Art Week took the nation by storm, and amazed artholics and the like with its smorgasbord of fun-filled artsy events. From January 16 to 24, I saw a plethora of mesmerising artworks from both international and local talents; I witnessed the metamorphosis of Joo Chiat and Little India into enchanting art precincts; and I also celebrated the achievements of many artists at the Prudential Eye Awards 2016 and crowned the new best emerging artist in Asia – congratulations to Sareth Svay from Cambodia! Obviously, Singapore Art Week was nothing less than spectacular.

Singapore Art Week brought me to places all over Singapore

Let’s face it: despite all the rants on how boring Singapore can be due its small landmass, most of us have never truly explored Singapore. Even if we’ve visited most parts of Singapore, those visits were probably brief and insignificant. Hence, from familiar vicinities like Chinatown and Singapore Art Museum (SAM) to unfamiliar and new spots like Singapore Pinacothéque de Paris and the National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Art Week allowed you to go to places all over Singapore and discover these different areas at even greater depth. Despite having visited Gillman Barracks for several installments of Art After Dark, it was a fresh experience to enter the cool art enclave to uncover the place yet again.

What caught my attention was definitely the Andy Warhol: Social Circus exhibition, where I was greeted by a rare collection of the artist’s private polaroids of famous people in the ’70s and ’80s for the first time ever in Asia. And there were even parrots in the gallery space for you to hold and take a selfie with – talking about putting on a fancy art show!

I experienced multiple visual sensory orgasms

If you did not have an artsy sensory overload by the end of your Singapore Art Week experience, perhaps you might have done it incorrectly. Singapore Art Week was not short of its pleasurable visual sensory orgasms. Art Stage Singapore, Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair, showcased an extensive array of visual art pieces by 170 galleries from 33 countries and 30 global cities, exploring the unique identities of artists in the region. Even after two full hours, I was still not done with the fair. By then, I was completely unsure if I should go on any further. At that moment, it felt like I had overdosed on art.

A few memorable highlights of Art Stage were the Instagram superstar – the Cockroaches art, Zheng-Lu’s breathtaking water-dripping splashing installation and the very intriguing Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama. Singapore Contemporary Art also put forth an incredible selection of artworks that were aesthetically mind blowing. As I’ve always had a fascination towards calligraphy art, I was drawn to local artist Simon Wee’s gallery booth, where he displayed his a collection of unique strokes that were captivating indeed. I also enjoyed Korean artist Kwon Kisoo’s artistic, colorful and cutesy artistic creations that fused art with cartoon-like graphics.

Don’t tell me there’s no prospering local art scene

Singapore Art Week is also a great avenue for local art practitioners and the like to showcase their works and share their passion for art with the general public. On the other hand, Singapore Art Week is indeed an enriching platform for people to not only enjoy the many showcased artistic masterpieces and experiences, but also to learn a thing or two about the progress of the local art scene thus far.

Having the opportunity to interview homegrown artist, Robert Zhao (a Singaporean representative nominated for best new emerging artist in photography for the prestigious Prudential Eye Awards 2016), was indeed a blessing. When asked if he’s ever worried that people might misinterpret his work, he confidently replied that people can take away whatever they want from his work, and that the ideal audience in his mind might not exist after all.

Aliwal Urban Arts Festival is yet another exemplification of the thriving local art scene, portraying the ever-growing interest of youths in Singapore towards the arts. At this festival, I was happily treated to an impressive visual exploration of youth rebellion through street art, skateboarding and dance performances.

Why I think art is significant in today’s contemporary world

On a more serious note, I’ve always felt that it is important to have events like Singapore Art Week as it serves to remind that art is an integral part of society. While art makes the world more beautiful, beautifying the world is not just any minor function. What if it ceases to exist? Would our world be a different place? In delivering instances of simple sensory pleasures into our lives, art transforms our world in a million little ways, which many of us unfortunately take for granted. Also, the raison d’etre of the arts is the process of seizing of Truth. In the unveiling of Truth in their works, we are often confronted with the ugly truths of the world. And as said by Herbert Marcuse in The Aesthetic Dimension, “Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world.”

With this assortment of artsy goodness, January wasn’t that bad after all – certainly not for me.

’Til we meet again Singapore Art Week (…and I’m off to the National Gallery for the umpteenth time.)