Merrier By The Dozen

Published on 26 November 2017

The year is on its way out, but like any classy paramour, 2017 leaves behind a package of goodies. We single out 12 things gifted to Singapore art buffs this year.

By Jo Tan, Pamela Ho & Melanie Lee

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: The Artground

AN ART SPACE FOR MY BABY
The Artground opened in July 2017

While several groups pitched for use of the 500 square-metre space at Goodman Arts Centre to present their work, it was new arts company The Ground Co Limited that was chosen by a panel of arts practitioners, National Arts Council officers and primary school students. The company has created what is now The Artground — an art centre for children aged 12 and below. While the lower age limit for even the most child-friendly Singapore art events is generally two, even infants can get their creative fix at The Artground as demonstrated by one of the centre’s opening events, Baby Space, featuring music, dance, poetry and visual art specially tailored for the tiniest tots by Stockholm-based artist Dalija Acin Thelander. There are activities for older kids as well: Artground houses WhiteBox, a performance space; Baby Stage for babies and their carers; Ground Floor for art installations; and outdoor gardening space The Good Garden. In each, rules are minimal and children are encouraged to roam, touch, create and otherwise explore.

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photos: Weiwei Gwee

2 CULTURAL CHAMPS
Two pioneers in the art and music scene awarded the Cultural Medallion

Two great contributors to culture were awarded the Cultural Medallion — possibly Singapore’s highest artistic honour — this October. Author/literary arts advocate/critic and researcher/archivist Djamal Tukimin has written hundreds of novels and critical essays with such commitment to growing Singapore’s Malay literary arts sector that he has opened his home library (with approximately 15,000 books) to undergraduates and postgraduates in the Southeast Asian region for research. Meanwhile, Law Wai Lun — a member of the Artistic Resource Panel and composer-in-residence of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and adjudicator in more than 22 versions of national music competitions — has created various acclaimed compositions for Chinese orchestras internationally, with oeuvres spanning diverse genres of Chinese culture, Nanyang culture, and in recent years, even Western culture.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Singapore Heritage Society Facebook Page

3 HERITAGE DECADES
The Singapore Heritage Society turned 30 this year

While it’s easy to see history only as monuments or museums, the Singapore Heritage Society has always worked tirelessly to preserve as well as educate the public about the various elements of our past and present (think languages, practices, food) which have shaped Singaporeans into what we are. This year marked the 30th Anniversary of this group that has organised everything from trips and tours to campaigns and movements, such as the one to stop Bukit Brown Cemetery from being largely demolished. The society celebrated at the Eurasian Association with the book launch of Syonan: Singapore Under the Japanese, a free World War II Tour, and a Eurasian dinner.

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: National Arts Council

4 TROVES OF WORDS
Four regional libraries reopened this year with brand-new features

Readers in Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Tampines and Bedok enjoyed boosts to their neighbourhood reading roosts this year with brand-new libraries boasting shiny new features. These include Sengkang Public Library’s new floor and dedicated Tween Space (with flexible seating to facilitate discussion); the expanded Bukit Panjang Public Library’s immersive storytelling service with sound effects, lights and interactive visual projections to accompany the tales being told; Bedok Public Library’s dedicated activities and spaces for seniors, and a makers’ area with collaborative work spaces at the new Tampines Regional Library for budding entrepreneurs and creative makers to learn and experiment together.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: National Arts Council

5 YEARS OF amazing ART
The SPRAWLING art cluster at Gillman Barracks TURNS FIVE

The Gillman Barracks visual arts cluster — a congregation of leading homegrown and international galleries, art organisations, design retailers, as well as an array of cafes, bars and restaurants — was launched in September 2012. This year, which marks its fifth anniversary, was celebrated with pizzazz with the return of its signature open-house event, Art After Dark. This edition’s highlights include the launch of Art-in-Sight, the first-ever publication developed by Gillman Barracks and contemporary art platform Ocula; the second edition of design retailer Supermama’s Porcelain & Craft Festival; an interactive art installation Ryder Ripps: Diventare Schiavo by New York-based artist Ryder Ripps; a special collectors’ show Re|Collecting Asia, as well as a Makers’ Market, live music performances, a selection of food-and-beverage pop-ups, and an after-party featuring some of Singapore’s finest deejays.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Charlene Chong/Smiling Media

6 WINNING SONGBIRDS
MICappella puts Singapore on the music world map

They were the only group from Asia to take part in the Moscow Spring A Cappella Festival in May, but MICappella put Singapore on the a cappella world map by emerging champions in the medium group category (six to 10 singers). This week-long festival was the culmination of a month-long competition, and saw more than 160 finalists battling it out over three days. Prior to this win, MICappella was recognised at the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (the Grammy Awards of the a cappella world), held in April in the United States. Nominated in three categories — for Best Rock/Pop Album, Best Original Song by a Professional Group for ‘One of These Days’, and Best Asian Album for MICappella Reloaded — the talented group of six was the only Asian representation in the first two categories, alongside internationally acclaimed Pentatonix. They won Best Asian Album!

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Collection of the Artist ©YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of YAYOI KUSAMA Inc

7 DOTTY DECADES
Yayoi Kusama’s art was celebrated at the National Gallery Singapore

Eighty-eight-year-old Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama is known the world over for her immersive artworks featuring her iconic pumpkin and polka-dot motifs, as well as for the interactive nature of her spaces such as the Infinity Mirrored Room and The Obliteration Room. As such, a highlight of Singapore’s visual arts scene this year must surely be the National Gallery Singapore’s Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition, which ran from 9 June to 3 September. Comprising 120 works — including paintings, sculptures, videos and installations — and spanning 70 years, the exhibition was Kusama’s first major survey show in Southeast Asia. More than 235,000 visitors visited the blockbuster exhibition, the highest attendance at an exhibition since the Gallery’s opening in November 2015.

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

8 DAYS OF GIFS
With the very first NOISE X GIF Fest

Because art doesn’t need to be stuffy or overwhelming, Noise Singapore and urban art gallery/magazine publisher Kult decided that GIFs — images compressed using the Graphic Interchange Format that are a crucial part of daily digital communication — deserved their own eight-day festival! Over 50 illustrated, photographic and filmic GIFs were selected through both invitation and an Open Call, and featured through projections, large screens (including a mammoth LED wall), and secret rooms. Other electronic art was also feted, with highlights including a workshop by street artist Aik Beng Chia on turning photographs into cinegraphs, and performances by electronic musicians .GIF as well as Kiat from Syndicate.

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Nine Years Theatre

9 YEARS THEATRE
With their awesome play, Art Studio

Singapore Mandarin theatre company Nine Years Theatre opened this year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts with their epic three-hour production, Art Studio. Based on Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon’s novel of the same name, it follows the lives of local artists taking different paths in life during the tumultuous years of Singapore from the 1950s to ’80s. Even with this sweeping historical backdrop, the play digs deep with its masterful storytelling and poetic portrayal of characters’ sentiments and innermost desires. Directed by Nelson Chia, Art Studio is regarded as one of the best plays of 2017.

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Noise Singapore

10 LOCAL HITS
Remade by young musicians

The best of Singapore’s English contemporary music was celebrated with Pop-up Noise: The Great Singapore Replay. Twenty established and up-and-coming local musicians (including Charlie Lim, Sara Wee, Joie Tan and JAWN) were paired up for a contemporary take on iconic local songs such as ‘Circling Square’ by Humpback Oak, ‘Roses’ by Ginger Bread and ‘You’re the Boy’ by Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings. It wasn’t just a platform for the young ’uns to learn about a couple of groovy made-in-Singapore tunes. For some, it was a nostalgic walk down memory lane and a reminder of how popular local music will always play (and replay) in the personal soundtrack of one’s growing-up years.

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Photo: Singapore Symphony Orchestra

11 TUNEFUL YEARS
Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir celebrated its 11th birthday

Formed in 2006, the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir (SSCC) is the leading children’s choir for young songbirds between the ages of nine and 16. Helmed by choirmaster Wong Lai Foon and associate choirmaster and choral conductor Darius Lim, its members go through a holistic choral training programme that nurtures artistic growth and personal development. The choir has performed with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and in prestigious venues such as the Philharmonie de Paris. In May, the SSCC held an 11th Anniversary Concert with the theme ‘Sound Musings’ at Victoria Concert Hall and also released an album titled And I’ll Sing Once More.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

12 A LIST ISSUES
We hope you’ve enjoyed our look at the local arts scene

A List Singapore started as a fortnightly magazine in October 2014, and became a monthly publication from January 2017. This December, we celebrate our 12th monthly issue! It’s been yet another eventful year of engaging arts programmes, uncovering new arts stars and discovering new arts trends in Singapore. We hope our stories have led you through a fascinating discovery of diverse art forms, and perhaps even helped you uncover or rediscover arts-related interests. As a full-fledged arts and culture guide, we aim to make the arts more accessible and relatable to your life!

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