What’s the Alternative?

Published on 6 June 2016

Shipping containers, car park, defunct railway station — these have all been used as alternative venues to present art in experimental ways.


Art is experienced not just by what is created by the artist, but also where the work is exhibited. An art venue often adds context to the artwork itself, but in a country where space is tight, there does not seem like there’s much room to play around with when it comes to alternative art spaces — art venues that are not commercial galleries or formally-constituted museums. However, with a little ingenuity from the arts community, there has been a variety of visual art events and exhibitions that have taken place in unlikely places in recent years. The result? Art becomes more relatable, personal and memorable to the general public.  From shipping containers to void decks, the possibilities are really only limited by imagination.


DECK by 2902 Gallery

Launched in 2014 through crowdfunding, this collection of seemingly haphazardly- arranged grey refurbished shipping containers in Prinsep Street houses two photography galleries, a resource library, an activity space, an artist studio and a café. It was conceptualised as a temporary, mobile independent art space by 2902 Gallery for the Singapore International Photography Festival. The idea was that the exhibitions could easily be shifted to other venues should the occasion arise. While DECK is primarily dedicated to photography enthusiasts in Singapore and Southeast Asia, it has hosted other events such as bookbinding workshops, outdoor parties and art markets. Famous Copenhagen-based brewery Mikkellar Bar will also be opening a branch at DECK featuring 20 taps. For more information, visit www.deck.sg



Women: New Portraits by Annie Leibovitz

In April and May this year, the historic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station became the venue of renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz’s newly-commissioned portraits of prominent women such as Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and ballet dancer Misty Copeland. It is part of a 10-city global tour commissioned by global financial services firm UBS. While this art-deco national monument may seem like an unlikely choice for an exhibition of such a standing (Leibovitz’s previous exhibition in Singapore was at Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum), its high ceilings, airy interiors and retro wall panel paintings worked well with the large-scale prints and giant screens of this exhibition. Prior to this, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station held a 100-stall arts market this March with ‘live’ acoustic music and digital art installations. For more information, visit this link here.

PHOTOS Gwee Wei Wei


Art Apart Fair Singapore

A way from the often intimidating confines of a commercial art gallery, this hotel-based art fair, which ran its 7th edition in Singapore this January, provides an intimate, dreamy glimpse of what its collection of artworks might look like in actual (fancy) homes. Visitors to the event wandered through the rooms on the 14th floor of Parkroyal on Pickering, checking out art pieces by 60 local and international artists. Besides selling never-seen-before works by famous fashion designer Benny Ong, students from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts also got to showcase their creative output. This formula of selling art has proved so successful that Art Apart has organised a similar event in London, with plans for New York, Paris and Milan editions in the pipeline. For more information, visit www.artapartfair.com

PHOTO  Art Apart Fair


Social Creatives

While this not-for-profit community art organisation works with artists and volunteers to create murals in a variety of spaces such as one-room flats and hospitals, Social Creatives is perhaps best known for their one-of-a-kind void deck art galleries that add pizazz to more than 30 Housing & Development Board (HDB) blocks around Singapore. The premise for such an initiative is that one of the first forms of human communication was cave drawing, which evolved to today’s murals. Bringing such an accessible artform right to people’s doorsteps will go a long way in promoting art appreciation and a sense of belonging within the community. In particular, do check out their MacPherson, Holland and Jurong West void deck art galleries, which feature Van Gogh, Pop-Art and Cubist themes respectively.
For more information, visit www.socialcreatives.com.


Stand Up for Everyone

This Labour Day, arts event Stand Up for Everyone was organised by The Kampong Kapor Residency, an upcoming creative residency within the Kampong Kapor neighbourhood, and community initiative StandUpFor.SG. At a car park just in front of Singai Tamil Sangam Building (the former Kampong Kapor Community Centre), deck chairs and mats were laid out, and iced teas and snacks were served. While getting passing migrant workers involved in community art (for example, Singapore rangoli artist Vijay Mohan did some scratch art with them), local volunteers (including artists and designers) engaged in conversations with participants to better understand their work and lives here in Singapore. There are plans to organise similar events in this neighbourhood later this year. For more information, visit

PHOTO  Ashley Cheang



In 2011, Singaporean artist Alecia Neo created a six-day sound and photography site-specific installation in collaboration with musician Clarence Chung at a 1950s-style house in Binjai Park. The house belonged to Dr Nalla Tan, a prominent physician and feminist who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, and her son Tan Ying Hsien, a wine bar owner. The exhibition featured restaged family photographs, recordings of family conversations, Dr Tan’s perfume collection and personal handwritten messages, as well as the younger Tan’s wine bottles. Visitors could wander the various rooms in the house and reflect on the fragility of spaces and memories. A few days after the exhibition ended, the bungalow was demolished. For more information, visit www.villaalicia.info

PHOTOS  Alecia Neo

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