10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas

The pre-Christmas calendar may be packed with art events happening all over town, but we are far from suffering from “festival fatigue” (go look it up, it’s a thing). Whether you prefer walking in a museum to look at artwork that creates polarizing points of view and critique, watching a film about the highly taboo topic of “honor killing” in Iran or to taking a look at artists’ images along an MRT station, here are some festivals in Singapore to nourish your inner life (and your social calendar).

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s Da:ns Festival (Now till Oct 23)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
“Decadance” by Batsheva Dance Company. Photo credit: Maxim Waratt

Currently in its 11th cycle, the much lauded Da:ns Festival at Esplanade is currently running and features eight ticketed productions, more than 40 workshops and masterclasses and over 90 free performances and activities. This year, three high renowned dancers—namely Pina Bausch, Ohad Naharin and Sara Baras—headline the festival with their productions, each with some sort of significant story behind them. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Singapore International Photography Festival (Now till Nov 13)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
© Ellie Davis, Stars. SIPF 2016 | Find it at Beauty World MRT Station.

The Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) returns for its fifth year to celebrate this widely accessible form of art. One of the biggest highlights this year is the recurring Open Call Showcase, which pretty much gives the lesser-known photographers a platform to showcase their work. For the first time ever, 240 works by 26 artists (out of the 40 that were picked by an international jury of curators) will be showcased in six different MRT stations along the Downtown line. You’ll have the freedom to hop on and off to check out the photos at stations within the arts, heritage, and design district like Bugis, Rochor and Little India, right through to Newton, Botanic Gardens and Beauty World. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Middle East Film Festival (Oct 20-30)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
The Paternal House (Khaneh Pedari), directed by Klanoush Ayyari

We’ve had a whole slew of diverse film festivals this year ranging from gorgeous and social conscious films at this year’s SIFA precursor festival, The O.P.E.N. and documentaries about chefs and their restaurants (and that one film about the outrageous lives of extreme foodies) to films that explore LGBT issues and documentaries about design luminaries like Yohji Yamamoto. This time, we’re getting our very first Middle East Film Festival, presented by the Middle East Institute and The Projector, with support from Luna Films. The selection of films will give viewers a closer look into the lives of people living in the trouble region pervaded with war, dispute and conflicts, but also showcase the diversity and strengths of its people. One of the highlights is the screening of The Paternal House, a film about “honor killing”. Needless to say, the film was banned in Iran after its debut screening in Venice. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Objectifs’ Women in Photography (Oct 20-Nov 20)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
Homemade. Photo credit: Heba Khalifa

For the month of October, Objectifs, Singapore’s center for photography and film, will turn their cameras to focus for the second time on the women who dabble in photography and film. Held in association with Magnum Foundation, the Women in Photography exhibition will see the works by 16 women photographers from across the globe who have had to overcome very trying circumstances while creating these compelling visual narratives that chronicle daily struggles, observations and the universal theme of humanity and empathy. Open to public, free admission. Book a slot before it’s all sold out.

Objectifs’ Women in Film (Oct 21-Nov 17)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
“The Babushkas of Chernobyl” by Holly Morris & Anne Bogard

Following the same thread of the photography exhibition, Women in Film looks to give the women in this predominantly male-dominated industry a platform to tell the world what they want to through film. This showcase will highlight the journey of renowned film editor Mary Stephen, along with a good mix of feature and short films by other women filmmakers such as Please Remember Me by Zhao Qing, a documentary about Alzheimer’s disease through the eyes of a Shanghainese couple; Wild Women – Gentle Beasts directed by Anka Schmid, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of four women lion tamers; and more. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Singapore Biennale (Oct 27-Feb 26, 2017)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
“Endless Hours At Sea” by Martha Atienza

In January, we learned that the Singapore Biennale would be making a comeback after three years (yes, we know biennale means every two years, but who’s counting). This fifth edition of the contemporary art exhibition will showcase site-specific artwork displayed at the Singapore Art Museum, Queen Street and other surrounding areas over the span of four months. Titled “Atlas of Mirrors”, this year’s Singapore Biennale has shortlisted a number of artists based on their past work and art practices by creative director Susie Lingham and a bunch of museum and associate curators. Apart from 58 different artwork presentations from 60 artists (10 of which are Singaporean) and three art collectives, we’re already looking forward to Malaysian mixed-media artist Ahman Fuad Osman; Rathnin Barmanff, an Indian national who’s highly regarded for socio-political commentary; Singaporean Cultural Medallion winner Han Sai Por; and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook from Thailand, who did these amazing videos on Thai farmers commenting on European pastoral art. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Perspectives Film Festival (Oct 27-30)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
Daisies (Photo credit: NFA)

Apart from all the major film festivals we’ve had this past year, another one that stands out annually is the student-run Perspectives Film Festival, which returns for its ninth edition. Exploring the theme of Surrealism, they’ve put together a program of seven films, four of which are making their Singapore debuts. The selection this year bears the characteristics of typical Surrealist cinema, with origins dating all the way back to the 1920s. You can expect stories being told through outrageous imagery paired with often confusing and illogical juxtapositions, idiosyncratic characters and uncommon art direction. Here are the four films that will have their Singapore premieres at the festival. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Singapore Writers Festival (Nov 4-13)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
Wobology at Singapore Writers Festival

The Singapore Writers Festival will see over 300 events with more than 300 writers participating, including writer-journalist Lionel Shriver who wrote the 2003 prize-winning novel We Need To Talk About Kevin, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri, broadcast journalist Atia Abawi and others. There are also a comparable number of Singaporean and Singapore-based authors at this year’s SWF—over 240, including Epigram Fiction Prize winner O Thiam Chin and Singapore Literature Prize winners Cyril Wong and Josephine Chia. Before you dismiss it as a purely literary event for the nerds and geeks, there’s also a slew of events that don’t revolve around books per se. Here are some. More information, full line-up and tickets here.

Singapore International Film Festival (Nov 23-Dec 4)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
“A Yellow Bird” by K. Rajagopal

Now in its 27th edition, Singapore’s longest and largest running film event continues to showcase some of the region’s best films. This year, they’re shining the spotlight on three Singaporean filmmakers who have made huge contributions to the local film scene. On the line-up this year is K. Rajagopal’s first feature film, A Yellow Bird, which will get its first public screening in Singapore during the festival; SGIFF’s tribute to the late Abdul Nizam, whose efforts to revive Singapore’s film scene during the late 90s were instrumental; and recipient of last year’s SGIFF Best Singapore Short Film Award, Gladys Ng, who was commissioned to produce the opening film for this year. Tickets will be released soon here.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival (Jan 4-15, 2017)

, 10 artsy festivals happening in Singapore before Christmas
Undressing Room by Ming Poon

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival has always sought out to create conversations about touchy issues, and this year isn’t any different. Now in its 13th edition, the festival presents a provocative Art & Skin theme that will explore the matters of identity, beauty, intimacy, sensitivity, pleasure, pain and shame through a total of 14 works from nine countries (including Singapore) taking place at a variety of venues including the Esplanade, Centre 42 and even Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Sean Tobin takes the lead as artistic director for the third year, and will continue to do so until 2020 as he takes a new direction with the festival from 2018 onwards. Expect a lot of skin. More information, full line-up and tickets here.