Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month

January in Singapore means art, with festivals and events dotting the city starting this week all the way to the end of February. From high-brow events where collectors come together to gaze at beautiful drawings before buying them, to performances that have been under the watchful eye of the IMDA, here are a handful of highlights happening within and outside of the annual Singapore Art Week.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival (Jan 4-15)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month
Pretty Butch rehearsal (Photo credit: Merissa Tang) 

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival has always sought out to create conversations about touchy issues, and this year isn’t any different. There’s been some controversy in the lead-up with two shows not getting ratings due to “excessive nudity”, but the show must go on.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 12 works from nine countries (including Singapore) taking place at a variety of venues. 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.

You should go if: You’re more about stage than you are about canvases. And if nudity doesn’t make you squeamish.
Our pick: Pretty Butch by Tan Liting, which explores the trials and tribulations of female masculinity and the pitfalls of gender presentation, for both men and women.


Art Stage Singapore (Jan 12-15)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month
Deer Park by Robert Zhao. Photo credit: Mizuma Gallery

Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair returns with its seventh edition, featuring 126 galleries from 27 countries, and  innovative fair content that engages with and addresses today’s contemporary and socio-political issues. The Southeast Asia Forum, a thematic program that places an emphasis on the balance between art, commerce and content, will feature works by artists like Ivan Lam, Kent Chan, Jose Tence Ruiz and many more. Making a debut at Art Stage Singapore is The Collectors’ Show, where works of art owned by collectors that are usually hidden away from the public eye will be on display.

You should go if: You just happen to have a few thousand dollars lying around
Our pick: Check out Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin (2015), at the Ota Fine Arts booth, where she uses urethane paint to draw her famous polka-dotted patterns a stainless steel pumpkin, because who wouldn’t want a piece of pop art sitting in their living room?


Art After Dark (Jan 13)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month
Gillman Barracks’ Art After Dark

Not strictly limited to January, the monthly night party at Gillman Barracks is always fun. They’re getting the Singapore Art Week treatment this time, providing art appreciators everywhere with an evening of contemporary art, live music and food pop-ups as galleries, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and other tenants rendezvous at Singapore’s visual arts cluster.

You should go if: You’re more about the drinking and dancing and scoping out beautiful arty people
Our pick: Details are still sketchy at the moment, but we’ll probably be hanging around whatever food and party extravaganza is happening at Red Baron


Aliwal Urban Arts Festival (Jan 14)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month

Now a key event for the local arts scene, the Aliwal Urban Arts Festival delves head first into art that’s been inspired by today’s street culture, showcasing a range of visual, performing and contemporary arts such as No Regrets For Our Youth by DXXXXD, where you’ll see a curated “urban gym” that touches on today’s culture of being obsessed with body image, music performances from the likes of Disc oHue, Forests, Poptart, and many other exciting all-day programs, including a hip-hop block party. There are also a number of workshops where you can sign up and learn how to create music using turntables, or pick up skills from local artists who’ll accept a good conversation (or alcohol) as “payment”.

You should go if: You like your art outside galleries, and preferably with a bit of music
Our pick: The Golden Era of Hip Hop Block Party at Aliwal Street’s car park, because hip hop isn’t just Kanye and Jay-Z


, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month

Singapore Contemporary Art Show (Jan 19-22)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month
El viaje de Eva Eva’s Journey by Sergio Camporeale, ENLACE Contemporary Art, Peru

Here’s another art fair you can go spend top dollar at. The highly anticipated Singapore Contemporary returns for a second edition, featuring exceptional collectable pieces of art from exhibitors from 20 countries including Asia, Australia, Europe and North and South America. As part of Singapore Art Week, the space at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Center will be crawling with artists, both new and seasoned collectors, curators and art enthusiasts from all walks of life over the four days. More than just a high-end marketplace for art, Singapore Contemporary also exists for you to grow a better understanding and awareness of art itself. Making its debut is Photo17 Singapore, the fair’s platform to showcase how important photography is as an artistic medium and a form of collectable art. Also making a return is the fair’s Artist Dialogues, where you can interact with the artist themselves as they do live painting demonstrations, allowing for a sort of behind-the-scenes look as art happens right before your eyes.

You should go if: You still have money left over after those big ticket purchases at Art Stage Singapore
Our pick: Artist Dialogues, because it’s not everyday where an artist lets you into their private working space (it’s a demonstration, not an animal enclosure)


Singapore Biennale (Through Feb 26)

, Get cultured at these arts festivals happening in Singapore this month
“Endless Hours At Sea” by Martha Atienza

The Singapore Biennale is still on, by the way! After a three-year hiatus (yes, we know biennale means every two years), they made their triumphant return last October. This fifth edition of the contemporary art exhibition adopts the obligatory abstract, esoteric-sounding theme, “Atlas of Mirrors”, meant to explore the connections among Southeast Asian cultures. Creative director Susie Lingham and a bunch of musem and associate curators have picked 58 different artwork presentations from 60 artists (10 of which are Singaporean) and three art collectives who were were shortlisted based on their past work and art practices.

You should go if: You fancy yourself an art appreciator when really, you actually want a nice new gratuitous profile photo of yourself “enjoying art”
Our pick: Noah’s Garden II (2016) by Chinese artist Deng Guoyuan, so you can lose yourself in a kaleidoscope of mirrors (and reflect on who you’ve become)