5 cutting-edge exhibitions to see while in Singapore
A wonderful collection of imposing new museums and cutting-edge exhibitions are fostering Singapore’s growing reputation as an arts capital in the South-East Asian region. Don’t miss these:
1. National Museum of Singapore
A soaring new atrium by architects studioMilou Singapore (in partnership with CPG Consultants) links two historic edifices – the former Supreme Court and Town Hall – to create the mammoth new National Gallery of Singapore.
The hulking buildings become artworks in their own right when viewed from the atrium, which lets in diffused, dappled light through its glass façade, while on either side of this galleries are filled with permanent as well as touring exhibitions that aim to celebrate and foster the reputation of south-east Asian art.
Make sure you take the time to wander the lovely Ng Teng Fong Roof Gallery Garden for its calm green space and million dollar views across Singapore.
2. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Part of the Faculty of Science of the National University of Singapore, this architectural marvel, with its verdant vertical garden engulfing one corner of its black box design, is filled with some 2000 natural history specimens in two permanent galleries, including some collected by Sir Stamford Raffles himself.
But the undisputed stars of the show here are the trio of Diplodocidae dinosaurs discovered amazingly intact in Wyoming in the USA from 2007 to 2009, and cheekily named Apollonia, Prince and Twinky.
3. Indian Heritage centre
Little India’s delightfully shambolic, frenetic surrounds can be an assault on the senses, but respite can be found with the elegant new Indian Heritage Centre in the heart of the fragrant neighbourhood.
Within its crisp modern lines, the history of Indian settlement, culture and industry in Singapore is explored through a permanent exhibition of artefacts, displays, video and wonderfully interactive elements for young ones.
4. Future World at ArtScience Museum
Resembling a giant, metallic lotus flower, the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands is an established part of the landscape now, but its new permanent exhibition is worth a repeat visit if you already think that you have been there, done that.
Future World: Where Art Meets Science is a mesmerising 1500-square-metre digital universe created in collaboration with the Tokyo-based teamLab, an award-winning art collective of ‘ultra-technologists’.
The resulting installations are at once beautifully ethereal and brilliantly cutting edge, from an interactive projection room where blooming flowers and floating butterflies cover every surface, their ephemeral beauty shattered with a mere touch of the walls, to an LED light maze that can be customised with the touch of a button, and my daughter’s favourite: an enclosure of massive orbs that change colour and create a subtle noise symphony when bounced against each other.
5. The surroundings of the city – Parkroyal on Pickering
Singapore refers to itself as a city inside a garden; after decades of construction and expansion the government is doing a great job to redress the balance, with guidelines overseen by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) dictating that all new builds must incorporate a garden element into the design.
The resulting architecture is arresting, with the three-year-old Parkroyal on Pickering featuring six curvaceous sky gardens (the multi-award winning design also incorporates myriad energy-saving features, including an innovative solar energy system that has resulted in the gardens being ‘zero energy’), gleaming multi-storey glass apartment blocks seemingly bursting to life with trees and flowers metres above street level, and a black box of a new museum, one corner apparently hewn away and replaced with a verdant vertical garden.
According to the BCA, by 2030 80 per cent of Singapore’s buildings will be certified green, utilising energy- and water-efficient technologies, constructed from eco-friendly materials and integrating green spaces.
My personal favourite remains the soaring Cloud Forest in Gardens on the Bay.
The top 6 places to drop in to shop (and shop till you drop) in Singapore
While Orchard Road is a ground zero for big names and blissfully air-conditioned malls, Singapore’s status as a shopping mecca is being enhanced by an endless roster of smaller boutiques and stores filled with real personality.
1. Books Actually
The heady smell of paper fills your senses as soon as you walk into this jam-packed little place, where books line the walls and perch on every flat surface, both in the front half of the store and out back where you will also find a quirky mix of second-hand titles, vintage bric-a-brac (bottles, rubber stamps, old toys) and stationery.
It’s so hipster cool; there is someone sitting behind the counter typing on a vintage typewriter, and outside there’s a book-vending machine filled with a lucky dip of tomes wrapped in brown paper. booksactuallyshop.com
Lalu is a local small chain that ticks the box for cute pieces that are on-trend but not obvious or laboured, as well as price, with lots of mix-and-match elements that can be paired up as a two for SD$29 or SD$39 combo.
3. Scene Shang
This chic store on buzzy Beach Road is ‘an ode to the old and a nod to the new’. Scene Shang is filled with an artfully curated collection of furniture, ceramics, lighting and art, much of which is created by local artists and designers. Even the tiny cup of fragrant herbal tea you are presented with as you browse is deliciously chic.
Also on Beach Road, the team behind Supermama’s flagship gallery store work with local Singaporean artists, designers and crafts people, as well as traditional craft facilities in Japan to assemble contemporary pieces that they feel reflects modern Singaporean culture. When we visited a long table was laid with what looked like blue and white Chinoiserie plates, but on closer inspection were printed with Star Wars scenes.
This light, white space on Amoy Street forms the perfect canvas for the bright, colourful design pieces that make up the store’s inventory, from all kinds of lovely hand-made ceramics to bags, toys, lighting and stationery. strangelets.sg
6. Gallery & Co.
Located just inside the entrance to the wondrous new National Gallery of Singapore, the Gallery & Co. is a browser’s paradise of design pieces, art books, children’s books and crafts, funky jewellery and clever souvenirs, like the T-shirt that states ‘No, we are not a province of China’.
Honourable retail recommendations
Little India for spices, sari material and exuberant gold jewellery pieces; The Mustafa Centre, a multi-floor behemoth stretching away from Serangoon Road for a couple of blocks, and home of absolutely everything; Chinatown’s markets where you can find everything from Disney character chopsticks to Chinese antiques.
The Changi Challenge
I’ve been to Changi Airport myriad times, but in my haste to get into town or on my plane, I have never seen half the facilities that it is famous for, and that win it the title of best airport in the world year in and year out.
So, with an hour or so to kill, I decided to take the Changi Challenge and go in search of as many of the good bits that I could find in that time.
First up was the Butterfly Garden, which I located with relative ease.
A soaring indoor/outdoor space filled with the gentle winged creature, it’s not exactly quiet, being next to a runway of one of the busiest airports in the world, but it is quite pleasant to sit in for a while in the evening when the heat of the day has subsided.
I then ticked the free movie cinema off the list, a multiplex in miniature where recent release films are played in an endless loop.
Another favourite is the cactus garden, an outdoor landscape of sculptural cacti where you can sit and watch the planes come and go, or when it is too hot, gaze out onto it from the air-conditioned food court. Still searching for: the giant slide.
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