Singing the praises of
Singapore, three dealers reflected on the newly crowned art hub their galleries
call home. But why did they end up there in the first place? In a chat with
Artsy, Emi Eu, director of Singapore Tyler Print Institute
, Frédéric de
Senarclens, founder and director of Art Plural Gallery
, and Galerie Michael Janssen
’s eponymous owner open up on their respective
draws to Singapore, the neighborhoods where they’ve come to prosper, the
changes they’ve seen in the city-state—now a thriving art scene with the largest number of millionaires per capita
in the world. They also reveal
their favorite local haunts, where they’d send a visitor for satay,
Dim Sum, or a rooftop panoramic view of the famous Singapore skyline.
Artsy: Can you describe the
area where your gallery is located, and why you chose to open a gallery
there—and generally, in Singapore?
Emi Eu: STPI is located in a converted warehouse along
Robertson Quay; originally built in 1927, this cluster of godowns used to store
rice and is now an architectural archetype of Singapore’s colonial, trading
history. With a total area of 4,000 square metres, its main features are its
skylit gallery, artist studio, and world renowned workshop which houses custom
designed presses and the largest paper mill in Asia. It also includes
apartments for resident artists, offices, and guest workshop. This place was
chosen for its central location, its proximity to Singapore’s main business
district, and being in the heart of Singapore’s arts and cultural vicinity.
Art Plural Gallery is a
four-story platform located in Singapore museum district. Opening the gallery
in this precise area is a very strategic and well thought decision. Initially,
we wanted to be placed both in the heart of Singapore’s artistic energy and
most importantly, in the center of the city in order for everybody to access it
easily. Indeed, with the heat and the monsoon season, it is of paramount
importance to be reachable. Neighboring the Peranakan Museum and the Substation
and walking distance from Singapore Art Museum and National Museum of
Singapore, Art Plural Gallery is part of Bras Basah district which is home to
the Singapore Biennale
, currently happening until February 2014.
last 10 years, the government has [made] incredible efforts to develop the
local artistic scene and foster creation... We wanted to establish in Asia;
Singapore is ideally situated and allows me to multiply my studio visits in
China, Indonesia, India, Korea and the region... We chose Singapore five years
ago betting on future and the city dynamism and I am pleased to be part of this
booming and evolving art scene.
Janssen Singapore is located on the Gillman Barracks—site of a military camp
from the 1930s that used to accommodate the British infantry in Singapore. It
now houses galleries and creative businesses, as well as the Centre for
Contemporary Art (CCA).
been interested in Asia in general for a while. By chance I heard about the
project of the Gillman Barracks, and so I got in touch with the Economic
Development Board (EDB) in Singapore, which had a leading role in the project.
Initially the project was only conceived for Southeast Asian galleries, but the
focus soon shifted to the larger Asian region.
has been a shift of economic power from the West to the East and the new centre
is Asia—particularly China, but also Indonesia. Singapore, with its three
ethnicities (Malay, Chinese, and Indian) lies right in the middle and is a good
Artsy: Generally, can you
describe the art scene in Singapore and how it may have evolved since your
gallery was established?
Emi Eu: The scene has evolved very quickly in the last
five years and, with the support of the Singapore government there has been
remarkable progress in making the arts and its industry relevant to many.
The growth of art here is
also attributed to the global interest in contemporary art emerging out of
China, India, and Southeast Asia, with international art fairs such as SH
Contemporary and Art Hong Kong setting up since 2007.
de Senarclens: Singapore
is becoming the Asian artistic hub. International collectors are expected at the fourth edition of
Art Stage Singapore. The Pinacothèque, the
famous French private museum will open in 2015 at Fort Canning Park, as well as
the National Art Gallery, the largest museum of Southeast Asian art.
Singapore is a serious artistic destination and has a lot to offer between its
museums, galleries, art centers, biennales. Moreover, the local artistic scene
is stimulated by good art schools, residence programmes, and international
exchanges, which foster creativity and guarantee a promising future to
government acts very strategically in Singapore. Since the state was founded
they have invested heavily in education. Education creates wealth, and wealth
allows you the luxury of supporting culture. The potential here is enormous. In
general one notices the immense curiosity of the people. Business-wise things
are still progressing slowly for the moment. There are still too few people
here who are familiar enough with the terrain to keep things running.
Artsy: Can you name any
must-see events or exhibitions a visitor to Singapore for the Art Stage
Singapore fair should be certain not to miss?
Gillman Barracks is the perfect
destination to gallery hop; see the latest offering by the Centre of
Contemporary Art and the Singapore Biennale
for Southeast Asian contemporary art.
same time as Art Stage Singapore, Art Plural Gallery will present “Flux
”, a major
collective exhibition displayed on the four floors of the gallery and featuring
more than 20 artists... Of course Art Stage Singapore itself is a great event
... At Art Stage, Art Plural Gallery will also be organizing “Can Art Break All
Boundaries?”, a conversation between prominent art critic Michael Peppiatt and
art curator Jill Lloyd. Michael Peppiatt is an art historian, curator, and
writer known for his important publications on
. He is an excellent orator
with a great British sense of humor! The rare opportunity of his talk in
Singapore is certainly not to be missed.
ongoing Singapore Biennale 2013, with the theme of “If the World Changed
” focused on Southeast Asian art is definitely
a must-see event for visitors to Art Stage Singapore 2014. It runs until the
middle of February.
Artsy: What are your
favorite local haunts in Singapore—places to eat, drink, see art? And where is
the first place you’d point a visitor in Singapore, both during Art Stage
Singapore and otherwise?
Emi Eu: One never goes hungry in
Singapore. The food courts and hawker centers are the best places to try a wide
array of cuisines and local Chinese, Malay, and Indian specialties such as
chicken rice, satay (grilled meat sticks), and fish head curry. Easily
accessible, it makes a convenient stop between fair-museum-gallery visits.
de Senarclens: The
Fullerton Bay is my favorite place to head for a drink. The panoramic views are
simply magnificent and breath-taking. On Club Street, one of my favorite bars
, it has a great artistic feel.
Forlino is where I always recommend my friends for a good meal. Their tasty and
creative dishes are something truly amazing. For casual dining, I also enjoy
going to Duxton Hill where the restaurants scene is very active. My favorite
tapas bar there is Sabio
As part of
Art Galleries Association of Singapore (AGAS), a bus tour will stop at
different galleries around the island. It is the best way to enjoy all the
artistic places in town. The Biennale, in the Bras Basah area, is another event
to explore and harvest the creative energy in the South East Asian region at
good food everywhere in Singapore. I particularly love of a place called Red Star Restaurant
—it is a traditional push cart Dim Sum in
Chinatown that is authentic and good. Arab Street
is a cool place to hang out at night. The
Gardens by the Bay
and Little India
are two touristic places that I like very much.
of Emi Eu courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Institute; portrait of Frédéric de
Senarclens courtesy Art Plural Gallery; portrait of Michael Janssen by Tom
White, European Press Agency.
these three galleries at Art Stage Singapore 2014, Jan. 16th – 19th: