Kampong Glam is the collective name of the area that used to be the designated Arab/Muslim quarter in Singapore. It’s home to the beautiful Sultan Mosque and has quite an unusual mishmash of cloth merchants, Middle Eastern food and hipster shops all rolled into one heritage district. It’s also one of my favourite places in Singapore to hang out and bring visitors to. I used to work around this area and spent many days walking up and down these streets, so I will always be fond of it, no matter how much it’s gentrified or changed in recent years.
I also love that it’s one of the few districts in Singapore that you can find a lot of cool street art and one of the first places that street art became hip. I’ve put together a bit of a guide to help you uncover these cool murals as you absorb the vibe and history that this place has to offer.
Street art is ephemeral by nature so it’s always changing. I update when I can.
- JUN 2017: Revamped overall layout | No Longer There: Removed Records Lion
- MAR 2017: Added Singapura Club | No Longer There: Merdandy
- JAN 2017: Added new/revamped Jaba works
- OCT 2016: Added ARC Coffee, Removed Independent Art Resource
- JUN 2015: Added Sheryo+The Yok SG50 work
Resources and other links:
- Check out the self-guided audio tour version of this Kampong Glam street art route that I’ve developed for Voicemap here
- Looking for street art in other parts of Singapore? Check out nearby Bugis-Bras Basah or Little India or see my full street art guide collection here.
- Here’s a link to my Google Map collection of these artworks and more, or check it out at the bottom of the post
- Interested in exploring Singapore’s street art with me?
Getting to Kampong Glam:
The closest MRT stations are Bugis (East-West, Downtown Line) or Nicoll Highway (Circle Line) and about 5-10mins walk.
This stretch became prominent mostly for the commissioned works by Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic, whose works you’ll probably recognize if you’ve seen them in Penang’s George Town. He has some pieces over in the East at Joo Chiat, but most of his Kampong Glam works are clustered along Victoria Street between Jalan Klapa and Jalan Pisang.
Walk down from Bugis and you’ll see the Girl with Lion Cub first at the Jalan Pisang junction, then go down further and you should see the Kids in Trolleys, as well as the Kids in/on Giant Exclamation Mark on the side of the AMC building at Jalan Klapa. Don’t forget to walk down a little bit further and you’ll see the Boy in Window along a stretch of blank wall before the Jalan Sultan junction.
After you’re done on Victoria Street, cut through Jalan Klapa, cross North Bridge Road and head down Aliwal Street till you reach the Aliwal Arts Centre. This arts centre houses one of Singapore’s more popular artist collectives RSCLS on its second level, with current members including a Young Artist Award winner ZERO to the once infamous SKL0 aka the sticker lady who cause a bit of an uproar back in 2012 with her ‘My Grandfather Road’ graffiti. Pop by their studio or look for their works all around the building – there is a large wall in the alleyway behind the building and a side wall which have works that are ever-changing! Also, keep your eyes peeled for the piece by Italian artist Alice Pasquini which I only spotted quite recently.
*Cross the road to the little concrete clearing next to the Independent Archive and Resource Centre at 67 Aliwal Street and you’ll see some interesting things there too [*Added Oct 2016: The Independent Archive area is being renovated so that whole bit is now gone!]
Sultan Arts Village
This rather obscure little building is easy to miss, a tiny enclave just a few roads down from Aliwal Arts Centre in front of the entrance to the Malay Heritage Centre. Go check out The Black Book, a shop run by a graffiti crew ZincNiteCrew (aka ZNC), which sells spray paints and apparel. They also run the occasional graffiti battle here, so keep checking out their practice walls. Also look for art on the walls behind the shop, as well as around the front and sides of the Sultan Arts Village building for more awesome street art – can’t confirm if they are all done by ZNC folk, but it is a fun place to explore nonetheless.
Down the road from Sultan Arts Village is a little alleyway where you can find this mural called Coffee Story by Yip Yew Chong aka Yip YC. It was commissioned for the coffee house A.R.C. located on that corner and depicts various ways you can get your coffee in Singapore, from the traditional to the modern.
This lane is more famous for its hipster shops and attracts photographers looking for a colourful yet traditional shophouse backdrop; it is one of the spots in Singapore which has had street art for quite a long time before it got hip. You’ll see more works by ZNC here, and quite a lot by JabaOne concentrated at the buildings on the Beach Road end leading up to the alleyway linking Arab Street and Haji Lane. Some of the other shops have got into the act as well, with artwork on their shopfronts, it’s definitely a visually exciting place.
No Longer There
Here are some of the older street art works that I liked but have either been painted over or removed, thought I’d keep them here for posterity.
Of course as you wander around the area, you might across more than these artworks I’ve listed here – I’ve spotted several other pieces, but these are the main spots you’re likely to see more works, if you do find new areas to highlight, do let me know!
As you can see, I’ve been looking at Singapore’s street art scene a little bit more closely and started a side project to start documenting the locations and artworks so that people visiting Singapore know where to go and whose work they’re looking at. Street art is only starting to catch on, and it’s still illegal if you do it on public property without permission, but many building owners are starting to become more open to the idea of urban art on their buildings. Also, there are some spots which are legal for street artists to practice, like *SCAPE and the Rail Corridor at Commonwealth viaduct.
Do check out my side project Singapore Street Art on instagram @singaporestreetart – it aims to document all past and present street art in Singapore. Hashtag #singaporestreetart if you find anything cool that should be featured here.
Looking for more street art? See the full list here or check out these other locations in Singapore: