I’ve talked a lot about street art that I’ve encountered overseas, first in George Town, Penang; and then where I was in Shoreditch, London. Upon doing up these posts, it occurred to me then that while I now knew more about the Penang and London scenes, I actually knew very, very little about where to find street art in Singapore, which is kinda sad!
So I’ve started up a little project on the side to rectify this, I’ll talk a bit more about it at the bottom of this post, but in the meantime here’s a little guide to tell you about Singapore’s street art scene and where to find street art in Singapore. I thought I’d start with one of my favourite places in Singapore where you’re quite likely to see some cool bits of street art: Kampong Glam. (Looking at other spots in Singapore? Check out nearby Bugis-Bras Basah or Little India!)
I’ve also developed a self-guided audio tour for street art works in Kampong Glam! Check it out on Voicemap here.
Kampong Glam is the collective name or what used to be the Arab/Muslim quarter in Singapore’s earlier days. You’ll find the beautiful Sultan Mosque there, as well as an entire street filled with cloth merchants along Arab Street and this is an area where you can get great Malay and Middle Eastern grub. It’s probably more well known with the younger crowd for its hipster area Haji Lane, with indie boutiques and shisha, and it’s one of the areas where street art in Singapore was first prominent, even before it started to gain popularity in recent years.
If you happen to be in this area, these are a bunch of places where you’re likely to see some great examples of street art by local and foreign artists. Note that the nature of street art is ephemeral and always changing! I try to update when I can, but if you discover any new things, let me know! Here’s a link to my Google Map collection of these artworks and more, or check it out at the bottom of the post.
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 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.
[Added Oct 2016] 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 shopping, shisha joints and attracts photographers looking for a colourful yet rustic 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.
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 Singapore Street Art at singaporestreetart.tumblr.com and on instagram @singaporestreetart – it aims to document all past and present street art in Singapore, so do send over any snaps you might have!
If you are walking around on your own, do check out the audio tour that I’ve created with VoiceMap for the Kampong Glam area!
Looking for more street art? Check out my other street art related guides:
- Little India, Singapore
- Bras Basah and Bugis, Singapore
- George Town Core, Penang, Malaysia
- Outside George Town Core, Penang, Malaysia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
- Shoreditch, London, UK
- Northern Quarter, Manchester, UK
- Lagos, Portugal
- Lisbon, Portugal
- San Francisco, USA