If you are looking for culture and art in Singapore, chances are that your itinerary will include two of Singapore’s more prominent museums – the Singapore Art Museum as well as the National Museum of Singapore. These are two of many other galleries and museums that area located in the downtown areas of Bugis and Bras Basah, also known as the Bugis-Bras Basah precinct, and while they hold fabulous exhibitions within their historical walls, don’t forget to spend some time along the streets in the area where you might find some unexpected masterpieces!
AROUND THE SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM
The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is Singapore’s first art museum and home to contemporary art and exhibitions from around the region. Given that it is contemporary art, you may find some rather odd things on its front lawn from time to time – I’ve seen things ranging from a giant inflatable bunny to an overly large desk.
You all know how I feel about art – that is to say often quite skeptical – but there is a whole lot of it in this area and I’ve seen both amazing and really odd stuff. Make sure you check out the Annexe building 8Q which also belongs to SAM, and within a 10min walking radius you can also find:
- Objectifs – visual arts centre for photography and film. They have interesting exhibitions from time to time
- Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) – this tertiary arts institution has a city campus consisting of a few buildings. It holds visual arts exhibitions in its 3 galleries located in Campus 1
- DECK – this indie art space focuses on photography and is made out of shipping containers
- LaSalle School of the Arts – the architecture of this tertiary contemporary arts school is a work of art in itself, also the site of the occasional exhibition or arts peformance
- School of the Arts (SOTA) – a pre-tertiary arts school which is usually closed to the public, but often used as a venue for theatre shows
But we’re here to talk about the street art which I love with much less reservation, so here we go:
Bencoolen Street – NAFA Campus 1
This wall was a bit of a surprise for me to stumble upon when I was searching for the theatre at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. It’s just behind the Objectifs gallery and popular restaurant Artichoke in a narrow alleyway. It seems more like an organic space for expression rather than one for commissioned works, so I hope this wall continues to stay that way.
Queen Street-Waterloo Street
Just a short walk away from SAM is a small road between 222 Queen Street and Hotel Oxford that connects the parallel Queen Street and Waterloo Street. This wall changes occasionally with various mega collaborative works courtesy of RSCLS and various artists from around the region in their Solidarity 21 Project. I saw a previous iteration which involved all female artists from Singapore and around Asia, this particular one is a mash up of Singaporean and Thai street artists from Bangkok.
Bain Street – Bras Basah Complex
Right next to the National Library which occasionally houses some pretty cool exhibitions, Bras Basah Complex is an older shopping centre where most people head to for cheaper and quick printing options. Among its more popular tenants are Art Friend for all your DIY art supplies, the largest Popular Bookstore outlet for all your stationery needs, as well as Basheer Graphic Books which carries design and visual arts publications.
This particular artwork “Rainbows” is part of a larger street art campaign called 50 Bridges, an initiative by the Australian Commission of Singapore in celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence which has 50 pieces of street art works all across the island. Singaporean street artist Sheryo and Aussie partner Yok created a series of rather distinctively colourful artwork, and Bras Basah Complex was one of the locations.
Seah Street – Hotel Naumi
Continue heading down towards Nicoll Highway to find this funky piece on the side of boutique hotel Naumi created by home-grown street artist Trase One – the alleyway that the artwork faces connects Seah Street and Purvis Street and is often the site of illegal parking, so this piece is a pretty good reminder to exercise caution while parking in that area!
To get your art kicks here, check out the rather unusual private toy museum aka Mint Museum of Toys along that same stretch of Seah Street, or head on over to Raffles Hotel
AROUND THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
Sitting on the hills of Fort Canning, the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) just recently had its permanent galleries revamped into a more interactive and immersive experience of Singapore’s history, so it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to learn more about Singapore in a nutshell.
This area is pretty historical overall, but of note for the arts and culture vultures is Armenian Street where you can find a bunch of street art works mixed in with some prominent arts and heritage sites:
This low wall along the carpark is right next to the Peranakan Museum and emblazoned with a rainbow coloured artwork depicting the cultural flavour of the Bugis-Bras Basah district. It seems a little Invader inspired, with little mosaic pieces depicting famous buildings in the area
*Thanks C for letting me know that this piece was commissioned by the National Heritage Board in celebration of their 20th Anniversary!
The Substation is an independent arts enclave and occasionally has some pretty avant garde performances or exhibitions on show. Naturally its walls are also home to various interesting artworks, and if you need a break after all that walking, check out the original Timbre outlet at the back – just follow the sound of live music by Singaporean musicians!
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!
Looking for more street art? Check out my other street art related guides:
- Kampong Glam, Singapore
- Little India, Singapore
- George Town, Penang, Malaysia
- Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
- Shoreditch, London
- Lagos, Portugal
- Lisbon, Portugal