Singapore’s contemporary art scene began to flourish soon after the Southeast Asian city-state gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, with works reflecting the emerging nation’s rich, multicultural heritage and motivation to establish its own identity.
The 2011 launch of the contemporary art fair Art Stage Singapore by Lorenzo Rudolf, the founder of Art Basel (arguably the world’s premier art show), signaled a vibrant future for Singapore’s gallery scene, which has only continued to grow and evolve.
Work up your appetite for another visit to Singapore’s famed hawker centers—outdoor clusters of impeccably clean food stalls, serving adventurous fare like pig organ soup—while perusing our picks for the top ten galleries, not to be missed.
Sullivan and Strumpf
This outpost of a Sydney gallery (Aussies love Singapore) debuted their inaugural show in 2016. Aptly titled Arrival, the exhibition featured a series of sculpted busts with growths protruding from their faces, like a nod to the sci-fi characters of Westworld. Another highlight is Karen Black’s splotchy painting, with bursts of color, seemingly cast with abandon, that inspire a sense of vibrant possibilities ahead.
5 Lock Road #01-06
Known as the first independent gallery in Singapore, Substation doesn’t shy away from addressing uncomfortable questions. In their pointedly titled exhibition Is That All There Is?, the gallery addressed accusations that they do not understand the current arts community by suspending their artistic director and inviting another organization to run the show. For an act this radical, attention must be paid.
45 Armenian St.
Named for producer/owner Audrey Yeo, the gallery hosts talks and symposiums in addition to exhibitions, with a goal of educating the public. Exhibition highlights include the intriguingly titled Liquid Truth by artist Xue Mu. Educated both in Asia and Europe, Mu deconstructs famous Western paintings, like Rodin’s “The Thinker” and Michelangelo’s “David,” by shifting their proportions and modes of presentation. The former is shrunken onto a crumpled piece of paper, while the latter is projected imposingly onto a giant curtain.
1 Lock Road #01-01
This cozy gallery is housed in a colorful, former church that echoes the city-state’s British colonial history. Inside the vibe is decidedly modern, with a focus on video installations, photography and found art sculptures. In the exhibit Fantasy Island, artist Ardi Makki Gunawan shines a light on the sex industry in Batan. The slyly named “Proposal to Gaze-Subverting, Loosely” weaves reviews of sex workers onto colorful tapestries strewn with Hello Kitty imagery.
155 Middle Road
Part artist workshop and part gallery, STPI holds exhibitions that give a sense of the momentum behind the artists’ creative processes. Their mission is to develop Singapore’s place in the art world by giving a space and forum to international artists, like the renowned Belgian artist Carsten Holler, whose work has been featured in London’s Tate Modern and New York’s New Museum, among many others.
41 Robertson Quay
Open since 2006, FOST (a mash up of letters from founder Stephanie Fong’s name) Gallery focuses on local Singaporean artists. Exhibition highlights include works by sculptor Tang Da Wu, who is considered to be the “father of contemporary art” in Singapore, and the popular local artist Jimmy Ong, who was featured in their 2017 Art Stage Singapore exhibition.
1 Lock Road #01-02
Chan + Hori Contemporary
Collectors Angeline Chan and Nicholas Davies, who are also a married couple, founded their original gallery, Chan Hampe Galleries, in 2010. Seven years later, the gallery took on its current moniker when it moved from the posh Raffles Hotel to the gallery enclave Gillman Barracks to mark the addition of curatorial director Khairuddin Hori. He previously worked at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and is sure to enhance the gallery’s contemporary cred. Recent works include Ruben Pang’s “A Totem for Your Genuine Internals,” which fuses neon light panels with eerie sculptures to create an immersive experience.
6 Lock Road #02-09
Pearl Lam launched her original gallery in China two decades ago. Now, in addition to this Singapore location, the contemporary art gallery has branches in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Exhibitions feature diverse artists from around the world. Highlights include Australian painter Dale Frank’s moody abstracts, which dance between the worlds of subtle minimalism and lush expressionism. Also, Kim Tschang Yeul’s “waterdrop” paintings. The prolific Korean artist draws on photorealism and abstract expressionism to depict simple, yet evocative iterations of droplets of water, the source of all life.
15 Dempsey Road #01-08
There’s more to love about Future Perfect besides its name—a smile-inspiring reference for grammar nerds and an optimistic look ahead. The gallery also supports an array of important artists. Highlights include Australian Adam Cullen’s brashly cartoonish paintings, reminiscent of the mad brilliance of Ralph Steadman, and performance artist Andrée Weschler’s experimental video installations, charged with Marina Abromovic-esque intensity. It doesn’t hurt that the owners are a trio of artists and writers themselves.
117 Clementi Road #17-11
Since its founding in 2010, this gallery has focused on exhibiting art from the Asia-Pacific region with an eye toward work of social significance. Highlights include Manit Sriwanichpoom’s photo exhibit Fear, which unflinchingly documented five years of political unrest in Thailand, capturing not only the artist’s personal emotions, but also a glimpse of day-to-day life for average citizens. Burmese artist Htein Lin’s evocative textile installation Recovering the Past parallels the history of Myanmar and Lin’s experience as a political prisoner.
9 Lock Road #02-23