After the slow-burn of buzz leading up to the opening of Gillman Barracks, it was finally time for art-goers to get drunk on art once again (after an already busy week of openings at Valentine Willie Fine Art, Ikkan Art International, and the ICA at Lasalle).
Set against a tropical jungle backdrop, Gillman Barracks is a cosy enclave with buildings from the 30’s spruced up by Jurong Town Council (S$10 million can go quite a long way it seems). It definitely looks much better in the evening, a lovely setting for future art openings/cocktails/parties.
The media invite included “comfortable shoes” in the dress code, but from what I could see, there definitely was no dearth of fabulous footwear.
I’m not quite sure how high the long term ambitions for Gillman Barracks has been set, but during the opening speech to media by Dr. Eugene Tan, Programme Director (Special Projects), Lifestyle Programme Office Singapore Economic Development Board (who spearheaded the project), direct references were made to other arts hubs like Hong Kong (home to the Hong Kong International Art Fair), Korea and Australia (with their Gwangju and Sydney Biennales respectively), and even China.
It would be premature to start making comparisons between Gillman Barracks and other arts villages (such as 798 Arts Village in Beijing, another venue mentioned by Dr Tan in his speech), but it’s safe to say that this new venture between the Economic Development Board and the National Arts Council is a welcome addition to the arts ecology in Singapore, which already hosts the Singapore Biennale, as well as two relatively new art fairs, the Affordable Art Fair (coming this November) and Art Stage Singapore (held in January).
An encouraging sign is the ostensible emphasis on the importance of art’s contribution to the cultural fabric of an already economically thriving city-state. The “intrinsic value of art”, apart from any underlying commercial considerations, was stressed by both Mr Tay and Prof Alan Chan, Dean of the National Technological University’s College of Humanities and the Arts.
Prof Chan, with the least amount of cynicism possible, spent as much floor time elaborating on NTU’s postgraduate programmes in the arts (New! PhDs in Fine Arts!) as he did talking about the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), which will open at Gillman next year.
According to Prof Chan, the CCA promises an exciting year’s worth of programming in 2013, hosting a residency programme up to 20 international and local scholars/artists annually. In the meantime, it’s good to see other spaces like the Yellow River ArtsCentre Singapore base engaging the public with a slew of talks.
With the galleries in Singapore being relatively spread out across the city, this could be the first time that so many art spaces have gathered in a single location, more so than the Bencoolen’s Arts and Entertainment District or [email protected] Throw in the lush surroundings, its convenient location near Labrador Park MRT station, ample parking, nearby eateries, and what you get is a destination perfect for art-walks and family outings.