Sunday September 23, 2012
New way of looking at art at Gillman Barracks
By DEEPIKA SHETTY
Besides artworks, talks and film screenings will be part of Gillman Barracks’ offerings.
GET ready for a new way of looking at art with the opening of Gillman Barracks in Singapore.
The tastefully refurbished British army barracks, sprawled over six hectares and off Alexandra Road, is about the size of nine soccer fields.
After a S$10mil (RM25mil) makeover, the space which used to house restaurants and bars will host 15 local and international art galleries. Of these, 13 will open for public viewing this month, while two galleries – Pearl Lam Galleries and Kaikai Kiki Gallery – will be operational early next year.
Besides the work on the walls, visitors can look forward to a slew of talks, specially curated exhibitions and panel discussions, and even short films and documentaries. And these programmes will continue at the art spaces throughout the year.
Arts writer and academic Tony Godfrey, who is also the exhibitions director at gallery Equator Art Projects, says: “Each of us is aware that we have to fill the space with more than just art on the wall.”
Indeed, Equator Art Projects is one of many which has in place a museum-style exhibition programming plan.
Its opening show, Marcel Duchamp In South-East Asia, will be accompanied by a series of discussions. Co-hosted by the Singapore office of the not-for-profit arts organisation in China, Yellow River Arts Centre, the talks will feature academics, critics and artists, including Dr Charles Merewether, Ho Tzu Nyen and Amanda Heng, who will respond to the question: What happened when Duchamp came to South-East Asia?
New York-based gallerist Sundaram Tagore, who owns an eponymous chain of galleries in cities including New York, Beverly Hills and Hong Kong, says his galleries are focused on inter-cultural dialogue and he intends to push that in his second Asian art space in Singapore.
The gallery is well known in New York for events ranging from dance performances to film screenings to book readings.
Tagore, 52, says: “We focus on people, thinkers, artists and film-makers who share our passion for dialogue. We use art as a vehicle to bring people together, and as such, we represent a global community of artists. We very much look forward to continuing this programming in Singapore.”
While details are yet to be announced, gallery-goers can look forward to talks and film screenings. The gallery has a full-fledged film arm, which focuses on documenting the lives of artists.
The commitment to such dialogues about art is evident on the part of the Economic Development Board (EDB), too.
The Gillman Barracks, developed by the EDB, JTC Corporation and the National Arts Council, is Singapore’s push to build an arts district akin to Beijing’s 798 Art District, South Korea’s Heyri Art Village and New York’s Chelsea.
Complementing the gallery openings and shows is an exhibition curated by Dr Eugene Tan, programme director at the EDB, who is overseeing the development of Gillman Barracks.
Using the lush green surroundings of the barracks as the setting for encountering and experiencing art, the exhibition features 15 Singapore and international artists, including painter Jane Lee and installation artist Donna Ong, to highlight new meanings which a different environment brings to the art experience.
The works will flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces of the sprawling barracks.
Dr Tan, 39, says: “The galleries at Gillman Barracks will also function as platforms of exchange between the local and the international arts community. This will happen through the exchange with the international artists visiting Singapore to prepare for their exhibitions, and through the talks and outreach programmes that the galleries are planning.”
Besides the galleries, the area will house the Singapore branch of the Yellow River Arts Centre and the independently-run Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. The latter, which will open next year, will add to the visual arts landscape through its international artist residency programmes, research projects and exhibitions.
In terms of art, there will be plenty to see, ranging from the cutting edge and the established artists, including works by a star-studded roster of A-listers such as Japanese superstars Yayoi “polka dot” Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara, to photographers Annie Leibovitz and Henri-Cartier Bresson.
It is this comprehensive vision for the arts which has attracted several international galleries. While most declined to say how much they have invested, only revealing that they could open a gallery, Japan’s Ota Fine Arts says it has spent about US$125,000 (RM387,000) so far to open a gallery in Singapore.
Its director, Yasuko Kaneko, 31, says the country was picked as the gallery sees it as the “next destination for art”.
The galleries pay commercial rates for the space and say they have not been offered any monetary incentives. In a call for applicants last year, rental rates were cited as between S$31.50 (about RM78.53) and S$35.50 (about RM88.50) a square metre a month.
Janice Kim, 42, gallery director of Space Cottonseed, who recently moved to Singapore from Seoul, sees great potential here.
“I have worked for a long time in the Korean art scene and found fresh and positive energy in Singapore. I feel this space offers me a chance to experiment and create something new,” she says.
“Apart from reaching out to a new audience, Singapore appeals to me because this is a place where people really appreciate diversity and accept differences.”
She plans to strengthen her exhibition programming by investing in arts publishing.
Italy’s Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery is planning exhibition tours for students from primary to tertiary levels. Gallery director Valter Spano, 42, says these curator-led tours will expound on the exhibition project, provide an overview of art during that period and explain the meaning of the artworks shown.
Its opening show, From Picasso To The New Roman School, will present works by prominent contemporary artists, including the Spanish master Pablo Picasso.
David Teh, 35, director of Future Perfect, believes Gillman will make a big impact with the convergence of regional players and the “unique qualities” of the site.
“Contemporary art does not belong in high-end shopping malls nor should it be exclusive. Gillman, a dedicated gallery precinct, offers the public a diverse viewing experience in one convenient location,” Teh says.
“The plans different gallerists have for their spaces promise to turn this into a hub for art-lovers from all walks of life.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network