Singapore may be young but it has an arts heritage that stems from the great ancient cultures of the East. On the streets or in galleries, you will find cultural expressions that reflect the arts and art forms of China, Malaysia, and India.
Mixed with regional and Western sensibilities, what has emerged is a contemporary and constantly evolving take on the arts, Singapore-style.
Developing an arts infrastructure
Today, Singapore is into the third phase of the Renaissance City Plan (RCP) to build a complete arts and ecocultural system here. Started in 2000, the five-year plan, executed by the then-existing Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) with a $116.25 million budget, has since helped to grow a talent pool, establish arts organisations and cultural facilities, cultivate a healthy audience, and foster international partnerships.
The vision of MICA and its agencies is to develop a “creative people, gracious community, connected Singapore”.
The National Arts Council (NAC) is the national agency spearheading the development of the arts in Singapore, while the National Heritage Board (NHB) actively champions the development of a vibrant cultural and heritage sector in Singapore.
NHB operates seven leading museums and heritage interpretative centres:
Other museums maintained by various private and para-governmental agencies include:
The opening of the Esplanade in 2002 was a testament to the country’s commitment to create arts and performance venues to rival major arts centres around the world.
These venues are complemented by a vibrant arts calendar headlined by the annual Singapore Arts Festival, usually held in the month of June. One of Asia’s largest cultural events featuring performing arts from all over the world, it is truly a global showcase not to be missed.
Through this festival and other programmes such as the Singapore Biennale, Singapore Design Festival, Mosaic Music Festival, NUS Arts Festival, Baybeats, and Singapore Fashion Festival, many platforms have been created for local and international artists and performers to present and promote their works.
Such developments are reflected in the growing number of arts activities in Singapore. In 1996, there were just 16 arts activities a day compared to more than 70 activities daily, 10 years later. Audience support has also leapt from 1 in 10 Singaporeans attending at least 1 arts event in 1995, to 1 in 3 in 2007.
Roll of honour
Across the decades, Singapore has produced some outstanding members of the arts, some of whom have made their mark internationally.
Among the nation’s prominent arts personalities are Goh Choo San (the late contemporary dance choreographer), Chen Wen Hsi (ink and oil painter), Ng Eng Teng (sculptor), Ong Kim Seng (watercolourist), Pan Shou (calligrapher), Ong Keng Sen (theatre director), Kumar (comedian), Iskandar Ismail and Dick Lee (composers), Eric Khoo (filmmaker), Margaret Leng Tan and Seow Yit Kin (pianists), and Seow Lee Chin (violinist).
Singapore writers and poets, including Muhammad Ariff Ahmad and Gopal Baratham, have won regional literary prizes, while the concert and theatre scenes are abuzz with performances and competitions all year round.
In architecture, Singaporeans are making their mark with contemporary and tropical designs, and a budding fashion and design scene is turning heads in the international arena through fashion designers such as Ashley Isham and toy designers such as Stikfast founder Ban Yih Jheow.
Filmmaking is moving mainstream, most notably with the nomination of Eric Khoo’s movie My Magic for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Collaborations abound between Singapore and overseas production houses, supported by an underground scene bubbling with indie talent and projects.
Game and film animation are also growing areas of importance as more animation houses set up shop here, one of the biggest names being Lucasfilm by Star Wars director George Lucas.
Learn more about how you can experience Singapore's arts and culture in the Where to Go section.
Source: Singapore Committee on Culture & Information, National Heritage Board
Images courtesy of Yoursingapore.com
Back To Top