SINGAPORE Art Week (SAW) 2022 is, by most accounts, a success. Scattered all over the island and into the virtual world, over 130 events are vying for art lovers’ attention within a span of just 10 days.

The event organised by the National Arts Council and Singapore Tourism Board ends this weekend on Jan 23. We can’t say we’ve covered all of them at press time – just 72 of the listed events, as well as a few unlisted ones. But here are key trends of SAW 2022.

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1. Musicians make great visual artists

Legendary art rock band The Observatory collaborated with curator Tang Fu Kuen and other artists to create a spectacular show about “music, mushroom and de-compositon”. Using mycology (the study of fungi) design, they were able to invent strange musical instruments that responded to the biorhythms of mushroom. This show stretches on to Apr 17 at SAM @ Tangjong Pagar Distripark (TPD).

Elsewhere, Rizman Putra, frontman of electronic music outfit NADA, erects a botanic wonderland at Art Outreach in Gillman Barracks, while musician Kiat delivers some impressively assured abstract works at the Antinodes show at TPD, describing “the process of making abstract art (as being) not too different from making music”.

2. Art outside galleries is… tricky

In theory, putting art in unconventional spaces such as malls, markets, cinemas and bookstores seems like a great idea. In practice, it’s proven challenging, not least because of the milling crowds that throng the spaces by day.

Some experiments work: Basheer Graphics Bookstore has a nice selection of urban art within its shelves. Others aren’t working so well: At Lau Pa Sat, hungry lunchtime crowds unwittingly destroyed certain artworks even before the show officially opened. At The Projector, the confluence of crowds, movie posters, lit signage and piped-in music makes it hard to focus on the art properly.

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3. NFT art muscles in

Less than a year since the historic purchase of Beeple’s digital artwork, some art spaces are already hopping on the trend. Hatch Art Project is selling NFTs of digital plants that start to grow once you purchase them. The Culture Story is showcasing NFTs of digital artist Jonathan Leong aka ZXEROKOOL.

At the SEA Focus art fair, TZ APAC has an entire booth to help traditional art collectors understand the basics of buying and selling NFT art. It’s attracted enough attention from visitors for some traditional gallerists to complain about NFTs “muscling in”.

3. Millennials love emo art

Nobody makes sensitive, angsty, emotional art better than millennials. At the Bad Imitation exhibition at TPD, Moses Tan laid out a table of body parts for a forensic examination. The cause of death is “a broken heart” from a failed relationship. At the same show, Daniel Chong sawed up Toyogo boxes and filled them with dismembered toys as reluctant mementos of a gone-too-soon childhood. At Richard Koh Fine Art in Gillman Barracks, Joshua Kane Gomes responded to the lockdown by creating Hayao Miyazaki-styled sculptures stuck in chicken wire structures. 

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4. Saluting the OGs

SAW 2022 sees some shows tipping their hats to the pioneers and trailblazers of the Singapore art scene. At Maya Gallery, young Malay artists collaborated with senior artists to learn from each other and create new artworks, some paying tribute to the writings of the late Abdul Ghani Hamid.

At Art Agenda, curator Ian Tee has a terrific selection of rare artworks by top artists that were created during the earliest years of their practices, to show how far they’ve come. At Changi Fairy Point Chalet 7, The Artist Village has mounted a significant show that delves into its eventful 34-year history. All these shows give us a much deeper insight in Singapore’s art history, from the early struggles to its present victories.

This article was originally published in Business Times.