The third Singapore Biennale, “Open House,” features 63 artists from 30 countries and is presented across three main exhibition venues: the Singapore Art Museum and 8Q, the National Museum of Singapore, and Kallang Airport.
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Opened in 1937 as Singapore’s first civil airport, Kallang Airport was hailed as “the finest airport in the British Empire” at the time. My favorite bit of trivia about Kallang Airport? During a 1937 stopover, Amelia Earhart called the airport “an aviation miracle of the East”. (Apparently, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off at 6:15am for Bandung, Java from Kallang Airport in “Electra” on their 1937 around-the-world flight.)
The airport was closed in 1955 when the new Singapore International Airport at Paya Lebar was built. The distinctive terminal building was used as the headquarters of the People’s Association, a government organization, until April 2009.
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The Biennale offers art- and architecture-lovers a rare opportunity to enter the old airport, an Art Deco masterpiece. Months ago, when I read that the doors to this historic building would thrown open to the public for the first time in decades for this event, I literally squealed. I’ve documented my other adventures in Art Deco architecture here, here, and here.
I could have spent days in Kallang Airport, photographing its green-tinted windows, brushing dust off its wrought-iron door grilles, and wandering around its eerie, atmospheric, and beautiful hangars.
Fittingly, the works at Kallang Airport “respond to ideas of movement from one place or state to another, across borders or thresholds, or between cultures.” I’ll likely be writing another post or two about the art at Kallang Airport and at the Biennale’s other venues over the next few weeks. Full disclosure: I have press access to the Singapore Biennale and visited the airport on Friday for a press conference (when the photographs above were taken) and on Saturday for the event’s public opening.