Singapore Biennale and Kallang Airport

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 herehere, 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.

9 responses

  1. Gorgeous shots, again!

    There used to be an amusement park right next to it called Wonderland – I remember it from my childhood. I wish some of this stuff still remained – Singaporean amusement park food could really give American fare a run for its tokens.

  2. Beautiful pix, hope it was fun! So, per my Tweet, I was amazed by all of the Art Deco in Shanghai (where I’m actually traveling tomorrow). The city adopted the style in the early part of the last century as an attempt to internationalize, but it fell into benign neglect after the revolution. Much of it is now being restored and it’s such an unexpected surprise to find so much of it in a Chinese city! xx

  3. Thanks for sharing! I’m gonna check it out.

    @Desiree: I remember Wonderland too! Most clear memory is of the spinning teacups and the lion head roller coaster!

  4. Beautiful photographs of Old Kallang Airport and your write up on Singapore Biennale 2011!!

    Your photographs are inspiring and remind me to go capture Old Kallang Airport as part of my Old Places to visit & capture in photos!

    Looking forward to reading your posts!


  5. The second and third photos are my favorite. What a cool opportunity to see that great building! And how did you score that press pass?! Soooooo awesome! Keep it up!

  6. Ah!! I can’t believe I just found the time to actually open your link (sincere apologies), but you’re right, I’m sitting in my room alone beaming at the computer, haha, fawning over your photos. Can’t believe I’ve never even seen its facade before, awfully excited to head back to Singapore now :D

  7. I really like your second photo. The tension between foreground and background makes it so interesting. You have a special way of seeing things. Please take more photos.