I finally visited Gillman Barracks, Singapore’s cluster of contemporary art galleries, this week. The leafy Gillman Barracks—a colonial-style 1930s arcade named after the British general Webb Gillman—currently houses 13 international galleries. “The complex will eventually be home to… palm-fringed cafes and the inaugural Centre for Contemporary Art, where artists, curators and collectors are invited to congregate, lecture and work in residence.”
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I spent quite some time at Sundaram Tagore, the only New York gallery on site. (Sundaram Tagore has the barracks’ largest space at 390 square meters.) Their second exhibition, “Home and the World,” features a diverse group of painters, sculptors, and photographers who employ a visual language that is deeply rooted in tradition, but wholly modern. I was particularly drawn to Taylor Kuffner’s intoxicating conceptual sound installation—an orchestra of handcrafted percussion instruments derived from the traditional Balanese gamelan.
Whilst hopping from gallery to gallery, I also chatted with staff at each space. I asked gallery directors and assistants how both visits and sales were coming along. One director told me that they are slowly but surely building clientele in the region. One doesn’t get the foot traffic as one would had these galleries been housed in a mall-like setting, she said. On the contrary, the barracks offer the antithesis of the contemporary Asian gallery experience, “set as they are amid a literal jungle rather than a concrete one.”
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I also meandered around the the 15-acre grounds. A site specific exhibition, “Gillman Barracks: Encounter, Experience, and Environment,” features the works of sixteen Singapore-based and international artists and draws attention to the site itself. Eight Singaporean artists are represented: Heman Chong, Genevieve Chua, Jane Lee, Donna Ong, Ana Prvacki, Erika Tan, Vertical Submarine, and Ming Wong.
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So, in short, I’ll be going back again and again. There is so much good stuff here and I only sampled a bit. The galleries are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11AM to 8PM and on Sundays from 10AM to 6PM. Admission is free—all day, every day.
(If you aren’t “into” contemporary art as I am, go for a run or bird-watch in this tranquil space. We spotted kingfishers and sunbirds while wandering from gallery to gallery.)