Singapore Art Week 2020: Singapore Arts Club transforms a former factory into art pop-up 'Twenty Twenty'
Jalan Besar has become somewhat of a cultural hotspot for young insiders in the past five years with the arrival of cool coffee joints and creative agencies such as Chye Seng Huat Hardware and Foreign Policy Design Group.
This January, the neighbourhood's cool quotient is set to spike further when a former ship repairs factory on Cavan Road transforms into a premium 10-day art pop-up. Organised by visual arts platform Singapore Arts Club in conjunction with Singapore Art Week 2020, the expansive 20,000 square feet property was sold for approximate $38 million back in June last year with initial plans for residential use.
Entitled Twenty Twenty (presumably in homage to the new year), the pop-up will feature a group exhibition headlined by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, participatory workshops by Recharge Foundation, heritage walking trails, casual artists talks over billiard as well as a presentation by New York-based Singaporean fashion designer Shawna Wu.
I caught up with the pop-up's organiser, locally renowned gallerist Audrey Yeo, to discuss the community's evolution as well as the thinking behind the ambitious activation.
How did this opportunity come about?
The property's owners knew about my past projects. They thought that it'll be such a rare opportunity for artists to utilize the space. We actually had photographer Chua Chye Teck come in and capture all the old bits and pieces that we discovered.
Are we seeing gentrification in action here?
For me, gentrification is a bad word to be very honest. Arts groups are usually against it, but the irony is that art does gentrify neighbourhoods. Wherever artists go, property prices go up. As a Singaporean, I'm actually against it. I've actually heard that other property owners within the area are planning their own art activations and raising their rent after they had heard about us. This has been one of our dilemmas. On one hand we get to share this wonderful space with others, but on the other hand, we don't want to be part of the problem.
Gentrification is inevitable, so let's talk a bit about the line-up of programmes. Could you tell me about the group exhibition 'Strange Things'?
We wanted to have a juxtaposition of materials. Singaporean artist Dawn Ng is going to be exhibiting a new work of pastel steel sculptures that happen to be the same colour of the factory's walls on one side and mirrored on the other. The site-specific work has quite an environmental feel to it.
We're also placing a video installation by Vietnamese artist Tuan Mami in one of the rooms on the first floor. It's about how Singapore buys sand from this mountainous area in Vietnam. It looks like a ski town, but it's very sad as the whole place is polluted.
That's pretty political.
It's a little bit, but we can't help it. We're not just about aesthetics alone.
There are going to be artist talks around the billiard table. How is it going to work?
It will have a light-hearted and casual feel. Artist talks are always so much pressure. It might completely embarrass somebody, but it will really break the ice.
The pop-up event is also ticketed, which is unusual because Singapore Art Week events are usually free-of-charge.
It's because we are entirely self-funded. Any little bit would help. We have already spent quite a bit to create a neat and nice space.
The other unexpected thing is the opening hours, which is from 5pm to 10pm. Personally, I've always preferred attending evening events.
We have the opportunity to light up some of the architectural features, which is why we want to create a nighttime experience with a bar. We want people to come in with their friends, have a drink, and stay in the space for longer.
What can we expect after 28 January when this is all over?
We are going to attempt a series of smaller engagements and exhibitions, but we'll see how this goes first. In March, we're planning to take on artists such as Stephanie Burt, who works with space brilliantly.
Organised by Singapore Arts Club, 'Twenty Twenty' runs from 10 to 28 January 2020 at 2 Cavan Road. Tickets are available now.