On warm Singapore days, just opposite the Southern Ridges, your taxi draws up to Lock Road, the site of Gillman Barracks, an impressive cluster of galleries that make up a cutting-edge contemporary art centre. You take a moment to survey the green landscape of lush vegetation and the white block buildings that were once army barracks.
The day begins, as any art venture invariably does, with excellent coffee and a bite of breakfast. The Red Baron is a great place to start. The Yoghurty Buckwheat Pancakes and a Piccolo Latte fuel your imagination with energy and caffeine. When the family is fully satisfied, you head out to explore what the barracks have to offer.
Gillman Barracks is a magnet for artistic expression and has something for everyone, from the youngest of creative spirits to the most seasoned art critics and connoisseurs. Galleries and art establishments are spread out over the site, but you can easily visit each one on foot. As you walk towards the next gallery, you get the distinctive feel of being on the road less travelled.
The kids are already feeling inspired, so you cross over the pathway to the incredible Playeum, a centre for children’s creativity and the first of its kind in South East Asia. Playeum’s director, Anna Salaman, is passionate about the positive effect that art can have on young minds.
Here, children can explore installation artworks, interact with different media, and create spectacular craft creations—curious little models of cars, planes, and artistic sculptures from previous visitors can be seen on the shelves of the workshop. According to Anna, kids who are allowed to experiment artistically have greater imaginations as adults and yours are already busy creating their own masterpieces as you sit back and watch.
NTU Centre for Contemporary Art
After the kids have had their time at Playeum, it’s off to the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art next door. Exhibitions here have included the mind-blowing Arachnid Orchestra Jam Sessions by Tomás Saraceno—illuminated displays of massive spider webs (complete with spiders) in labyrinthine three-dimensional glory. Transducers and sensitive contact microphones were used to capture and magnify the other-worldly spectrum of barely audible noise that spiders make as they clatter around on their silken lines. The daring creative ambition and vision of this display alone is worth the journey out here.
Gillman Barracks’ art galleries are spread all over the area in bright white barracks buildings. At the crest of the hill on Lock Road is the superb Mizuma Gallery, a branch of the original Mizuma Gallery in Tokyo, where director Sueo Mizuma strives to promote Japanese artists and South East Asian talents. You’re able to catch the two-man exhibition, From Koyasan to Borobodur, by Indonesian artist Nasirun and Japanese artist Tanada Koji. Wandering its cool, subdued gallery hall, you ponder Nasirun’s use of Javanese shadow puppets and their narrative language, the wayang, which creates a dialogue on Nasirun’s spiritual experiences of Mount Koya.
Pearl Lam Gallery
Further down the hill, on the right, Pearl Lam Gallery demands a visit and recently featured an exhibition by British-Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Childhood Memories explored childhood through a series of surrealist sculptures and screen prints.
It’s hot outside, as it always is, so you decide it’s time to find some shade and take a well-earned break. You’ve heard Nekkid is the place to go and you want to try one of their -12° C cocktails. As you sit down with a glass of the honeydew melon and Yaegaki Nigori Sake, or perhaps some chilled champagne, it’s time to make a short list of those artworks you’d like to take home, and, of course, to think about where you’d hang them all.