Many of this year's Singapore Art Week events are focused around Tanjong Pagar Distripark – which has been known as an alternative arts hub since a decade ago. So art lovers in Singapore were in for a treat when last week, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong announced plans at the preview of S.E.A. Focus to develop a multidisciplinary arts cluster in Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
The distripark is currently a small enclave home independent art galleries such as Galerie Steph and Gajah Gallery, as well as exhibition space Artspace@Helutrans. The annual S.E.A Focus, which spotlights Southeast Asian art from galleries in the region, has held previous editions at the Gillman Barracks art enclave since its launch in 2019. This is the first year of it running in Artspace@Helutrans. For Singapore Art Week 2021, Singapore Art Museum (SAM) – whose buildings in Bras Basah are undergoing a major revamp – is using the distripark as a venue for Choy Ka Fai's CosmicWander: Expedition. SAM director Eugene Tan said at the preview of S.E.A. Focus that the museum would like to continue using the distripark as a venue, at least until its $90-million revamp is completed in 2023.
The new plans for Tanjong Pagar Distripark will complement the offerings of the Gillman Barracks arts cluster, which opened in 2012. However, concerns have been raised about the future of Gillman Barracks, especially as it has had its share of setbacks over the past few years. Chan + Hori Contemporary and Sullivan+ Strumpf exited last year – and a few galleries have decided not to renew their leases. The NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore has also announced that it will move out of its exhibition hall in March this year.