(Photo: The Straits Times)

Singapore is no doubt increasingly becoming very vibrant in its art scene!

A new arts centre will open this Sunday (31 Jan 2016) at Dhoby Ghaut Green – a 11,000sqm park which includes an amphitheatre and open lawn spaces just above the MRT station.

The Visual Arts Centre, comprising a 161sqm gallery for exhibitions and an 84sqm studio for classes and workshops, has been developed in the glass building formerly occupied by a restaurant.

It aims to ease the crunch for affordable exhibition space in town and strengthen the arts theme of the seven-year-old park.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which leased the building to art gallery owner Iola Liu after a public tender last year, hopes it will allow park visitors to enjoy more arts-related recreational activities.

"Arts recreational activities are known to be therapeutic and these leisure activities can help to enhance the well-being of park users," said NParks' Lifestyle Business Division director Tan Lai Kheng.

She explained that the site was chosen as it blends well with the surrounding arts-related buildings, such as the School of the Arts, Cathay Building and the National Museum Singapore.

Ms Liu, 25, the new centre's director and Gallery Asia Art Collective owner, said she spent the past three months and nearly $200,000 turning the former restaurant into a gallery and art studio. She has already lined up a series of foundation art courses such as those in oil painting, drawing and sketching to begin by the end of next month.

Workshops and talks by both local and visiting artists from overseas are also being planned.

Its exhibition space will be available to rent.

"There is a shortage of exhibition space, especially in the town area, and with our rate at only $650 a day with no extra charges, it is probably the most attractive," said Ms Liu.

She said rental rates of exhibition space nearby range from as high as $900 a day at the Singapore Management University, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building to between $575 and $750 a day at other venues such as ION Art Gallery, the Substation and The Art House at the Old Parliament Building.

"Their prices do not include extras like GST, administration and other charges, though some of their premises may be slightly bigger than ours." she added.

Ms Liu has already had many inquiries to book the venue. First to rent the centre's space is the Federation of Art Societies Singapore, an umbrella body for 31 local art groups. It is holding a two-week exhibition jointly with art societies from Malaysia and China to showcase the works of artists from the three countries from Sunday at 2.30 pm.

Federation president Stephen Leong, 65, said: "We are happy to be using the centre's gallery for the show. The opening of the centre is indeed timely as our members have been complaining of the shortage of affordable rental space to show their works."

China-born Singapore artist Fan Shaohua, 53, who is among the seven Singapore artists taking part in the show, said: "The centre's location is excellent and I am happy to be among the first to show my works there."

Ms Liu said: "We will be encouraging more Singapore artists to hold their shows at our centre. Later, talks and tours on the exhibitions will also be organised to benefit those who want to know more."

The Visual Arts Centre will be open daily from 10am to 10pm.


Singapore Management University: The de Suantio Gallery (180sqm): $900 per day

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts: Ngee Ann Kongsi Gallery 1 (258sqm) and Gallery 2 (271sqm): $900 per day

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building Exhibition Hall (approximately 200sqm): $1,000 (weekends) and $850 per day

The Substation: Ground Floor Gallery (113sqm): $730 per day

The Art House : ExhibitionGallery (approximately 200sqm): $750 per day for commercial galleries

ION Art Gallery (approximately 500sqm): $575 per day for practising artists only

(First published in The Straits Times)