What to expect at Singapore Art Museum in May

The exhibitions will see installations of different mediums and modalities.

Fong Wai Kei

Enjoys writing in comic sans unironically.

Published: 18 May 2023, 11:47 AM

White shoes, dancers in gold bodysuits and a blue imitation rib cage – these are just some of the things you can expect to see at three of Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) newest exhibitions in May. 

With the wide range of installations, first-time museum-goers will likely be able to find things that resonate with them. That said, museum fanatics will not be short-changed of a thorough experience either as each installation presents intricate details.

So, whether this is your first or tenth museum visit, here are some artworks to keep a lookout for:

1. Lila: Unending Play by Jane Lee

Starting off the exhibition is Lila (The Ultimate Play). It features three parts – each with their own interpretation of black and white paints. Known for her conceptual explorations within painting, Jane Lee is inspired by spontaneity, chance and play. 


Lee utilises black and white paint as her dominant colours in ‘Lila: Unending Play’. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


Stepping into In Praise of Darkness, it may be difficult to make out the black painting at first glance.


In Praise of Darkness is done entirely in black. It is made with acrylic paint and acrylic heavy gel on wood. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


However, with time, more details will surface to visitors as their eyes begin to adjust to the dark. It offers them to think about how time can play a part in altering their perception.

Lee’s emphasis on interaction, especially the interaction with space, is also carried forward in Hollow and Empty.


Reflections and shadows are cast onto the walls and the floor. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


A large reflective wall stands tall in the middle of the room and different colours are hidden within the layers. The circular cut-outs are angled to reflect light differently and present an almost porous appearance to visitors. 

For this installation, where visitors stand and position themselves is important – one small shift can leave them with a different view.

2. Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun

Science-fiction lovers can look to Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun, which is a video installation in the form of a fictional video game. It features a montage of YouTube dance videos, drone surveillance footage, video games, fictitious news segments and documentations of student uprisings.



Factory of the Sun combines contemporary art with science-fiction and real-life situations. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


The installation is held within a room lined with blue neon grids and a large screen tilted down to face visitors as they sit on the reclined white plastic chairs. 

Steyerl includes elements of humour in his exploration of the relationship between virtual and reality. The narration is also based on the personal biography of Yulia, a video game programmer whose family migrated from the former Soviet Union to Canada.

3. SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes

From daily experiences to everyday materials, SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes features the works of six various artists who aim to navigate the connections between the past and present trends in Singapore art. 

For one, visitors might find the objects familiar in installation A Collisional Accelerator of Everydays (A.C.A.E.).


In fact, they may be able to find most of A.C.A.E.’s objects in their house. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


Featuring clothes hangers, saucepans and stools, the installation resembles the collision of particles, as objects explode from a light source in the middle. Yeyoon Avis Ann aims to present daily occurrences as chances for random yet meaningful encounters. 

Take a walk around the installation and visitors may find themselves hearing somewhat familiar yet not exactly identifiable sounds in the background. These sounds are inspired by the very objects before them. 

For history buffs, Anthony Chin’s From Silver to Steel and Khairulddin Wahab’s Landscape Palimpsest should not be missed too.


The use of Straits Settlement coins and positioning of the swords are just some of the details in Chin’s installation. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


From Silver to Steel explores the use and abuse of natural materials, which in this case is iron ore, being used for industrialisation and as a weapon of destruction. A total of 11 shin guntōs (military swords) have been repurposed for this installation.

Every detail has been made with purpose and serves as easter eggs if visitors are observant enough. For instance, a closer look at the installation will disclose that each sword handle has been replaced with a stack of replicated Straits Settlement coins. Or as Chin shared, each sword is placed with respect to the position of each mine.

Unlike the strong control Chin has over the details in his work, Wahab chooses to let his work take its own course as he explores man’s relationship with land over time.


The canvases track the changing relationship between man and land, going from its natural terrain in the canvas furthest back to an occupied land in the foreground canvas. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


Visitors might notice how the use of diluted paint makes the shapes appear much more organic as the natural textures form on the four canvases. “It’s like when your skin is in the bath for too long and your skin starts to shrivel,” Wahab shares. 

a caveat, a score features objects fashioned after botanical and zoological forms, which come together as an installation reminiscent of a set design. 

With the use of subtle messaging and ideas having multiple meanings, he creates a safe space for discussing how individuals navigate their identities in a changing environment, especially for the queer community. 

For instance, he shares about the act of opening and closing in the dance score of one of the videos presented, where opening suggests the act of giving care and closing for receiving care. 

When asked about his thinking process, Moses said: “I think at the end of the day, being an artist for me is making all these things – coming in and building it all together – in a space that makes sense.”


Moses Tan (left) is one of the six artists featured in Residues & Remixes. His installation (right) invites visitors to explore the complexities of identity and queerness through a wide dis-array of references and symbols. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI


The three contemporary art exhibitions will be at SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark from May 18 through September. General admission is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

You may like these