How to spend your weekend like an art gallery director

Updated: Mar 25

If you’ve basically been doing the same things – and going to the same places – over and over again during your free time and on weekends, don’t you think it’s time for a change? (Don’t worry, you can still go back to them if you want to. Nothing’s set in stone.)

It’s not that you’re bored. There’s something soothing about the familiar after all. I just thought it’d be great to follow someone else’s routine and learn something new. It’d be interesting to find out what other people are up to.

I’ve never done an art-themed jaunt before, so Lisa Polten’s activities might prove intriguing… and even relaxing. Lisa is the director of Chan + Hori Contemporary, an art gallery at Gillman Barracks in Singapore.

Here's Lisa :) (Photo courtesy of Lisa Polten)

If you want to experience a lot of local and international art in one place, Gillman Barracks is an excellent choice, what with its various art galleries, art organisations, and eateries.

Of course, you can’t leave the house before your morning sip. “I start my weekend with strong coffee and fresh juice on my balcony overlooking the trees by the Singapore River,” Lisa admits.

Don’t forget to wear your most comfortable shoes as well. Because Lisa’s itinerary includes quite a bit of exploring… which is a good thing. :)

Part 1: Love the “views”

Stop #1: STPI

“I walk five minutes towards the latest show at Singapore Tyler Print Institute – a wonderful institution that offers artists residencies to learn all about, and work with, paper printing methods.”

Stop #2: National Gallery Singapore

“I make my way along the river downtown to visit the National Gallery Singapore, but not for the arts only. One of our collectors introduced me a few weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur to Peranakan cuisine, and since then I’ve been the biggest fan.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon inside the National Gallery is my go-to place in Singapore, and a perfect lunch break after a stroll through the gallery’s permanent collection.”

Stop #3: Gillman Barracks

“After all the indoor activities, the best afternoon treat would be a trip to Gillman Barracks, a visual arts cluster based in former military barracks with a green ‘jungle’ setting. From gallery to gallery, you’re likely to cross paths with a huge lizard or even a black cobra!

“Of course, our gallery, Chan + Hori in Blk 6, is a highlight, as we show contemporary paintings, installations, videos, sculptures and performances by emerging and established Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists. And you’re sure to get a wonderful explanatory tour by our team through the show.”

Inside Chan + Hori Contemporary (Photo courtesy of Chan + Hori Contemporary)

Stop #4: NTU CCA Singapore

“I'd never miss an exhibition at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. Their director, Ute Meta Bauer, and her fantastic team always manage to transform the exhibition space into a new world. You’re certain to discover international contemporary art set in a critical discourse.”

Stop #5: The Projector

“My day ends at The Projector, a very cool movie theatre showing indie and foreign movies that’s always packed with young Singaporean hipsters and expats.

“Afterwards, I'd enjoy a drink on their carpark roof terrace overlooking Marina Bay Sands, a never-ending beautiful sight over the Singapore skyline.”

Part 2: Inspired by design

Stop #1: Joo Chiat Road

“In order to get an infusion of strong colours and authentic, old architecture, I love to walk around Joo Chiat Road. The shophouses, with their colourful and ornate facades, are unique and represent a traditional side of Singapore for me.

“If you’re lucky and you get to go inside, you’ll be surprised at how deep in they go. They’re so spacious and several floors high!”

Stop #2: Katong

“When in the Katong neighbourhood, I never miss a visit to the famous Chin Mee Chin Confectionery to enjoy kopi and kaya toast.”

Stop #3: ArtScience Museum

“Another thing I really like to do is check out the exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum. You can’t miss it as it faces Marina Bay and looks like a giant white concrete lotus flower. The architecture is quite unique and rather the opposite of a classical white cube that usually hosts art.

“Their focus is to show the overlap between art and science, from street art movements (including our artist Speak Cryptic) to interactive digital artworks by Team Lab, as well as their monthly ArtScienceLate performances.”

Stop #4: Esplanade

“Afterwards I cross the famous Helix Bridge and visit Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, another building with architecture that’s a true eye-catcher. The two concert halls imitate the famous and beloved local fruit, durian. (I must admit, I still haven’t had the courage to try it, but it’s on my to-do list.)

“At the Esplanade I’d check out their art exhibitions within the several art-related spaces (one is a tunnel leading to the MRT, the other is the impressive entrance lobby), followed by a concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.”

Stop #5: Toast to a day well-spent

“I’d walk home along the river and have a good-night drink at Publico restaurant at the InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay.”

What do you think? Do you want to start planning? :)

For more on Chan + Hori Contemporary, check out their Facebook and Instagram. For Gillman Barracks, you can try their Facebook and Instagram too.