7 Positive Thoughts on Gillman Barracks

The Terrible Twos are often spoken about with much dismay. But it’s quite the opposite for the two-year-old Gillman Barracks, given its significant achievements since induction day.

September marks the arts cluster’s second anniversary and in a few days, there’ll be a birthday blowout in the form of an outdoor festival – look out for music headliners like Take Two and .gif, a pop-up market by The Local People SG, and of course, a display of irresistible artworks via the DRIVE Festival.

Despite recent praises of Gillman, the naysayers refuse to budge, grumbling like most Singaporeans do. We’ve thus decided on countering these complaints and including a few more affirmative points of our own. It is, after all, Gillman’s birthday.

#1. The History

Gillman Barracks (1970) viewed from Alexandra Road (Photo credit: Goodmorningyesterday)
Gillman Barracks (1970) viewed from Alexandra Road (Photo credit: Goodmorningyesterday)

Previously a military camp housing British soldiers (cool, eh?), the area got its name from one General Sir Webb Gillman. It’s a name that’s been alive since 1936! Now, the arts location is under the same title, but instead of fighting for Singapore’s safety, it stands with a troop of 17 art galleries fighting for the progress of the local arts scene.

#2: The Navigation

Dead-end roads, vague signboards… Gillman seems like a huge, confusing maze, but it sounds like an adventure to me! Whip out that dusty compass and let that inner-soldier out. If you think about it, navigating Gillman and locating galleries is sort of like searching for treasure. You win some and you lose some. Bottom line: You have to work for the gold.

#3: Walking Distances

Gillman’s galleries aren’t exactly next-door to each other and Singapore’s tropical heat isn’t going anywhere. Going gallery hopping has become more like a sweaty session of brisk walking. But there’s your daily weekly monthly exercise! And with the lush greens to fix your eyes upon, it’s almost like taking a nature trail. A flock of birds, one stone.

#4: Food Choices

Many have voiced concerns over the lack of sufficient eateries around the venue. Well, that’s going to be less of an issue with the imminent introduction of four additional joints like Artistry Café and Handle Bar (the one that closed in 2011). Besides, the initial circumstances are good for losing a few pounds – face it, you’ve been binge-eating one too many days.

#5: International Galleries

Of the impressive number of 17 art galleries Gillman has assembled, only a minority of Singaporean establishments can afford to join the cluster. Some view this negatively, but we subscribe to an alternative opinion. The fact that nearly 20 international galleries are willing to station a part of themselves in this minuscule island is a marvel to behold.

#6: The “Game-changer”

Yes, that’s what some people refer to the Centre For Contemporary Art Singapore (CCA) as. What makes this 11-month-old capable of changing games, you ask? First off, context. The CCA, used by Nanyang Technological University, is a non-profit venue for research, exhibitions and artist residencies.

Its specialties? The ability to spread knowledge on the arts (rare trait) and secure big-time touring exhibitions – like the one from New York’s Guggenheim Museum – before the older museums in Singapore (rarer trait).

#7 Top-down Establishment

If you don’t already know, responsible for Gillman are the Economic Development Board (EDB), JTC Corporation and National Arts Council, which loosely translates to government control. But this might not be bad news. Control has been disfavoured for imposing restrictions and repressing government-perceived undesirables. Gillman, however, is an effort that leverages on the city-state’s immense wealth to bring about local artistic advancements – Gillman is a $9.76 million investment.

On top of that, EDB’s program director Eugene Tan said the galleries’ been granted the freedom of hosting exhibitions as they please. Thus far, government involvement has seen no negative effect and I doubt the impending development of one.

Birthdays call for things bigger and better and Gillman isn’t making any exceptions. This month, 25 events have been put in place, including fresh exhibitions (one of which we’ve spotlighted here for the pleasure of the eye), artist talks and gallery tours.

Not to mention, their party invitations and collaterals are dis-army-ingly (bad pun?) hilarious. Feels as if it’s luring your fingers into marking down the date, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does. So get marking:

Venue: Gillman Barracks
Date: Sept 26 (6pm – 10pm)
Admission: Free

Photo credit: Gillman Barracks


Explore latest trends in contemporary culture


Explore latest trends in contemporary culture