Singapore is a spunky nation and the tiny city-state lives by its own rules. Firmly law-abiding, Singapore is strict on its locals and visitors alike and the city’s ironclad rules are one of its biggest boons (and pet peeves). While the strictness keeps the city clean and safe, it restricts freedom of creative thoughts in many ways and Singapore has stringent regulations against vandalism. In fact, spray-painting on non-designated walls or public property without permission of the owner is considered an offense punishable by a fine of around SGD 2.000, imprisonment up to three years, and/or eight cane strokes. This is the reason why only fifty or so active artists work here and the city has a slew of designated spots that are legally painted with striking street art. Presenting my list of the most jaw-dropping Singapore street art.
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No Singapore street art list can be complete without Kampong Glam
Of all the Singapore street art hot spots, Kampong Glam stands out as the hub of youth culture and this very touristy place along with Haji Lane holds some of the celebrated murals of the city. An erstwhile Arab/Muslim quarter, Kampong Glam is a popular hipster area and the lovely old area has the beautiful Sultan Mosque. It is a really cool place to hang out and kitschy boutiques, shisha bars, Arab cloth merchants, quirky cafes, and great Malay and Middle Eastern food make it very popular among the young crowd. It is also one of the areas where street art was first prominent in Singapore and Haji Lane has the spectacular painted walls of Piedra Negra and of Blu Jazz Cafe. The alleyway in between them is gorgeously painted too and beautiful murals by Didier Jaba Mathieu cover the entire building.
Check out Singapore street art at the posh Victoria Street
I don’t remember the Kampong Glam murals very clearly since the lively area caught my attention more, but the sight of the wall mural-covered building with its street cafe is unforgettable. My most memorable street art stretch was Victoria Street and I gazed at the commissioned works by Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic for hours. Famous for his murals in Malaysia’s Penang Georgetown, Zacharevic’s work is scattered all over the city and some of the most famous Singapore street art pieces in Joo Chiat have been painted by him.
LITTLE INDIA is a hot spot for Singapore street art
The popular tourist district of Little India is one of my favourite places in Singapore. I love its blingy shops, spicy curry smells, a kaleidoscope of rainbow coloured buildings, technicoloured South Indian temples, and raucous film music which pours out of every nook and corner. The little flower and vegetable markets of Little India are a lot of photogenic fun and the 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre is a great place for people watching. My best Singapore street art memories have been spent hanging around Little India. Many well-known figures of the international street art scene have left their marks on the narrow lanes of Little India and among them, the “Light In Little India” and the “Green Goblins” murals are true art. Made by American street artists Elmac and Tyke Witnes AWR (who were invited to put up their works during the Singapore Night Festival in 2010), both can be found at the pedestrian stretch between Rowell and Desker Road. That stretch also has a surprise series of fairy tale figures such as Red Riding Hood in the next door Bellwethers Bistro.
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Don’t miss the Banda Street murals in Singapore
I fell in love with a photo of a Banda Street mural so much, that an entire Singapore day was spent in its pursuit. This iconic Singapore street art depicting two old men playing Chinese Chess was among thirteen heritage murals showcasing the lives of pioneer generation residents in Kreta Ayer. Jointly painted by over five hundred Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) volunteers and hundred Kreta Ayer residents, the piece took six months to complete and was launched in April 2015. This very pretty area of pastel-coloured houses and quaint shops is a great place for buying some authentic Peranakan goods. Opt for Peranakan beaded slippers, purses, and embroideries here.
Lavender Street should not be missed by Singapore street art hunters
This has been the luckiest find during my entire Singapore stay. I stayed at a pod hostel on Lavender Street and despite its cramped sleeping conditions, it was a great experience. The hostel opened up to a busy street and heavily flowering bougainvillea vines shaded its small street cafe. Across the street, a food center and breakfast dim sum shops offered excellent cheap eats and Little India was just a few steps away. MRT was close by too and the hostel was a happy hub of international travelers from all over the world. The biggest highlight was the fantastic display of Singapore street art splashed all around it and every morning I stared at them while sipping coffee. The murals covered the street floor, and walls of an entire block, and most of them were professionally done. My happiest Singapore moments were spent under those colour splashed bright walls and I must have taken at least a hundred photos of them.
Other recommended areas for beautiful Singapore street art
Apart from these, my walks and explorations around different areas in Singapore have helped me discover many hidden street art secrets. While some have been found at well-known spots like Aliwal Street, Sultan Arts Village, and Bugis-Bras Basah precinct, quite a few were spotted at Clarke Quay, Everton Road, and the Skate Park at *SCAPE, The Substation, and the lively Tiong Bahru Market. Singapore is an art-loving city and the rebellious nature of its wall murals reminded me of very famous street art that blatantly announced that “Revolution will not be advertised”. That was but another street mural in yet another city across the world.
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NOTE – “Writings on the Walls” is an ongoing series in which I hope to collate awesome street art from around the world. If you wish to collaborate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can take it from there.
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