Singapore has a very different relationship to street art than other countries, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While in other countries graffiti can be a more spontaneous activity, here it’s more about cultivating a relationship between artists and property owners who are willing to open up their external walls for public murals.
Exploring a neighbourhood’s street art is a fantastic way to take the pulse of a city, especially because murals and graffiti are always changing. It’s also a great opportunity to uncover one-of-a-kind hidden gems in small alleyways or hole-in-the-wall shops.
For more traditional art appreciators, the idea of transient, disappearing art is often unthinkable, but for street artists, it’s part of the nature of their work. As longtime street artist Zero explained at a local event, it’s all about change and reflecting the evolution of a city and its people.
In fact, the Lion City has a thriving, tight-knit street art scene if you know where to look. Here are a few spots to check out street art in Singapore – with the caveat that some things may change!
1. Hall of Fame
Two stretches of street art spanning nearly 240m now line Ophir Road and Bali Lane. The vibrant, large-scale murals titled “Graffiti Hall of Fame” was created collectively by 17 Singapore-based artists and officially unveiled at the end of April. Featuring recognisable names such as Didier “Jaba” Mathieu, Zero, ANTZ, and Slacsatu, they’ve been painted onto 5-metre-tall metal noise barriers for ongoing construction projects, which are estimated to continue for another two years.
Many of the wall’s murals reveal different aspects of Kampong Gelam’s vital role in the local arts scene. Studio Moonchild’s section, for instance, is a multifaceted child of many cultures to reflect the area’s reputation as a vibrant melting pot; while the mural Constant Elevation is a futuristic reimagination of the neighbourhood and includes its distinctive shophouse architecture and local cats. Over on the Bali Lane side, artist Slacsatu’s dazzling betta fish is surrounded by his signature swirl of batik-inspired textures.
Slac has been practicing street art for decades and now runs Blackbook Studio at Sultan Gate; he opened Blackbook in 2011 to nurture the local graffiti scene, and hasn’t looked back since — there’s even a 14-metre-long “practice wall” outside the studio where passersby can check out new art (the wall recently bore this “Jurassic Apocalypse” mural by fellow artist Atomick).
The side and back walls of this cultural institution – managed by aforementioned artist Zero from street art collective RSCLS – are available for street art “practice,” which means there’s always the hope of seeing something brand new when you walk by. The wall currently features a colourful collaborative work called “Mixtape” by the RSCLS crew, with a lion by ALIWALL contest winner Isabel Lim in the bottom right corner.
3. Tampines neighbourhood
First, stop by Our Tampines Hub, where prominent street artist Ceno2 has left his mark on the walls of the community and lifestyle building. Part of a project with Temasek Polytechnic to encourage students to experiment with graffiti, his work includes distinctive, photorealistic portraits that feature shades of vibrant colour. The hub is also a canvas for artist Adeline Tan’s nature-inspired street mural of critters going about their lives such as reading and playing (a gorgeous graphic mural by Tan can also be found at Adidas Originals in VivoCity).
Over at Blk 857 Tampines Street 83 is a series of wall murals by Jaxton Su, that showcase local traditional children’s games such as five-stones, chapteh, and goli. Su’s work, which details old-school slice-of-life scenes around Singapore, can be found all over the island, including his series of “Eng’s Heritage” hawker stall murals at Causeway Point, Seletar Mall, and Clementi Mall.
Kinki’s punk-chic rooftop bar bears the work of local legend, ANTZ, who favours Chinese-style aesthetics and mythology. It’s a great spot to take in the sunset after a long day with an ice-cold beer, along with ANTZ’s Japanese-inspired murals. One floor below, the restaurant itself also features expressive art murals by Sean Dunston with Japanese figures and textured floral motifs.
5. Kult Yard
Chill with a gula melaka “kultail” (the bar’s take on cocktails) and mouthwatering eats by Argentinian BBQ, while surrounded by local street art. We’re talking about Kult Yard – a sanctuary for musicians, design studios and makers and sister site of the now-defunct Kult Kafe – which is located at Pearl’s Hill Terrace. Kult Yard aims to continue Kult’s mission to bring street art and subcultures to people. Its most distinctive feature is definitely the abstract floor by artist Wayward Clouds, along with a gorgeous wall mural and other delights around its former 19th-century police barracks location.
For a more literary type of street art, you can check out Rewritten: The World Ahead of Us by the Public Art Trust. It has installed fourteen specially-commissioned text-based artworks by Singapore artists in eight different public park spaces across the island. Inspired by local writers and literary works exploring the multitude of changes experienced in our lives since Covid-19, it’s a contemplative way to spend the day – with a good pair of walking shoes.
Over at Punggol Waterway Park you can find a site-specific poetry installation by the Laniakea Culture Collective, which invites you to take a seat and contemplate its words. When A Tree Becomes A Forest by Ang Song Nian at Jurong Lake Gardens – comprising 195 timber structures, each stylised as the Chinese character “木” – is probably best experienced if you have a drone.
Opened in September 2020, the American fast food chain’s fourth outlet in Singapore features whimsical murals by local artistic duo Liquan Liew and Estella Ng of Ripple Root. Indoors, you’d find Shake Shack’s signature dishes reinterpreted as a modern-day still life painting; outdoors, the evolution of Shake Shack from its first location at Madison Square Park to its newest Suntec outlet with the iconic Fountain of Wealth is depicted in dynamic splashes of colours and geometric patterns.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.