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Living in Singapore

Museums and Art in Singapore

There are enough museums and art in Singapore to satisfy any art aficionado. Public museums and private galleries are always worth a visit, despite many restrictions by the government. Read our guide for a comprehensive list of museums, art festivals, and some info on music, literature, and more.

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  • Although the Singaporean government can be strict on sensitive themes being reflected through cultural performances, Singapore still has a vibrant art scene.
  • The numerous museums and art exhibitions in Singapore reflect not only the culture and history of the country, but also of the individual ethnic groups living there.
  • The theatre and art scene in Singapore is continuing to develop and they are starting to embrace modern pop culture through their National Day songs.

Cultural Policy and the Government: Knowing the Limits

As in other areas of life, Singapore is rather strict when it comes to art exhibitions or cultural performances that deal with sensitive themes. These usually include race, religion, and politics, specifically topics that criticize the government. With an outlook as conservative as this, it should not come as a surprise that art with sexual implications or nudity is often banned as well. You can learn more about limitations of civil freedoms in Singapore from the respective guide article.

Yet, Singapore’s art scene is as vibrant as ever. It is representative of the different cultures and language groups that make the small country into what it is. The Arts and Culture Strategic Review (ACSR) was initiated to support cultural development in Singapore and to make it possible for the majority of the population to benefit from the country’s art scene. Moreover, the National Arts Council (NAC) is responsible for the development of Singapore’s art sector. The National Heritage Board (NHB), on the other hand, supports the development of culture and heritage in Singapore.

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A Little Bit of History…

There are lots of different museums and galleries in Singapore that an art lover should not miss. Seven of them are curated by the National Heritage Board. Most of them exhibit the culture and history of some of the ethnic groups living in Singapore.

Of course, there are a lot of other galleries and museums which are run and organized by private entities:

Celebrating Singapore

Different festivals and events celebrate art and culture all throughout the year in Singapore. We have listed some of them below:

  • Singapore International Film Festival
  • Singapore International Festival of Arts
  • Singapore Writers Festival
  • Singapore River Buskers’ Festival
  • Singapore Food Festival

The Arts: A Gateway between East and West

Performing arts, literature, and music are just as popular in Singapore as painting and sculpting. The city-state is often considered a gateway between the east and the west. This is also the case in performing arts, particularly concerning the many different theater groups which have emerged in recent years.

While theater and other performing arts are still in their infancy, Singapore has a lot to show for itself when it comes to literature. In fact, there is a rich heritage of Chinese, Malay, Tamil, and English literature and poetry, making for four distinct sub-literatures. All of them deal with the Singaporean culture and life. You can learn one of these languages and begin to explore Singapore’s literature. 

Since the 1960s, Singapore’s pop music scene has also grown significantly, mostly influenced by western bands such as the Beatles. Over time, other genres have developed as well, including folk, rock, and metal. A major achievement of Singapore’s music culture is the National Day songs composed specifically for the National Day Parade.  Since 1998, these songs have a more popular ring to them and are performed by local artists.

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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