Since we still lack a centrepiece for the huge empty wall behind the sofa and Gillman Barracks is just minutes away from home, we popped by for a quick visit yesterday to suss out the new art enclave (yeah, am still on the lookout for an art piece to hang at home). Conclusion? I think Gillman Barracks needs a nice souvenir shop, a few cafes to provide chill-out spots and a sheltered walkway or a lot more trees to provide much needed shade between the fairly spaced out blocks.
See, I was expecting something like Dempsey-kinda vibe. But when we drove around it was just quite empty, and not very ‘welcoming’. So the 3 suggestions I’ve made should ‘help’, and I’ll explain further:
1. Souvenir Shop
More like ‘Art 101’. Most visitors won’t be able to afford the asking prices that the art galleries are asking for. But if the government really wants to build up a thriving art culture, one way is really to start from the ground to target your average family. Which means providing more affordable pieces that can be displayed at home without selling a kidney. For example, I saw a painting that I really really like by Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju. But I can never afford the price tag of $372,800 for one painting (yeah, not even if I do sell one kidney). But I would be willing to buy a print, or even better, a small canvas print just cos I really like his work. Ditto the paintings by Luis Lorenzana.
Much like how the Lourve and Van Gough museum sells selected pieces reproduced on canvas, postcards and even mouse pads, I think a souvenir shop for visitors would do much to bring art into the average Singapore home. Right now, the pieces are just way out of reach for most folks in Singapore, million dollar HDB or not.
2. More Cafes
Sure, I read that there are 3 F&B outlets in Gillman Barracks – Masons, The Naked Finn and Timbre@Gillman. Masons is great for a nice dinner and The Naked Finn for a slightly more relaxed evening while Timbre would be good for some beers. But coffee? Or better still some kopi to quench the thirst of your average coffee drinking Singaporean? No where in sight. I would go to Gillman a lot more if there is an Oriole or even a Rochester Park-type of Starbucks outlet there (no hope for Ya Kun I guess). So if we go in the afternoon and need a drink there isn’t any place to go. Isn’t that like a HUGE oversight?
3. Sheltered Walkways and Shade
Hey, try walking between the art galleries in the middle of the afternoon under blazing 35 C sun or one of the tropical thunderstorms. Yeah, I don’t think you wanna try too. Which makes the lack of proper shelter absolutely puzzling. Where is the much needed infrastructure??? It is a good walk between the blocks and even from the parking lots to the art galleries. Totally unlike Dempsey where there is at least some attempt at shelters near the blocks. Again, HUGE oversight by the planners IMO.
So will I be going back soon? I think not unless I want to try one of the food places. The place just lacks the ‘boho vibe’ I thought an art enclave should have. Or unless they have some regular weekend art event e.g. with portrait artists, handicrafts and exhibits by Singapore artists. Something accessible and affordable like the monthly MAAD (Market of Artists And Designers) + OIC Portraits After Dark. Or it’s just my wishful thinking and the enclave is really just for the ‘atas‘ and very rich art-lover. Come to think about it, how does this new enclave help the average Singapore artist? Not at all right? Cos I only saw foreign artists being exhibited… Hmm…
Nearest MRT Train Station: Labrador Park (Circle Line station CC27)
Exit Labrador Park station via Exit A towards Telok Blangah Road. Cross the overhead bridget located on the right of Exit A, and descend from the overhead bridge by taking the staircase on the right. Upon landing, turn around and walk back up Telok Blangah Road. At the first traffic junction, make a right turn onto Alexandra Road, and walk past two bus stops before turning right onto Malan Road. Gillman Barracks is on your left and the entrance is just up the road. The walk should take you about 10 minutes.
Nearest Bus Stop: Opposite Alexandra Point (Bus Stop Number: 15059)
Take buses 51, 57, 61, 93, 97, 97e, 100, 166, 175, 408, 963 or 963e, and alight at the bus stop opposite Alexandra Point along Alexandra Road. Turn left as you alight from the bus to walk back up Alexandra Road and turn right at Malan Road. Gillman Barracks is on your left and the entrance is just up the road.
- Car or Taxi:
Gillman Barracks is accessible by car or taxi via Malan Road that is located along Alexandra Road. Parking facilities are available at Gillman Barracks, and there is a taxi stand in front of Block 5.
- Galleries: Tue to Sat – 11am to 8pm; Sun – 10am to 6pm; Mon and PH – Closed
- Masons: Mon to Sun: Noon to 11pm
- Timbre@Gillman: Mon to Thur – 6pm to 1am; Fri, Sat & eve of PH – 6pm to 2 am
- The Naked Finn: Mon to Thur – 6pm to 12mn; Fri, Sat & eve of PH – 6pm to 2 am
Official website: Gillman Barracks