MUSIC THE BUSINESS TIMES
FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 ●
Shades of Noir find a new groove with jazz lovers PAGE 31
Big time: Indian artist Bose Krishnamachari’s Ghost Transmemoirs (left) will form one of Art Stage’s largest exhibits; LB-LM12810 After Bruno Taut – Untitled (above) is by celebrated Korean artist Lee Bul
All the world’s on
PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION: MOHD KHAIRIE
World stage: Morimura Yasumasa’s Study of Vermeer: Looking back (Mirror), 2008 (top, right) is a colour photograph mounted on canvas while Navin Rawanchaikul and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Cities on the Move (Midnight Sun), 1999 (above) is a colourbust of acrylic on canvas
Only in its sophomore year, Art Stage Singapore is growing into what pundits hope will be an Asian version of Art Basel, reports NATALIE KOH
A ‘You don’t create a hub in one year. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What we did was position Singapore on a global art map’ – Art Stage Singapore director Lorenzo Rudolf on the steadily growing interest among art collectors to support the show’s events
‘This year, we’ve also invited about 15 to 20 for an art familiarisation trip to Indonesia right after Art Stage Singapore, where they will visit artists’ studios in several cities and be hosted by other collectors’ – Mrs Maria-Elena Rudolf, (above) on the Art Stage’s efforts to grow their Collector’ Club, which was launched at last year’s debut of Art Stage, so as to build a community of art buyers
RT Stage Singapore is back, not bigger and bolder than its inaugural edition last year, but with a tighter control on quality. Despite falling short of its expected visitorship of 50,000 (the fair last year: 32,000), this sophomore edition still managed to pull in prestigious international galleries, such as Galerie Eigen+Art (Leipzig/Berlin), Lehmann Maupin (New York), Victoria Miro (London) and White Cube (London), as well as big names such as Annie Leibovitz, Antony Gormley and the Gao Brothers. Yet the total number of exhibitors remain at 120, with the proportion of participating Asian galleries kept at 70 per cent, to retain the art fair’s distinct Asian identity. Said Art Stage Singapore director Lorenzo Rudolf: “First of all, we can’t create an offer that is bigger than the demand. We can’t forget that we’re still in an emerging market. Because it’s a fair with an Asian identity, most galleries have to be Asian. If we want to make it bigger in the same relation, we have to put in more Asian galleries, but we don’t have that many that are on top.”
Overriding quality The emphasis is more on quality than on quantity, “when we’ve become the best of the best, then we can take the second step to enlarge the fair. Like in every luxury industry, you don’t create the brand with quantity, but quality”, he added. This year, he is hopeful he can reach his goal of 50,000 visitors. “In a place like Singapore, 50,000 people should be doable, but it was clear last year that the fair was new so nobody knew about it,” he says. But he doesn’t expect a larger number than that because “people also want the space to view the art. If it’s too packed, it makes no sense”. However, there are concerns that Singapore might not be able to compete with Hong Kong as the art hub of Asia, especially since Art Basel, one of the world’s biggest international contemporary art fairs which was also directed by Mr Rudolf, bought a 60 per cent stake in Asian Art Fairs, owner of the Hong Kong fair, ArtHK. But Mr Rudolf counters that it is merely a show of how Asia really is on its way to becoming an important art market in the world. “The best thing for Asia is to have two strong fairs. I think this continent is big enough for two international fairs. I don’t see any competition here but a complementarity,” he says. The two fairs are conceptually different, he added. ArtHK is more Western-oriented, while Art Stage is more Asian. “They are a few months away from each other, which is ideal. The more we have art fairs like these, the more they are catalysts for this Asian market to become stronger,” he said. “I’m glad Art Basel came to Asia. The two markets can help Asia grow and become more established.” This year’s fair won’t differ very much from last year’s, apart from the actual galleries involved. The art director explains: “If you start a fair like Art Stage, you have built it up and created a concept based on quite a long analysis of the situation, market, et al. If you change everything, that means something was wrong the last time.”
“The direction is the same, it’s still a fair with a clear Asian identity. I want to show the most stunning works of Asia, and we want to juxtapose it with selected top galleries from the West. Everything is sharpened even more this year, we want not more Western galleries, but more sophisticated ones,” he adds. He intends to make Art Stage an Asian version of Art Basel, rather than an exact copy of it, so it was necessary to slot in Western galleries to “create a dialogue between the East and the West. I didn’t want to create an Asian ghetto,” he says. “First of all, contemporary art is a global language. The artists need to correspond, engage in dialogue and interact with each other. That’s the beautiful thing about today, the world is so globalised. A good work by a Singaporean artist is understood in New York, a good work by an American should be understood in Moscow, and a good work in Russia should be understood in Cape Town.” Regardless of where the galleries come from, however, “we want to show quality in all these aspects”, he states. And quality is something that he maintains in not only works presented by the galleries, but also the Project Stage platform, where emerging Asian artists are showcased. Which means high-standard works by young artists at lower prices, which makes Art Stage ideal for people looking for art investments. “If you are looking to invest, Art Stage gives a big advantage because first of all it gives an overview of what’s going on. That means you have different offers with different possibilities,” Mr Rudolf says. “Secondly, you have a place where whatever you see has been vetted. You can be sure of its quality. No one tries to sell you trash, so you have some security.” The number of entries for Project Stage has grown from 30 to 40, and to ensure each work is worth investing in, Mr Rudolf spends half the year travelling around Asia looking for young artists.“We chose the artists from a big selection before showing them, which means that there’s an expert behind each artist who said, “Yes, this artist has potential.” At the end, not every one of these artists can become a star, but surely some will be,” Mr Rudolf quips. The works vary in terms of media from videos to paintings to performances, as well as themes and influences, from social commentary to existentialism. For a better idea of which artists to invest in, he says that it’s very much like playing stocks – “you need the advice of experts”. And that’s exactly the advantage that Art Stage offers. “There are all these galleries at the fair to advise you. They know the most about the artists and people should speak to them, and let them advise them. The more you know, the smaller the risk.” Of the 40 entries for Project Stage, all of them are by artists from Asia, such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, China, and not forgetting some of our local talents. Under a specially curated Local Artist Platform by Charles Merewether, three Singapore-based artists, Zhao Renhui, Ng Joon Kiat and Betty Susiarjo, were chosen to have their works featured. “Being here for two years, I had grown more acquainted with who’s out there in the contemporary art scene in Singapore,” shares Mr Merewether, an art historian who directed the Sydney Biennale in 2006. “I knew these three artists, and knew they have been working
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for some years and producing strong work. They’re not just newly emerging artists, they have a body of work behind them and that was important.” All three artists produced quality works, of course, but there was more that attracted Mr Merewether. “I felt as if their works, in some ways, shared as many differences as they did similarities,” he says. One glaring difference is the use of different mediums, with Zhao specialising in photography, Ng in painting and Susiarjo in projection works. But what was most striking about them was the allegory of their pieces in how they addressed the “conditional state of life and environment of life, particularly in Singapore”. For instance, Zhao, a returning artist from last year’s Art Stage, will be putting up four pieces for the Singapore showcase. Calling them a “remix” of his work, Zhao says: “Charles Merewether, who is a fantastic curator, picked some iconic pieces from several series to package them in a new light, themed around the Singapore context. He sieved out the fact that my obsession with local natural history has always underpinned my work, even though my creations tend to traverse international concerns.” Such images include “unusual local animals such as vultures, which had accidentally migrated from the Himalayas to Singapore, and a cat with its ear clipped,” he offers. He will also be exhibiting works with 2902 Gallery at the fair, taking his total number of pieces to 28, up from last year’s eight. The works at the gallery’s booth, he says, were inspired by a month-long trip to the Arctic. “I see the show as a mysterious journey to an unspecified location, it is as much about the explorer as it is about the place being explored,” he explains.
Growing interest While none of his works were actually sold at the fair last year, they generated enough interest in him to bring 2902 Gallery some sales of his works, the highest price paid being roughly $3,500 a print. For this year’s edition, Mr Rudolf says that they received twice as many applications from galleries as they did last year, with about 90 per cent of last year’s participants having applied to return. Of course, not all of them made the cut, as the selection process has been tightened. One returning gallery that did was Pearl Lam Fine Art from Hong Kong. Specialising in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary Chinese artists along with a selection of international artists, the gallery returns to Singapore this year with nine artists, including three who will be part of Project Stage. “Singapore, by itself, is a very different region from Hong Kong. It has Indonesia, the Philippines and all the other South-east Asian countries, so I thought it was important to touch this region,” Ms Lam says. “When you go for an art fair, it’s not just to sell paintings, but more of a long-term thing where you build up your collector base and build up a portfolio,” she continues. Here, she gets to reach out to South-east Asian collectors, many of whom she says don’t go to Hong Kong art fairs. In fact, Singapore has so impressed her that she is opening a gallery here later this year. “Art Stage 2011 brought me
Join the Collector’s Club By CHEAH UI-HOON WHEN Lorenzo and Maria-Elena Rudolf compared the Asian art scene with that of Europe or North America, one stark difference that struck the couple was how disconnected the major Asian collectors were. “When we first started talking to collectors in China, Japan, India, or Indonesia, we realised that it’s a fragmented market – collectors didn’t know one another,” says Mr Rudolf. “Unlike in America and Europe where it’s a more ‘open’ art scene where top collectors in France know their counterparts in Germany and so on.” Instead, Asian collectors tend to collect art from their own countries and seldom from other Asian countries. After they were satisfied with their respective Asian contemporary art collections, they would then look at art from Europe or North America, he notes. “Indian collectors weren’t buying work from Chinese or Filipino artists; nor were Chinese collectors buying Indian or Indonesian art,” he cites as an example. Hence, the Rudolfs are trying to bridge the gap between these top collectors and give them a common platform to come together. “That’s what the Collectors’ Club is all about, because we want these collectors to get to know one another and one way is to invite them to join the Club,” says Mrs Rudolf, who heads Art Stage Singapore’s VIP Relations. The Club was set up at last year’s debut of Art Stage Singapore, and this year, the Rudolfs have even managed to get 12 of Asia’s top contemporary art collectors to “star” in Art Stage Singapore’s campaign on its website.
back to Singapore, and made me look at it differently,” Ms Lam says. “I realised Singapore focused on culture more than Hong Kong did. It had the right infrastructure for museums and curators, infrastructure for art.” A fresh face to the Art Stage is Ikkan Art Gallery, which had relocated from New York to Singapore seven months ago. Ikkan Sanada, who opened the gallery, says that he was always one to chase the emerging art markets around the world. He first moved to Paris in 1971 when he spotted the vibrant art scene in Europe, before moving to New York 10 years later when it started picking up speed in the art world. Now, it’s Asia’s turn. “As Asia gained economic power, there will be lots of new money in circulation. An affluent Asia seeks refinement in life and what better way than expressing through artwork and art appreciation,” he says. “Asia’s ability to appreciate refined art originated more than 2,000 years ago. This deep-rooted Asian culture, combined with prosperity seeking refinement in life, will set the stage to embrace the next wave of the art explosion in the 21st century in Asia.” The gallery will be exhibiting established contemporary artists’ works by Rirkrit Tiravanija, Navin Rawanchaikul, Morimura Yasumasa, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Naoko Tosa and Ai Wei Wei, as well as works by modern masters Henri Matisse
These are collectors who have contemporary art collections worth “dozens of millions” on average: such as Uli Sigg, a media executive who was Swiss ambassador to China from 1995 to 1998 and is one of the world’s top Chinese contemporary art collectors; Lekha and Anupam Podda, who have compiled one of the most comprehensive collections of Indian contemporary art; and Daisuke Miyatsu, an early supporter of contemporary art within Japan. “For them, we host special receptions, private dinners and viewings. This year, we’ve also invited about 15 to 20 for an art familiarisation trip to Indonesia right after Art Stage Singapore, where they will visit artists’ studios in several cities and be hosted by other collectors,” says Mrs Rudolf. This Art Stage Singapore initiative aims to get collectors to learn more about contemporary art in their own part of the world, and this year, invitations have also been extended to top Western collectors who are interested in Asian contemporary art. “While the invitations to join the Club are restricted to key collectors, our criteria isn’t so much the size of their collections, but their curiosity about contemporary art in the region and their keenness to network with one another. After all, contemporary art is a global language, and nothing to do with nationality,” says Mr Rudolf. What is the long-term outcome he envisages for the Club? “That one day, the Asian contemporary art market will be more open, and just like there isn’t ‘Swiss contemporary art’, there shouldn’t be ‘Chinese’, or ‘Indonesian’ contemporary art, and so on,” says Mr Rudolf.
and Roy Lichtenstein. For now, he says that Westerners make up most of the art investors, but he foresees that “Asia will become more aware of this form of art buying and hence the potential for the Asian art market to grow”. On whether Art Stage is well on the way to making Singapore an Asian art hub, Mr Rudolf says: “You don’t create a hub in one year. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What we did was position Singapore on a global art map.” “There’s still a way to go,” he concedes. “But there are initiatives happening in Singapore that go in the same direction as us, such as the Gillman Barracks. We all work closely together. The fair is still the flagship, the biggest catalyst, but don’t forget that’s only five days in a year. We need a vibrant art space all 365 days a year and we’re all working hand in hand with each other. If we do it right, Singapore would be one of the leading art places in five to seven years.” Art Stage Singapore will be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention and Exhibition Centre (Exhibition Halls D, E and F) from Jan 12 to 15. The fair will be open from 2pm to 9pm from the 12th to the 14th, and 2pm to 6pm on the 15th. Tickets cost $30, with $10 concessions for NSFs, students and senior citizens, and a four day season pass for $60. For more information, log on to www.artstagesingapore.com
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MUSIC THE BUSINESS TIMES
Art jamming is the buzzword now for lay folk to meet and mingle, reports NATALIE KOH
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2011 ●
Asian jazz fusion’s new home-grown cadence PAGE 27
BRUSH UP WITH AN
PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION: MOHD KHAIRIE
F clubbing or karaoke sessions are no longer your thing, and you go AWOL whenever your company suggests an Outward Bound team-building trip or communal cooking classes, check out art jamming – the latest in-thing in town that lets you engage your inner Matisse and make friends at the same
time. Art jamming originated in 2000 when Hongkonger Betty Cheung coined the phrase as a way of combining art with social networking. Like its music equivalent, it involves a group of people with little or no drawing skills just painting to their hearts’ content with no fear of criticism or rules. Such freestyle painting and its accompanying social aspect caught on and art jamming spread around the world. It’s now a growing interest in Singapore, with more art jamming centres catering to the demand. This year alone, at least three new outfits have opened to offer their version of art jamming – Arteastiq at Mandarin Gallery, visual arts centre Art Bug, and Scoop of Art in Marine Parade. The sessions are a hit not just with the party crowd but also a high net worth clientele. “These are people whose social lives have traditionally been defined by a series of phases that follows the arc of age,” says Jaelle Ang, founder of Art Bug. “You graduate from house parties and nightclubs to sophisticated dinner parties and charity galas. We offer a deeper connection with oneself and other people, more intimate shared experiences and a creative outlet.” One of Art Bug’s high profile clients is the Financial Women's Association of Singapore (FWA), an organisation of high-powered businesswomen. Thio Chin Loo, FWA’s president and senior currency analyst at BNP Paribas, says that the organisation often creates networking opportunities where they link up with luxury jewellers, car and retail brands. “We thought it timely to consider an art-cum-food event, especially at the end of the year when bankers wrap up a year of hard work and unwind,” she adds. For a specific cost per head, an art jam includes easels, canvas and a free flow of paints, allowing participants to paint anything that comes to mind. But Art Bug, which calls its art jamming sessions Art Improv, goes a step further by adding music and specific themes. Its first session last month, for example, was themed Foodnotes, where participants were asked to paint food. “We even created a Paint Pantry with “chocolate sauce” and “raspberry drizzle” so real in texture and colour that you would want to lick your paintbrush!” laughs Ms Ang.
Other corporations have shown interest in Art Improv too. “An ad agency is talking about creating a large rooftop Art Improv event to glue together disparate teams from all over the world,” says Ms Ang. “We have a school which is planning a session for their non-art teachers, while a high-end fashion label wants to launch its new collection with an Art Improv session,” she shares. “Art Improv is a breath of fresh air to the social scene,” says Ms Ang, on the general appeal of art jams. “It is spontaneous and without judgment or competition, not unlike Jazz Improv, Comedy Improv or Karaoke.” She adds, “You can also think of Art Improv as a social situation eased by the meditative and binding nature of creating art.” Anisa Tyebally, director of Scoop of Art, an art-themed Gelato cafe, agrees. “We give people a different platform to build relationships. It’s fun, therapeutic, and gives a good balance to life. Especially today when adults spend long hours at work on weekdays, and they communicate so little with their families.” Simple guidelines are set to ensure a positive environment. Participants are asked to maintain silence, unless to say something positive, because “there is no right or wrong in art and it gives less opportunity for criticism.” She says that there has been an increase in demand for art jams since Scoop of Art opened a year ago. Inquiries for corporate events and adult parties (priced at up to $65 per pax) have come rolling in. Now, they conduct about three sessions a month, whether for private parties of corporate events, not including walk-in customers who come in small groups. “Sometimes we have couples who want to try out painting. There’s something quite romantic about seeing a couple paint together in the evening. And they sometimes come back again,” Ms Tyebally says. She also gets wealthy customers who travel all the way to the east (the cafe is located at the Marine Parade Comunity Club) to paint. “We have people who come from Bukit Timah and Sentosa Cove to try it out,” she says. “There is also one lady from Sabah who came down on six consecutive weekends, each with a different friend, for six hours each time, just to pick up the paintbrush.” Scoop of Art provides small scale opportunities for arts and craft as well. Customers are invited to paint there and then, as they offer free placemats for people to doodle on, as well as art kits such as their colour-a-mug/pot, embroidery kits and Batik painting sets that are sold at the store. One challenge of art jams is the intimidation that people feel about art. “There has always been a demand for art,” Ms Tyebally says. “We just needed to sell the concept to peo-
‘We give people a different platform to build relationships. It’s fun, therapeutic, and gives a good balance to life’ – Anisa Tyebally (below), director of Scoop of Art, an art-themed Gelato cafe
ple. There was a little bit of resistance in Singapore, because most of us don’t paint at home.” Frequent art jammer, Rajesh Mulani, 40, who tries to attend sessions once a month can certainly relate. “There was loads of apprehension when I first attended. I can't draw to save my life,” he says. “But I thought it'd be interesting to try something new. Having done it, it's an amazing experience." He brings his kids, aged 9 and 11, with him sometimes, and they gain confidence with each try, even if "we never got better at it," he laughs. "Once I got my parents involved. We basically just doodled on the canvas to see what happened, and it became an interesting art piece with the family signature at the bottom. The most important thing is that we're all entering unchartered territory together, we don't know what's going to happen in the end, but we don't have to bother if it's right or wrong. And that's quite cool."
The apprehension, however, isn’t as prevalent among high-flyers. FWA’s Ms Thio says that the biggest problem was arranging a time and date for everyone to get together. About the women being too self-conscious to paint in front of others, “there is such a possibility, but most financial women aren’t shy!” she says. Same goes for Ms Jean Tan, CEO of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) who recently held a team-building exercise for her employees with an art jam. There weren't any problems with putting brush to canvas, she says. "Our instructor simply asked that we find three words that best described what we do and to paint it. We had loads of fun interpreting our corporate vision – making friends for a better world - in pictures. For instance, one group painted a sunflower in a sea of colours because they felt that friendships brought joy and colour into one’s world." Since the foundation already supports the arts through cultural exchange programmes, "it made sense for us to adopt art jamming for experiential learning." And what resulted was better teamwork, as "having five people with different ideas come together to paint on one canvas taught us how to give and take, respect diversity, brainstorm and collaborate." Ivan Teo, director of Arteastiq, a quaint little tea lounge that comes with its own art studio, says: “Many people have not experienced art or been exposed to it, so they think they can’t paint but they can. I get comments like ‘wow, it turned out way better then I expected’ all the time.” Being right in the heart of Orchard Road at the Mandarin Gallery, the tea lounge attracts an upmarket crowd. He says: “I feel that the more affluent should take time off to destress by using art. Especially painting, which can be very therapeutic.” Trained in interior design, and a director of his own design company, Mr Teo wanted to bring art and tea together in Arteastiq. Opened last year, the store had only recently expanded with the art studio, as he wanted to make it a “truly artistic place, so the idea for freestyle painting came in.” The sessions cost $48 per person, and comes with a choice of specialty beverages, a set of brushes and one takeaway wet paint canvas box. “The appeal is there because it is not an art school or art lesson with a teacher to guide you,” Mr Teo says. “The idea is for you to enjoy art and it encourages ad hoc people or groups to do freestyle painting.” A possible downside of Arteastiq could be its glass walls that allow passers-by to see you at work. But to Mr Teo, that only
makes his art jams all the more attractive. “It not only promotes Art Jam in Singapore,” he says. “But it will also strengthens your sense of satisfaction and achievement in creating a masterpiece of your own.” While these places might be new kids on the block, they weren’t the first. There have been earlier attempts to popularise art jams by art studios like the now-defunct Artppies at Cluny Court, and Red Art at the Reddot Traffic Museum. The only studio that has been actively offering art jams since 2006 is My Art Space, an art and lifestyle centre along Tanjong Pagar Road. My Art Space, which charges $50 to $88 per head, differentiates itself from the other studios by using “art jams as a window for people to get to know art, and interested parties can join our other fomal arts workshops after,” says its founder Teh Chan Kerk. “We don’t use it as a profit-making machine. An arts business needs cultural support, you can’t rely on it totally to support your business, and it cannot be too commercial or it will fail.” But places like Arteastiq could possibly work, he says, “if they push it more towards entertainment.” Mr Teh says the market is more suitable now, because “the demand has always been around, there was just too little awareness. But the possibility for a business in it is much better now. People are much more open to it.” He adds, “People are currently interested in them because it’s very new, it’s very out of the box, and it gets you out of the office,” he says. The thing that keeps people hooked are the oppurtunities to network and make friends. Learning that art isn’t as difficult as it seems will keep people coming back for more. “We try to create an awareness that art is just as easy as singing. If you can make Karaoke a business, why not art jamming?” Mr Teh says. Art Bug’s Ms Ang agrees. Those who have expressed an interest in Art Bug’s Art Improv are “not just interested in art, but who possess joie de vivre - they love meeting people and enjoy intimate parties, they're curious and they want to express themselves somehow,” Ms Ang quips. Besides, says Arteastiq’s Mr Teo, it’s an alternative “to movies, picnics or shopping”. And of course, more convivial than an awkward cocktail function and a lot less sweaty than a team-building boot camp session.
Delicious palettes: Art Bug, which calls its art jamming sessions Art Improv, goes a step further by adding music and specific themes. Its first session last month was themed Foodnotes (top picture, left and below), where participants were asked to paint food. The session included a Paint Pantry with “chocolate sauce” and “raspberry drizzle” – with a texture that resembled real fruit melts
Different strokes: My Art Space (above) is the only studio that has been actively offering art jams since 2006 and is now an art and lifestyle centre along Tanjong Pagar Road. It charges $50 to $88 per head, and differentiates itself from the other studios by using “art jams as a window for people to get to know art”. Arteastiq (above, left and left), right in the heart of Orchard Road at the Mandarin Gallery, is a quaint tea lounge equipped with an art studio for budding Picassos and which attracts a more upmarket crowd
THE BUSINESS TIMES
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2011
Highs and lows in movies, music, the arts and gaming PAGES 24-28
PHOTOS: WILD RICE, MAN SINGAPORE THEATRE FESTIVAL, PANGDEMONIUM PRODUCTIONS, THE NECESSARY STAGE
Food for thought: Wild Rice held a successful run of Animal Farm (far left) in “10 Days on an Island”, Tasmania’s international arts festival, making 2011 one of the best years in its 11-year history. The Necessary Stage’s Gemuk Girls (left), a political drama about a man who suffered detention without trial, in 2008, was restaged last month to a rapt audience. Pangdemonium Productions’ Dealer’s Choice (below) was another dark play that delved into the morbid world of compulsive gambling
State of play If audience attendance is a bellwether of where Singapore theatre is headed, then 2011 clearly stands out as The Year of Living Dangerously on stage with more companies staging edgier works that dared to take on hot-button issues, reports NATALIE KOH
HE disappointing turnout for this year’s Singapore Arts Festival sounded a cautionary note for the local arts scene – was the public losing its interest in the arts? No, but what it did show was that theatre-goers were inundated with variety this year, and so long as a theatre company was able to judge its audience well and offer productions that appealed to their intellect or simply had entertainment value, 2011 would have been a pretty good year. In fact, theatre companies say that most of their shows have seen healthy attendance, whether feel-good productions, or deep and complex ones. And if this year has shown anything, it’s that audiences are more than ready for thought-provoking shows. Adrian Pang, co-founder of Pangedemonium Productions says: “We obviously have theatre patrons who are looking out for well-written, mature-themed, challenging stories that are thought-provoking and unafraid to explore darker complex issues.” After Pangdemonium debuted last year with the musical comedy The Full Monty, Pang expected their following shows, Closer and Dealer’s Choice, to be less popular because of their darker tones and theme. Luckily, they were “pleasantly surprised by the healthy audience turnout and especially by the feedback we received”.
‘More audiences are ready to attend challenging Tipping point plays. Such “So far, Pangdemonium’s productions received plenty of comments like, ‘It’s rare to shows like get good productions like this without hype Model Citizens, or gimmick’; ‘This is the way to revive the theatre scene in Singapore’ – I’m not making Singapore, and these up, please check our website for more Gemuk Girls credited audience feedback,” Pang jokes. evident, and very encouraging to us that were almost sold “It’s Singapore theatre audiences are more and more receptive to something other than light out or sold out’ – Alvin Tan, artistic director of The Necessary Stage
‘Art goes beyond being merely topical. It also needs to reveal, uncover and provide a fresh perspective not immediately obvious to the collective imagination’ – Low Kee Hong, general manager of the Singapore Arts Festival
entertainment.” Alvin Tan, artistic director of The Necessary Stage (TNS) also agrees that “more audiences are ready to attend challenging plays. Such shows like Model Citizens, Singapore, and Gemuk Girls were almost sold out or sold out”. The clearest evidence would be the success of the Man Singapore Theatre Festival by theatre company Wild Rice. Arguably one of the highest points of theatre this year, the festival in August featured plays that tackled hot-button issues such as politics, race, religion, sexuality and family values. It’s not as if political plays had suddenly been propelled into the minds of the audience out of the blue, says artistic director, Ivan Heng. The truth is that they’ve always been popular in Singapore “because there are still relatively few avenues for independent thought and expression. The elections signalled the general public’s desire for a greater say in the way we are governed, and theatre held up a mirror to the zeitgeist”. On top of the Man Singapore Theatre Festival pulling in 13,500 theatre-goers - its highest since its debut - Wild Rice held successful runs of Emily of Emerald Hill and Aladdin in Singapore, and Animal Farm in 10 Days on an Island, Tasmania’s international arts festival, making this year “one of the best in our 11-year history,” Heng says. Of the five plays presented in the festival, three, namely Cooling Off Day, Charged and Nadirah were sold out. Cooling Off Day was so hot, it will be restaged in February. Managing director of TheatreWorks, Tay Tong, agrees that there has always been interest in such themes, though he adds: “The popularity of politically themed works was largely due to its topicality in this GE and PE year. It was a theme that many are familiar with, brought to the fore this year because of the two elections. Plus Singaporeans experi-
PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION: MOHD KHAIRIE
Singaporeans. NAC’s priority should be directed towards developing Singapore’s potential as a world-class city for the arts, and not towards developing the potential of a statutory board, entrusted with public money, as an organ of social control.” Overall, however, judging from the success of shows this year, things are looking up for the local scene. Tan offers: “Theatre is rising in popularity because there seems to be more productions across the board and houses are good. Not only young people, but also senior citizens are going to these shows. Esplanade’s outreach programmes have been successful in attracting community audiences in its efforts to remain relevant to all Singaporeans. Their FYI (Feed Your Imagination) programme attracts students, their Bitesize programme attracts those who have just been introduced to theatre, and their sustained mainstream fare such as Kumar’s stand-ups and other popular acts continue to attract mainstream audiences, educating a great number of new audiences.”
Stage flight: Wild Rice’s Man Singapore Theatre Festival, which saw its highest attendance in 2011, also put on Alfian Saat’s Cooling Off Day (above), a classic and heartfelt political satire, and Charged by Teater Ekamatra (right), about a shooting incident in an army camp during Chinese New Year when mostly Malay and Indian men are assigned guard duty
enced for the first time, a seemingly open and liberal environment where they can fearlessly make comments about or criticise the government and its policies primarily on social media.” TNS’s Tan adds that the elections did help with the political plays, but more in terms of understanding the subject matter, rather than boosting ticket sales. For instance, he compares the first staging of Gemuk Girls, a political drama about a man who suffered detention without trial, in 2008, to its restaging in November this year. “People still found it powerfully relevant three years after its first staging. It was an eye-opening experience but in 2011, more Singaporeans knew about detention without trial as the mainstream media and social media carried more stories, the GE and PE platformed the ex-detainees, and autobiographies written by ex-detainees were published and distributed uncensored. So more audiences watched Gemuk Girls reflecting on the issues rather than digesting first-hand information,” he says. However, he adds that “we did not create the plays or restage them because we felt the climate was right. If we did, then we were quite ahead of the times when we staged Gemuk Girls in 2008.” Instead, TNS is more interested in socio-cultural issues than political. “We realised the importance of intercultural theatre and its potential to bridge cultural differences by urgently addressing the gaps we’ve been neglecting. The world has neglected this (management of cultural differences) and theatre has picked it up. It is important to see that audiences are intuitively engaged
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or in tune with cultural issues that theatre responds to and are therefore hungry for such works.” General manager of the Singapore Arts Festival, Low Kee Hong, adds: “I think there is something to be said about topical projects in theatre especially when they feed on a collective imagination of the moment. And it is immediately attractive because it helps people express certain collective thoughts.” He adds, “However, art goes beyond being merely topical. It also needs to provide a fresh perspective not immediately obvious to the collective imagination. All this adds up to our process of evolving as a people, as audiences ready to think beyond the familiar and comfort zones.” Despite many of these theatre companies having done well this year, some speed bumps did come their way. For TNS, funding for their three-year Theatre For Seniors programme ended in April, which meant they had “to look for fresh funds. We are in transition now which meant holding back the seniors a little despite their enthusiasm to further develop their skills.” Tan says. Wild Rice suffered even bigger fund cuts. Heng says: “NAC’s funding cut of $150,000 was a low point. Its refusal to fund the Singapore Theatre Festival, a festival committed to new writing is a blow not only to Wild Rice but Singapore theatre.” He continues: “Now, perhaps more than ever, theatre serves as a forum for reflection, debate and discussion. The NAC needs to revise and update its funding guidelines to better serve the expectations and aspirations of
“With the increase of expats and foreign talent in our midst, TNS has seen a growth of foreigners/expats attending our plays,” he adds. “There’s also a rejuvenation of sorts at The Substation with Effendy Ibrahim at the helm as artistic director and the Night Festival bringing theatre to non-theatregoers.” Theatreworks’ Tay agrees with this upward trend: “Theatre remains one of the most popular art forms in Singapore.” However he warns: “I do believe though, that there are more players coming in for the same pie. And these are seen largely in populist theatre such as musicals and comedies. There are more works competing for that same ticket dollar. “Producers may have seen a decline in their box offices primarily due to competition from producers doing similar kind of performances. I do think the market is crowded; so the only way a company can continue and stand out is to be niche. Being a specialist is key.” Pang of Pangdemonium Productions adds that he is encouraged by the increased appreciation of shows that explore complex and conflicting human dynamics. “That’s right up our street, because we want to create work for people who want to come to the theatre ready and willing to be challenged intellectually and emotionally, rather than have an evening of brain-dead easy laughs. There’s TV for that,” he laughs.
‘We want to create work for people who want to come to the theatre ready and willing to be challenged intellectually and emotionally, rather than have an evening of brain-dead easy laughs. There’s TV for that’ – Adrian Pang, co-founder of Pangdemonium Productions. His company staged Patrick Marber’s gut-wrenching Closer (below), starring Pang and Tan Kheng Hua, which dealt with timescales that had to be handled with precision and a female pole-dancing scene that required derring-do
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The Business Times, Friday, December 2, 2011
AROUNDTOWN Fashion double-whammy for charity WITH the Christmas season just around the corner, now is the perfect time for you to refresh your wardrobe. And come this weekend, a charity drive by Cozycot, and a charity sale by Unifem Singapore gives you the perfect opportunity. Women’s lifestyle site, Cozycot, is calling for donations of men’s shirts, a versatile piece of clothing that can be worn by men and women alike, at their 10th anniversary bash at Zouk (17 Jiak Kim Street) tomorrow. A donation bin will be present from 6 to 10pm at the club, along with a fashion show showcasing creative ways men’s shirts can be worn. The shirts collected will be given to the Thrift Shop run by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), and to Star Shelter, a temporary refuge for women and their children who are victims of family violence. When you’re done, head down to the Suntec City Convention Centre to spruce up your wardrobe for a good cause, as Unifem Singapore is holding a pre-loved designer fashion sale (right) as part of the 2011 Unifem Buy to Save initiative. Get a wide-range of branded handbags, shoes, clothes and accessories donated from the event’s sponsors Singapore Tatler Magazine and Club 21 at prices from $10 onwards. Proceeds from the sale will benefit women and girls at risk from violence, abuse and exploitation from the SCWO’s Star Shelter. The sale is on from Dec 3 to 4 from 10am to 5pm at Room 320 of Suntec City Convention Centre
Masterpieces by master potter’s students If you missed highly esteemed potter, Iskandar Jalil’s (left) final exhibition in October, don’t despair, because Art-2 Gallery is now housing works by students whom he has personally mentored. Titled Raw Interpretations, the showcase features 120 clay works from Temasek Potters studio of which Jalil is resident artist. Priced from $70 to $1200, the works make excellent – and affordable – gifts, either for corporate or individual collectors, and come just in time for the festive season. Apart from seeing the final product, you get to catch the artists in action too as the potters will be in the gallery every Friday and Saturday this month from noon to 6pm, for members of the public to watch them at work. Raw Interpretations is on at Art-2 Gallery from Dec 1 to 30. The gallery is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 11am to 7pm and is located at #01-03 MICA Building, 140 Hill Street. Log on to www.art2.com.sg for more info
Cartoon workshops for children Let the inner artist in your child burst forth with Up Against The Wall! A Visual Adventure with Scott Walker, a British-based cartoon artist, where children will have the chance to participate in fun and interactive art workshops at ION Gallery. Presented by ACT 3 International, Up Against The Wall! is a specially curated programme that invites children aged five onwards to join in scheduled workshops guided by Walker. There will be two workshops for children to create either an original creature or a cardboard mask, as well as open activities, where children can decorate a wall, learn mosaic art, or design their own balloons. Drop off your kids for the day, and return to view the final artworks, and find your child with heightened illustration skills from the interactive, hands-on art experience. Up Against The Wall is on at ION Art Gallery from now until Dec 6, and is open from 10am to 8pm daily. Workshops cost $45 per child; maximum of 30 children per class; includes open activities. For open activities alone, tickets cost $12 for 45 minutes. The gallery is at Level 4, ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn. For more information and bookings, call or email ACT 3 International at (65) 6735 9986, email@example.com; or visit www.act3international.com.sg
Compiled by NATALIE KOH
Brushes with a sculpted canvas Indonesian artist Ketut Moniarta goes against the grain to carve out new perspectives, rites NATALIE KOH
T’S hard to decide whether to call Indonesian artist Ketut Moniarta’s works paintings or sculptures – there are objects painted on them and they hang off the walls just like regular paintings; but then again none of them are two-dimensional, with most of them resembling crumpled sheets of stainless steel rather than flat pieces of canvas. It’s a major head-scratcher, but that’s exactly what the artist wants it to be, as he aims to challenge the traditional notions of paintings and sculptures. Element Art Space, the gallery that will be showcasing some of his works this month in a solo exhibition titled Objects In The Making, calls Moniarta’s works “sculpturesque” paintings. And there really couldn’t be a more fitting adjective. It all started when the 30-year-old artist realised that up until the 1970s, painting was only a means for recording particular events in history, he says. There was no challenge for artists to play around with their works. And until today, contemporary society sees a painting as nothing but a piece of canvas; and sculptures, plainly, just sculptures. “I wanted to test the boundaries of contemporary art today, to see how far you can take a painting,” he says. “You can see some painting elements on each piece, but it’s not really a painting. It’s more like blurring the borders between sculpture and painting.” For him, toying with media is more important than tackling particular subjects. As long as whatever he paints is eye-catching and beautiful, anything goes. That explains why his subjects are common objects like cars, basketballs, and even a pug. But even though they aren’t chosen under a theme or topic , they aren’t picked entirely at random. His pieces on stainless steel, for example, spotlight objects that
PHOTOS: ART SPACE
Yin and yang: Ketut Moniarta’s Steel Sitting Pug (2011, left) is a work of stainless steel and enamel paint that features the enamel painting of a pug, a soft object that brings contrast to the hard material of steel. In Steel Old GMC (2011, above), the stainless steel and enamel paint piece shows the “sculpturesque” perspective of the artist’s approach
contrast the material. Like the Steel Sitting Pug, that features the enamel painting of a pug, a soft object that brings contrast to the hard material of steel; and the Steel Gallon Gas, that uses rusty kitchen gas canisters to contradict the clean look of stainless steel. Even more interestingly, Moniarta plays with the concept of viewers’ perceptions. A full-frontal view of Green Frog, a painting of a car on a piece of crumpled cloth, for instance, might make you think it’s just a painting made irregular from the cloth’s creases. But if you stoop down, you would notice that he had painted it in such a way that, despite the creases, the picture is perfect – almost like a photograph – but only from that particular angle. It becomes almost like a piece of interac-
tive art that you have to work with to get the intended perspective of the artist – but the whole idea is actually to “go against interactive art”, the artist says. “Because there’s only one view to get the right perspective... I didn’t want to follow the trend of interactive art; I wanted to set myself apart from other contemporary artists.” Even though the exhibition only shows 10 works, it tracks the development of Moniarta’s work with his “sculpturesque” paintings, from his more canvas-like pieces such as an oil-on-canvas work called Classic Car on Zinc Reflection, to a resin-and-oil-on-cotton piece that is pulled loosely over a stretcher to create a 3D look, on to his crumpled stainless steel works, and finally, a full sculpture to finish. Of course, this sculpture is no regular
Demons seethe within By NATALIE KOH WATCHING a play housed in the second floor of a cafe usually sends off warning bells. You automatically assume it’s going to be a low-budget, low-quality, and uncomfortably low-ceilinged piece. But that certainly wasn’t the case for Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down by Skinned Knee Productions; apart from the low ceiling, that is – actress Sophie Wee’s head often threatened to crash into the lights hanging over the stage. But making the best out of the small stage at Speakeasy, a cafe in an old shophouse along Blair Road, the play certainly defied the odds brilliantly, thanks to incredibly well-cast actresses who provided top-notch acting, artful direction by Rayann Condy, as well as a beautiful set that transformed the small stage into a cosy environment. Taking on the issue of domestic abuse, the award-winning play by British playwright Richard Cameron weaves together the stories of three women whose lives have been affected by the same man. The petite Karina Sindicich plays Jodie, a bubbly teenager whose childhood was marred by the death of a childhood sweetheart. The culprit who caused his passing? A bully by the name of Royce, who later grows up and knocks up an 18-year-old woman, Ruby, performed by the leggy Sophie Wee. He, of course, being the antagonist in this show, rejects her and their child and goes on to marry Lynette, a religious woman who tolerates his drunken and violent episodes be-
cause of her fervent belief in God and the sacredness of marriage. Heartwrenchingly portrayed by Kluane Saunders, it was she who drew the most sympathy from the crowd, and even a few sniffles, thanks to Saunders’s powerful and poignant performance. Cameron’s script proved worthy of its many awards such as the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, and the Independent Award in Britain as it ran at a careful pace, and used imagery so effectively that the play didn’t require an elaborate set. But the set by Reilly Phanes on Wednesday evening was exquisite anyway. It was designed to look homely, yet infused with elements of red to signify the theme of violence in the show. Despite the storyline being rather implausible, the characters’ individual situations were perfectly believable. The audience, which comprised a full house of mostly women, would have found the roller coaster of emotions that the characters went through very much understandable – even to those who had never suffered domestic abuse. This was, in part, conjured up by the powerful lines by playwright Cameron that spilled out from the actresses’ lips, causing the entire space to radiate with the agony the characters felt. Carefully paced character development, complete with back stories of each women, only made you feel more for the characters and that empathy was further heightened by the masterful performances of all three actresses. The fact that Royce never physically appears, but instead looms as some sort of in-
SKINNED KNEE PRODUCTIONS
Taking a stance: Taking issue with the malaise of domestic violence in a shophouse stage made for an intimate, raw affair for actresses (from left) Sophie Wee, Karina Sindicich and Kluane Saunders in Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down
visible phantom, makes the play even more powerfully women-centric, and alludes to how experiences with a violent man transform into invisible demons within a woman. Director Rayann Condy was almost flawless as she created bonds between the characters, and broke them just as easily, with subtle shifts and turns of the actresses’ heads. Using lamps as symbols of the violent man made for a pretty effective theatrical de-
Well-heeled mob Art Basel Miami By PAULA BUSTAMANTE MIAMI, once known mostly for its abundance of palm trees and bikinis, is forging a new identity as a world arts capital as it hosts the Art Basel fair, attracting collectors and aficionados from around the globe. Beginning yesterday and running throughout the weekend, Miami’s edition of Art Basel – billed “the most prestigious art show in the Americas” – will welcome some 50,000 visitors. This year marks the 10th anniversary since this American city with a distinctly Caribbean vibe first hosted Art Basel Miami Beach, thousands of kilometres from its founding city of Basel, Switzerland. Altogether US$2.5 billion (S$3.21 billion) of art will be on sale, from Picasso and Giacometti to emerging artists Carol Bove and Theaster Gates. For this 10th edition, the Miami Beach Convention Center alone features more than 260 galleries from North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa showing works by 2,000 artists. Add to that numerous satellite shows, including Art Miami, the New Art Dealers Alliance (Nada), Pulse and Scope. “People from all over the world come here, especially from Europe,” said Cristina Grajales, a gallery owner who originally hails from Colombia, but who now resides in New York and has come to Art Basel Miami for each of the past seven years. The exhibit runs parallel to another major happening – Design Miami, a separate show focusing entirely on interior
PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, AP
Marquee draws: Musician Diddy (left) looks at a charcoaland-wood painting by artist Pascale Marthine Tayou at Art Basel Miami Beach while works by Andy Warhol (“Sam, Light Pink”, 1954, above) and Dan Flavin (“Untitled, To Piet Mondrian”, 1985) are unveiled decoration and decorative arts, which also draws thousands of visitors. Those attending Art Basel will include some of the world’s most well-heeled art investors, many of whom appear to be impervious to the global economic downturn. In fact, sales have been steadily rising since 2009 and organisers said they expect the trend will continue this year, as investors seek a safe haven from global turmoil. Gallery owner Marco Berengo, who said that for the most part the attendees “don’t really feel the impact of the finan-
cial crisis”, as they set about the business of making new acquisitions for their collections. “Every single event around Art Basel and Design Miami attracts collectors from around the world, who seek all sorts of art and furniture design, and these are very valuable customers who are not affected by the economic crisis,” said Mr Berengo, executive director of the Italian gallery Venice Projects. The 43rd edition of Art Basel is to be held in the Swiss city next June.
model. It’s a triangular piece of metal stuck into a partially deflated basketball. Like all the other works, it challenges the definition of a sculpture because it can be hung up on the wall, and stand on its own as well. It was the final piece cooked up for the exhibition, the artist shares. “It marks the end of this series, but the beginning of another, more sculpture-like, set of works.” Objects in the Making runs at Element Art Space from Dec 3 to Dec 31. The gallery is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 7pm, and 11am to 5pm on Sundays and public holidays. It’s closed on Mondays. Its address is 140 hill St. MICA Building #01-10/11/12. Call 68832001 or log on to http://elementartspace.com for more info. vice too, particularly at the end when the lights went off and you realised that they, like Royce’s love, had been superficial all along. To tug at the audience’s heartstrings a little harder, there were bits of melancholic singing. And even though the actresses sometimes faltered when it came to solos, the instrumentals played by guitarist Linden Furnell and violinist Kim Eun Hyung were hauntingly beautiful and fit the mood. Unsurprisingly, there were some limitations to holding the play in a cafe. Apart from the audience subconsciously watching out for hanging lights for Wee, there were the noisy clangs of glasses from the bar below, a passerby moth that made Sindicich break character for maybe three seconds, and the lack of proper stage lighting. But one upside of the venue was how close the audience felt to the actresses – emotionally as much as physically. At times, it’s almost as if the characters were speaking directly to you – a level of intimacy you don’t get in a large theatre. Most impressively, the pain and suffering of the women only made them more beautiful and admirable, rather than just appearing as pitiful creatures. A commendable feat, Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down is possibly one of the most memorable plays of the year – and not just because of its unconventional venue. Hopefully, it will be restaged at a larger venue to reacher a bigger audience, but that would inevitably come at the expense of intimacy and shophouse charm. The play is on at the cafe, Speakeasy, until tomorrow. Tickets cost $25. Speakeasy is located at 54 Blair Rd. Tickets available at www.skinnedkneeproductions.com
The offshoot in hip, tropical Miami meanwhile melds the sensibilities of both cities, even if the marriage on the surface seemed a bit unlikely. Miami investors years ago were eager to rehabilitate the tattered image of the city, known at the time mostly as a retirement destination for the elderly and a magnet for drug dealers. As organisers of the Basel event set about seeking a warm weather venue for the winter months, semi-tropical Miami seemed a good fit. “Art Basel Miami Beach is much more than an art fair,” said artist Javier Martin, 26, whose works were on display at the Baltus gallery. “It also represents a movement, where artists can express their ideas, their thoughts, via a very contemporary approach.” Martin’s plastic works, some of which sell for more than US$5,000 a piece, are meant to be a “social critique on how things are going from all different angles of society”. Establishing Art Basel as an annual event here has helped revitalise the city, creating a thriving arts scene in some formerly impoverished neighbourhoods. Its new cottage industry also has given a shot in the arm to the city’s museums and universities, and has helped shore up sagging real estate values. The event this year will see hotels and restaurants reap some US$11 million, a 4 per cent increase over 2010. And Miami being Miami, the event is also an opportunity for high fashion events, including some of the international glitterati’s most breathlessly awaited parties. The weekend calendar includes an art show sponsored by Louis Vuitton, with special libations supplied by champagne-maker Ruinart. Such well-known international brands as Fendi, Audi and Veuve Clicquot are also a visible presence, as they sponsor various receptions and other events during the four-day event. Meanwhile, the Miami’s main art museum is to host a formal ball, with attendees to include pop diva Gloria Estefan and other luminaries. – AFP
The Business Times, Friday, November 25, 2011
The writing’s on the wall
AROUNDTOWN A play for women, by women Three women, completely different in character, but binded by their experiences with one, violent man. Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (right) by Skinned Knee Productions takes on the very serious issue of domestic violence with a series of monologues and scenes that weave together the stories of three women: Lynette, a quiet and spiritual woman; Ruby, a rebellious youth; and Jodie, a cheerful and loving teenager. With an all-female cast of Kluane Saunders, Karina Sindicich, Sophie Wee, the piece aims to spread awareness about violence against women and its impact on society as a whole. The play is directed by Rayann Condy. The play is on at the cafe, Speakeasy, from Nov 30 to Dec 3 . Tickets cost $25. Speakeasy is located at 54 Blair Rd. Tickets available at www.skinnedkneeproductions.com
Filipino fusion palette Artist collaborations have always been a tradition in Filipino art, and Galerie Sogan & Art celebrates that with their current group exhibition, titled Interplay. Featuring the five-man collective, Quinta, the exhibition highlights five large works (below) created through the combined efforts of the group members. Each work is made instinctively, and makes references to works by other artists as a comment on the interaction between artists, curators and all that is in the art market, and how that influences artworks. Each big work is supported by five smaller works that relates to the narrative presented in the bigger work. The exhibition is held in collaboration with the Philippine Embassy. Interplay is on at Galerie Sogan & Art until Dec 22. The gallery is open from 12pm to 7.30pm from Mondays to Saturdays, and 2pm to 5pm on Sundays. It is located at 33B Mosque St (Level 3). For more info log on to www.soganart.com
Taking Chinese opera to the streets Gone are the days when people would gather around a wooden stage in the middle of the street to watch a piece of Chinese opera together. But here’s a chance to relive those memories, except in a cosier environment. Catch the traditional Cantonese opera, Dream of The West Chamber at the Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre. Based on the original opera scripted by Tang Di Sheng, the opera explores themes of love, trickery, tragedy and, of course, dreams in the heart-wrenching tale of star-crossed lovers, Mu Suhui and Yu Shuye, as they battle the odds to be with each other. Expect a sensory spectacle as colourful costumes and props come together with an enchanting score performed by ECHO Music Accompaniment Group. Dream of The West Chamber is on at Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre on Nov 26 from 3pm to 7pm. Tickets cost $10, $15, $20, $30 and $50. The theatre is at 30A Kreta Ayer Road. Contact Eunos Community Club at 6448 6971 for more information
Marquis bargains are back The annual designer furniture warehouse sale by Marquis is back. Expect discounts of up to 70 percent off on in-stock and display Italian furniture and home accessories, and up to 50 per cent off on new orders of imported furniture. Furniture by renowned designers such as Patricia Urquiola, Karim Rashid and Jean-Marie Massaud will also be available at rock bottom prices. The Annual Marquis Designer Furniture Warehouse Sale is on at Marquis @ Qsquare from Nov 26 to 27 from 10am to 8pm. Admission is free. Its address is 16 Tai Seng Street. Log on to www.marquis.com.sg for more information
Compiled by NATALIE KOH
Graffiti, all totally legal mind you, took pride of place at an exhibition recently, writes NATALIE KOH
RAFFITI shed its cane-worthy status for an evening last Saturday when a large crowd gathered around 18 graffiti artists to watch them take turns spraying a huge 10 by 2.2m canvas on a wall at Tanjong Pagar Distripark along Keppel Road. French rap was the soundtrack for the three-hour transformation of the blank canvas into a snazzy tableau of 18 different street art styles. To say the sight was rare would be a gross understatement. Granted, the artists – or writers, as graffiti artists are called – were spraying a piece of canvas propped up against a wall rather than the wall itself, but that’s as far as you can go in Singapore without being handed a jail sentence. Of course, the 18 writers – nine from Singapore and nine from France – knew that they were working within perfectly legal boundaries. Part of the combined exhibition, Off the Wall – Down by Law in Singapore, Lah!, between French gallery Wallworks Galerie and local art consultancy, Fortune Cookie Projects, the writers showed off their skills live for select groups of people in various part of Singapore through the week. On top of the mural at the distripark, three other large, pimped-up works of graffiti art were created by the writers: one with the students from the French School of Singapore; another with students with mild intellectual disabilities from Delta Senior School at Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort; and the last at Changi Prison as part of a workshop for prison inmates. With the rise of graffiti as a recognised artform throughout the world, Claude Kunetz, owner of Wallworks Galerie, decided to see if the trend had extended to Asia as well. After a successful combined exhibition in Jakarta, Indonesia with a local gallery there, he thought, “why not come to Singapore too?” “I knew it would be difficult to do it in Singapore,” he shares, in a lilting French accent. “I heard about the Swiss man who got into trouble for vandalising a train here. But I talked to the French Ambassador, and we got a permit.” Since Fortune Cookie Projects had conducted a collaboration between local and American graffiti artists before, co-director Howard Rutkowski thought it would be a good idea to join hands with French writers. And that’s how French writers, Alex, Ceet,
By NATALIE KOH IT’S not uncommon for young Singaporeans to want to go out and explore the world before settling back home to start a career. But every once in a while, you get someone who chooses not to return, much to the dismay of his parents. It’s something that playwright Yang Ming noticed has become so prevalent in Singapore that she has written a play about it. Funnily enough, the genesis of the story wasn’t personal experience, or from someone close to her. It came from her fish pond. “A few years ago, something happened to my family’s fish pond, and my dad decided to transfer the fish out,” Ms Yang says. “Unfortunately, they couldn’t adapt and all of them died. So I thought, what happens when you put someone into a completely different environment – how would they feel and what would they do?” After much thought and countless rewrites, the story finally evolved into Jen’s Homecoming, a play that runs this weekend. The protagonist, Jen (Adeline Pang), returns home from London with the sole intention of telling her father that she wants to stay in London to pursue a fashion career. At the same time, however, her father wants to tell her of the grand plans he had made for her permanent return to Singapore. It’s a complicated situation, but one that will touch the hearts of all Singaporeans. The message, Ms Yang says, is “about balancing fulfilling one’s responsibilities and fulfilling one’s own dreams”. And she hopes that the message will reach out to both the young and old generations of Singapore. For the older genera-
Writers’ canvas: French rap was the soundtrack for the three-hour transformation of the blank canvas into a snazzy tableau of 18 different street art styles. Featured here is a tableau of works by Kongo (left), whose real name Cyphil Phan
Colorz, Fenx, Gilbert, Kongo, Lazoo, Sonic and Tilt were introduced to the Singapore writers, Antz, Asno, Mimer, Myow, Scope, Slacsat, TR853-1 (pronounced as Trace-one), Clog Two and Jaba. These aren’t their real names, of course. They just came out of tagging – the practice of signing a piece of graffiti art with a nickname – or tag – to claim bragging rights. Because graffiti in public areas is, well, illegal in most parts of the world, writers would come up with pseudonyms for themselves to avoid getting caught. Apart from the murals, 72 individual works by the artists are also being showcased at ArtSpace@Helutrans. The aim of conducting such a large scale exhibition, is, according to Mr Rutkowski, “to demonstrate that graffiti is truly a global art form, practised by artists everywhere and, hopefully, to create greater awareness among the public”. So far, the response has been pretty positive, with the opening reception seeing 600 guests attending, and about 25 per cent of the artworks already sold. However, Mr Rutkowski says that Singapore’s street art scene still has a long way to go compared to that of Europe and the United States. “There are a lot of writers here, but they have a limited audience. Interest is growing, but it will take time,” he shares. Mr Kunetz is a bit more optimistic
though. He points out that graffiti art only took off in galleries in the 1970s, and that was only in the US. Europeans only opened up to it in the 1980s, and as for Asia, graffiti art arrived here in the 1990s. “There are already two generations of writers in Europe,” says Mr Kunetz. “Many of the French writers in this project are about 40 years old, for instance. But those from Singapore are maybe 20 or 25,” he adds. “In France, there are exhibitions and auctions for street art every month, and in a few years, I think – I hope – Singapore will have the same.” Having such collaborations between local and foreign artists is a good start. “It’s great to have Singapore and French artists share the same art. And it was great to see the artists come together about two minutes before the live painting started and make art,” he says. “It was just like how street art is supposed to be: free.” Mr Rutkowski adds: “Live communal painting is the traditional heart and soul of graffiti and we wanted people to see it in action.” One of the French writers, Kongo, agrees: “That’s what I love about graffiti. It’s about sharing.” An established artist in the international street art scene, Kongo (whose real name Cyphil Phan), was recently commissioned by Hermes to do a line of scarfs.
In conjunction, he had created a graffiti live on the hoarding of Hermes Scotts Square last Friday night. The work will be up until the store’s opening on Dec 9. His works, just like those of the other writers, are extremely distinctive, and his creations for the exhibition and those for Hermes are vastly different. “The scarf designs are very letter-focused. I use a lot of alphabetic letters to create a graphic vocabulary,” he shares. But for the solo works at the Off The Wall exhibition, he felt a need to let go of his energy “and just explode onto the canvas. It’s more instinctive, and a kind of meditation for me”. Another artist to look out for is Colorz, who recently had one of his works auctioned off for a little higher than 20,000 euros – an extremely high amount for street art. Fellow writer and friend, Fenx, says of Colorz’s works: “He puts what a street gave to him onto the canvas. That’s what makes him so famous. Having a piece of his work is like having a part of Paris’s walls.” This exhibition will run at ArtSpace@Helutrans until Nov 26 and is offered as part of the Voilah! French Festival Singapore's programme. The exhibition is open daily between 11am to 7pm. The gallery is at the Tanjong Pagar Distripark (39 Keppel Road, #01-05)
tion, they get to understand their children’s points of view, and vice versa for the younger generation. While creating the part, which is supported by Skinned Knee Productions and directed by Hilmi Shukur, part of the research process involved finding out if the story truly was relevant in Singapore. She offers: “I spoke to a few people, and some of them told me that they had experienced something similar to Jen’s. There were people whose parents gave them permission to go out and fulfil their dreams – but only for two years. The condition was that they had to come back to fulfil their responsibilities, such as taking over the family business.” Family issues have always been a favourite topic of hers, Ms Yang says, “because of the plays that I tend to read. I’ve always been interested in family dramas”. But coming from a healthy family environment herself, the challenge for her was understanding the issues the play broached, such as comprehending the emphasis that parents placed on upholding the family legacy and the inner conflicts both parent and child faced. One other challenge was the “researching process on the fashion designers – their thoughts, their creativity process towards fashion design and their vibrant industry”. But it all came together in the end and it will definitely make audiences think about “how to let go of a person to let her pursue her dreams, and whether or not the grass really is greener on the other side”, she says.
PHOTOS: ERN & JOIS FOR CREATIVE CUBE
Rules of the roost: Protagonist, Jen (Adeline Pang, left)), returns home from London with the sole intention of telling her father (Jamie Shawn Tan, right) that she wants to stay in London to pursue a fashion career. But her father has grand plans for her permanent return to Singapore
Jen’s Homecoming is on at The Creative Cube Theatre, from Nov 25 to 27. Tickets $25. The theatre is at LASALLE College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street. For ticket purchases, visit www.skinnedkneeproductions.com/tickets. html
Lock and load, it’s war By CHRISTOPHER LIM
IF you have ever wanted to star in a Tom Clancy novel or Steven Spielberg war movie, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is your chance. The first-person shooter (FPS) is so deft at military thrills that this latest instalment in the Call Of Duty series raked in US$775 million (S$1,012 million) to break its predecessor’s record for the world’s biggest movie, book or game launch. And while hype definitely accounts for part of that frenzy, Modern Warfare 3 deserves its success. Multiplayer dynamics are polished and well implemented, with classic scenarios like Capture The Flag that will have you and your teammates glued to your screens for hours. It’s the expertly crafted single-player campaign, however, that vaults Modern Warfare 3 far ahead of its closest competitor, Battlefield 3. The latter’s forte is detail-oriented multi-player missions, but its single-player narrative is so bland as to obviously be an afterthought. Modern Warfare 3, however, will have your heart thumping and fingers twitching
for hours as it combines the suspense of TV series 24, dramatic savvy of movie Black Hawk Down and testosterone-driven bluster of arcade shooting games as it drags you across the world to stop what’s rapidly becoming a new World War. Real war involves a lot of monotony and waiting around, but the game conveniently cuts all these bits out to present you a story with comic book-style pacing. The physics of violence is spot-on, with explosions hurling vehicles in your direction, and missiles tracing believable trajectories as they arc towards you. But all other realism is thrown right out of the window. Every soldier is a violent force of nature with the skill and flair of James Bond – lucky beyond belief, and able to summon wisecracks even in the midst of hellishly frightening fire-fights. There are surreal game-within-a-game moments such as when your character whips out an Apple iPad-like tablet to control a helicopter gun turret remotely, with a bird’s-eye view and enemies marked by red boxes. It’s hard to tell if the game is poking fun at itself or taking all this gadgetry seriously.
The story continues 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 left off, rather than last year’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops, and brings back familiar super-soldier characters like Price and Soap. They are out to save the world from bloodthirsty Russian warlord Malakov, who unleashes chemical weapons in London, and tanks and nuclear submarines in New York. It’s an over-the-top apocalyptic plot to match the crazy action. This plot continuity from Modern Warfare 2, while sure to please fans of the series, also highlights the only real criticism one can level against Modern Warfare 3: it’s a bit predicta-
Movie-style meltdown: Soldiers in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are a violent force of nature with the skill and panache of James Bond – lucky beyond belief, and able to summon wisecracks even in the midst of hellishly frightening fire-fights but the game evolves the series’ strengths rather than contributing significantly to them. It gets away with this now but unless the next title Rating: Asubstantially rewrites the rule book, the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is available series could be dead in the water now for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs ble. The narrative isn’t the only thing that sticks closely to the franchise. The game evolves the Call Of Duty series’ strengths rather than contributing significantly to them. It gets away with this conservative polishing this time round, but unless the next Call Of Duty title substantially rewrites the rule book, the series will face a crisis of staleness.
L12 luxury living
THE BUSINESS TIMES WEEKEND SATURDAY/SUNDAY, MAY 14-15, 2011
Natalie Koh checks out watering holes where you can get that top-of-theworld feeling – and it’s not just from the alcohol 1-Altitude One Raffles Place (Levels 61/62/63) Tel: 6438 0410 Most sky bars and restaurants only give you one panoramic view of your surroundings, and that’s usually enough to keep customers wide-eyed throughout the night. But 1-Altitude (above left) takes it two steps further by offering its customers views of the Singapore cityscape from not just one, but three levels atop One Raffles Place. On the 61st floor is 282 (named after the number of metres it is above ground level), an interactive sports bar that screens international sports programmes. One floor up is the fine-dining restaurant, Stellar, which, like 282, is flanked by glass panes for an unobstructed view of the CBD area below. But the highlight of 1-Altitude is another ride up the lift, where the world’s highest rooftop bar awaits. With a sunken dance floor full with a deejay console and a bar in the middle, guests can walk around the perimeter of the diamond-shaped building and take in the 360-degree view. It is said that clouds sometimes form below that level, that some refer to it as a view from heaven. And it’s little wonder – there aren’t any other alfresco places for such a vantage view of Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The bar features specialty drinks; Monster Mojito ($18++), an exceptionally large glass of the traditional Cuban highball with great value for money, and a newly concocted Zen Breeze ($20++), created by Allison Dedianko, Global Belvedere Vodka Brand Ambassador, during the recent World Gourmet Summit.
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The hype for Marina Bay Sands has worn down a little already, especially since party-goers have tired of waiting for American night clubs Pangaea and Avalon to finally open there. But KU DÉ TA (above), which opened in September last year, has become the It spot for after parties as seen earlier this week when Avril Lavgine, Hurts and the Thriller Live cast came to town. It’s easy to see why, since its 14,500 sq ft space contains a poolside bar, restaurant and club lounge, all on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. You get an all-round view of the cityscape as well and the Sky Terrace offers a stunning bird’s-eye view of Marina Bay, overlooking a beautifully lit Esplanade and The Fullerton Hotel at night. If you want to indulge yourself with a light cocktail while still remaining sober enough to enjoy the view, you might want to try their Sunset Martini ($20++), which comes with its own lemon grass stick. Or try their al fresco dining, as they offer modern Asian cuisine by award-winning Chef Dan Segall. Continued on L14
L8 weekend with
THE BUSINESS TIMES WEEKEND SATURDAY/SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24-25, 2011
Intrepid traveller From diving with whale sharks in Africa to witnessing a wedding ceremony in Tajikistan, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan enjoys the nooks and crannies of the Earth. By Natalie Koh weekend with
prof tan chorh chuan president, national university of singapore
OLIDAYS today usually indicate a tight itinerary, early morning wake-up calls and whirlwind sightseeing. That means apart from the scenery, there’s little difference from the fast-paced life in Singapore you leave behind. That’s why to Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore, travelling ought to be a slow-paced affair. “Four weeks is a good time for a holiday,” he says. “You don’t have to plan the trip from one end to another. You just need to know where you’re starting and where you’re ending.” Of course, it’s hard to get away from work for a month at a time now, but in his younger, less busy days, he revelled in his long travels. “Part of the interest is not being stuck to a schedule. The process of travelling itself is interesting. It creates a sense of anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen, and you get to know yourself a lot better,” he enthuses. And now, with additional positions of deputy chairman of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and senior adviser to the Governing Board of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Professor Tan’s busy schedule only makes him appreciate long trips even more. “I usually need a few days to unwind and get out of the business mood or I’ll find myself very irritated about the long queues, or slow trains,” he says. “That’s a terrible way to travel.” His passion sparked during his university days when Eurail Train Passes were all the rage. “That was a really exhilarating experience because everything was so new to me,” he remembers. “In those days, Singapore was so
PROF TAN He trekked three hours with a party (left) to a village in Tajikistan to attend a wedding and he has been to South America’s Atacama Desert with his wife (below)
different from Europe. We didn’t even have McDonald’s, much less museums, so the difference was very stark.” It was such a memorable holiday for him that he began travelling every year. “Initially, it was just about seeing new things, and being exposed to new ideas and experiences.” But as time went on, he learnt to appreciate the process of travelling itself. “Say, if you take a public bus in the rural parts of China or South America, people come on in their native costumes, and you have chickens and goats on the road. Everywhere you stop, there’s something different.” To get that experience, you can’t sign up for a tour or plan your holiday down to toilet breaks. What the 52-year-old does is book his plane ticket, and figure out what to do only when he gets off the plane. He recalls one of his earlier trips to the Xinjiang Province of China in the 1980s. He went to the capital, Ürümqi, with the intention of moving on to Kashgar, a crucial part of the old Silk Road. But he bumped into an old Teochew man and they bonded over their ancestral roots. “I told him I was on the way to Kashgar,” Professor Tan shares, “But he said it’s not that interesting and recommended I go to Yining, which is near the Soviet border. He said there were minority groups that held horseraces out in the plains and is very exciting.” But when he arrived, he was met with hostility; he never got to see the horserace, and years later, he found out that Yining was known to be a very violent area at the time. Not exactly an ideal vacation, but an exciting one, to say the least. “You come across unexpected situations,” he admits. “But then you have the opportunity to reflect on how you reacted to things and what it tells you
about yourself. And because you’re travelling alone, there’re completely no distractions, and you have plenty of time to think.” Eventually, he did see a horserace out in the plains, but in Tibet. And since then, he has travelled to countless other countries. “In South America, I’ve been to Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Mexico,” he names. “And Central Asia: Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Outer Mongolia, Pakistan, many parts of China...” he trails off, but, well, you get the picture. He’s also gone diving with whale sharks in Djibouti, but his heart remains in the more remote countries. For one, there’s Tajikistan, where while trekking, he had bumped into a group of natives. “These guys looked like something out of the bible,” he laughs. “One of them was getting married and they wanted us to come along to take photos. It turned out to be a three-hour walk to the village, but it was a wonderful experience. We joined in the wedding ceremony and mingled with the men.” He recalls his trip to Chile, too, where he and his wife travelled northwards from Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip of Chile. As they moved up the latitudes, they experienced the differing climates: from the sub-Antarctic climate at Tierra del Fuego, to fjords, on to a volcanic area, and, finally, the famed Atacama Desert. That’s not to say he avoids your usual tourist sites like the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower, but “I’d rather see less and understand more,” he quips. So when he visits a famous site, “I read the history, or do some sketching. So what if you don’t see all the 15 or so famous sites in the place? What’s the big deal? It’s better to have a memorable experience than tick off sites on a list.” Even though his current job restricts the length of his holidays, it does offer some perks. “We can afford the full spectrum of travelling, like go to the Ritz Carlton, or in Paris, the two-star Michelin restaurant at the Eiffel Tower,” he says. “We’re also able to enjoy backpacker hostels with different food and different people.” But it’s all about soaking in the atmosphere, regardless of the budget. “It doesn’t need to be a swanky place. It could be a market, where you can just sit and watch people,” he shares.Currently on his wishlist is a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and a visit to Mount Kailash in Tibet. He doesn’t know when he can go there, but for now, he’s off to Bhutan for a 10-day trek. Don’t ask him what else he’s going to do there, though, he probably hasn’t decided yet.
P UB L I S HE D FE B RUA RY 0 2 , 2 0 1 3 CEOS' HAWKER CHOICES 2013
Happy together The Chinese serve it as tangy fruit salad while the Indians dish it up as a mixed platter of fried vegetable and seafood items. Regardless, the two different styles of rojak are extremely popular with Singaporeans of all races who usually eat it as an appetiser or side dish. Here are the top five as voted by the panellists of BT/Knight Frank's CEOs' Hawker Choices 2013
Toa Payoh Rojak Blk 51 Old Airport Road #01-108 Old Airport Road Food Centre Open from 12pm to 8pm (or when sold out) Closed on Sundays LONG queues are a pretty common sight at most famous hawker food stalls, but you will find no such thing at Old Airport Road Food Centre's Toa Payoh Rojak. Instead, you'll find customers gathered in front of the stall, staring at a small screen below its CRUNCH TIME Above: At Toa Payoh Rojak, the real draw of the dish is signboard for their number to appear. the incredible crispiness of the dough fritters - PHOTO BY YEN MENG JIIN This stall has done so well for itself that it has adopted a queue system much like that of your typical bubble tea shops. You take a queue number, wait for it to show on the screen, and then make your order. Within two minutes, your dish is served freshly sliced and mixed, and the next queue number lights up on the screen, much to the delight of its eager (and hungry) watchers. It's an idea that came up around eight years ago, says 82-year-old owner Cheng Kong Sang. "Previously, queues could get very long. By the time customers got their plates of rojak, their friends or family members back at their tables would've been done eating already. With the queue system, people don't need to be here at the stall to wait. They can go back to their tables and return after a while to make their orders." Mr Cheng opened the stall at Toa Payoh in 1971 out of his love for rojak before moving it to Old Airport Road around 30 years later. And it was also his penchant for rojak that brought about this recipe, which draws 40-minute queues during peak periods. As he had no one to teach him how to make the dish, Mr Cheng tried out many different plates of rojak to invent a version of his own, relying on customer responses and his own taste buds to tweak it into the delectable dish that it is today. He says the dish is ever changing and he constantly looks for ways to improve it after observing customer reactions.
In porridge haven
P UB L I S HE D NO V E MB E R 1 7 , 2 0 1 2 CEOS' HAWKER CHOICES 2012
In porridge haven Hawker fare generally isn't something your doctor or dietitian would recommend but for the health-conscious, there's always fish soup or porridge they can opt for. The dish is commonly prepared either Teochew or Cantonese- style, with hawkers using different types of fish and ingredients to give the broth its unique taste. Here are the best, as voted by the panellists of BT-Knight Frank CEOs' Hawker Choices 2012
Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon 1 Kadayanallur Street #01-77 Maxwell Road Food Centre Hours: 11am - 9pm;; closed on Thursdays Branch: 51 Old Airport Road #01-121 Old Airport Road Food Centre Hours: 11am - 7pm;; closed on Mondays THOSE who can't wait for Maxwell Road Food Centre to reopen so they can have their Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon fix, the good news is there's a branch at Old Airport Road that offers the exact same formula, but with a shorter wait. The Maxwell stall opened over two decades ago SOUP FOR THE SOUL Oh Chung Tian, continues the Jin Hua family tradition when 50-year-old Oh Chee Seng concocted his very at its branch at Old Airport Road Food Centre with the own Cantonese-style sliced fish bee hoon soup and stall's unmistakeably rich and tasty broth served with found it surprisingly delicious enough to sell. fried fish pieces bursting with flavour the moment you bite into them. - PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN Little did he know that 10 years later, he would have so many customers that the branch his brother, Oh Chung Tian, opened at Old Airport Road Food Centre would find itself serving an equally long queue daily. The soup is rich and tasty, and the fried fish pieces burst with flavour as you bite into them. The trick behind the soup is to boil it for three to four hours before serving, shares the younger Mr Oh. That means he has to be on location by 7am to serve his first customer by 11am. That's some hard work, especially for someone who was in interior design for a good few years before switching to the life of a hawker. "It was hard getting used to the 12-hour days, but all hawkers know that this is hard work, no matter what food you sell. But eventually, I got used to it, and now I enjoy it," he shares. Keeping the tradition is something of great importance to the two brothers, which is why the recipe has remained the same for the past 20 years. "Different cooks might have slightly different methods of cooking," the 43-year-old admits. "But the recipe and taste of the soup is essentially the same." Over the years, one challenge they faced was the rising cost of ingredients, which makes it hard for them www.businesstimes.com.sg/print/326092
Published on Apr 16, 2013