As a book lover, I was super excited when I heard about the Singapore Art Book Fair happening at the Singapore Art Science Museum. It is basically a place for smaller publishing companies and independent artists to showcase and offer their work to the masses. What intrigued me was that I will be able to see books and other works that are not as mass produced as the books that we see in Kinokuniya or Popular.
In a nutshell, this book fair is a huge gathering of hipsters and the art committee and Singapore. Both are obviously not mutually exclusive.
I decided to go on opening night. My thought process was that I will be able to see the entire range of what all the booths had to offer and certain exclusive books or one-of-a-kind items won’t be gone.
What was I even thinking? Looking back I wanted to shoot myself in the face for thinking this was a good idea. The opening night was incredibly packed. My assumption was that this fair will be held outdoors and there will be ample space to browse from booth to booth. Unfortunately the fair was indoors, on the 4th floor of the art science museum. And it was a tiny floor indeed. With the number of people that turned up, there was barely space to move, let alone to view the booth tables. Towards the end of the night, the Art Science Theatre had to call in security to do some crowd control. Rather elderly men and women clad in fluorescent orange shirts and gloves were manning the entrance like the door bitches to an exclusive club.
People who left the space to go out had a difficult time coming back into the building. My friend, Josh, was stuck outside because people were denied entry at about 9pm. Honestly, the space was a major concern.
I found myself pushed and shoved a lot. Also, I realised that the art committee in Singapore is very small. Everyone kind of knew everyone else. I found it tough to talk to the people mending the booth because they were mostly talking amongst themselves and catching up with each other. I felt like I was constantly interrupting them when I was inquiring about prices of certain zines or books. But that is expected on opening night as these booths probably invited a bunch of their friends to come and support them.
So in hind sight, I should’ve waited till the days after the opening night to visit the fair. Hence, I would suggest that the next time you go for the actual Singapore Art Book Fair (which I believe is a yearly event) and skip the opening night.
Despite the crammed experience, I thought that the booths were all interesting. Local publishing company, ‘Books Actually‘ was particularly popular with hoards of youths gathering around their booth, grabbing for their poetry novels on the table. Some are frequent customers looking for specific writers, which I thought is so amazing for the local art scene. Local youths looking for poetry by fellow locals fills my heart with joy.
The Singapore Art Book Fair also featured artists and writers from all over the world; Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Australia. Besides books, they were selling merchandise like badges, iron-on patches, pottery, accessories and art work. Thus, can see why the place was crawling with hipsters. I should’ve dressed to blend in with the crowd more.
Another booth that was swarmed with people was ‘Magpie‘. Magpie is a local magazine distribution company that sells indie magazines from all over the world. Here, you won’t find Vogue or Men’s Health. She has a large collection of visually captivating magazines such as ‘B’ (a Korean magazine that dedicates each issue on the history of a Brand) and ‘Cereal’ (an independent travel and lifestyle magazine that gives Kinfolk a run for its money in terms of minimalist designs). All the magazines are slightly over priced, in my honest opinion. Most of them make for great coffee table books as they are so pleasing to the eye. However, lots of them feature more photos than actual articles to read.
Nevertheless, if you are a fan of design, the magazines are to die for! I, myself, bought one. An issue of ‘B’ magazine on Nars cosmetics, figures. It was $28, which is pretty steep for a magazine. But it was an ‘in-the-moment’ type of decision. Also there are good quality souvenir tote bags for $18 a pop. A perfect addition to a hipster wardrobe.
Overall, it was a good experience. Lots of interesting works to look at and if you are a sucker for aesthetic, you will feel like buying everything in sight. I wished that the location was a bit more open and that there were interesting stories I could extract from the vendors, but due to how popular the fair is, it’s pretty hard to have good one on one conversations. Still, I am happy to see that the arts scene in Singapore is buzzing with youth and excitement.
It truly gives me hope.