From music festivals and art exhibits that dominated Instagram to new street culture conventions, Singapore has seen a busy year in its arts and culture scene. There were plenty to choose from, but here’s our pick of key highlights that happened in 2018. Now, who said there isn’t anything to do on our sunny island?

Art From The Streets: Crime or sublime?

What an exhibition this was, as throngs of visitors queued up to catch a glimpse of works by Banksy, Shepard Fairey (aka Obey), and Invader. Southeast Asia got its own representation with Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho and Singaporean artists Speak Cryptic and Yok & Sheryo. Curated for the ArtScience Museum by Street Art expert Magda Danysz, Art From The Streets totalled more than 200 works — from large-scale mural paintings to installations, videos, sketches, and archival materials — by some of the world’s most iconic names. While critics claim that the showcase was nothing more than a superficial and commercial representation of the street art world, we say it’s still a good start for the movement, especially in a place like Singapore.

White Label is Singapore’s coolest integrated record store

Are we seeing the resurgence of vinyl? If Sharon Seet has anything to say about it, the answer is yes. White Label Records is the coolest music store to open this year, and with the people behind #vinyloftheday and Singapore Community Radio at the helm, we never had any doubt. Besides offering an eclectic selection of records from various eras and genres (particularly jazz, funk, soul, electronic, and hip-hop), this integrated record store serves as a community space for music lovers to catch DJs and live acts over beers and special cocktails. Need a space for gigs, workshops, screenings, or talks? They’ve got you covered.

Laneway Festival: a final swan song?

There’s no denying that Australia’s St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival has had a good run in Singapore, but is it almost out of steam? While the past eight years started out incredible, the number of attractive headliners slowly decreased over the years — to the dismay of disgruntled hipsters. In 2018, international acts included British rock group Wolf Alice and industry old guards Slowdive, as well as the Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Anderson Paak. These are great acts, though the numbers can’t help paling in comparison. What’s more, organisers have announced that the 2019 edition will not be proceeding in January, as it has been every single year.

Queer Zinefest brought the LGBT and zine community together

Beyond Pink Dot, the inaugural Queerzine Fest was an unprecedented opportunity to create an outlet for both the LGBTQA+ and zine circles in the region. The one-day event, which took place in July, saw over twenty zinesters from Singapore and Southeast Asia setting up pop-ups and showcases of their work without censors or regulations. Zine booths aside, we saw a number of enlightening panels and workshops by the likes of The Local Rebel and Stephanie Dogfoot, as well as live performances by queer musicians Jean Seizure, Aeriqah, Chris Hong, and Empatlines. Talk about a safe space!

Neon Lights returned after one-year hiatus

While Laneway Festival might be in a slump, we were stoked to hear that Neon Lights was making a return after an uncertain one-year break. Despite being plagued by rain almost every year (is Fort Canning Park cursed?) the homegrown indie music festival has impressed time and time again with stellar lineups, past alumnus being Sigur Ros, Crystal Castles, and Blood Orange. This year, we saw Malaysian superstar Yuna alongside ambient pop group Cigarettes After Sex and rock bands The Vaccines and Interpol leading the charge. With talented organisers and plenty of dope fringe events on the side, we can only look forward to the next edition with fervour.

The acclaimed Bahrain Art Week came to Singapore

Did you know that Bahrain is absolutely steeped in culture and art? We neither, not until Art Bahrain Across Borders finally brought the inaugural Bahrain Art Week to our shores. Curated around the theme of Legacy, the exhibition introduced Singapore to the 5000-year-old kingdom’s well-established and lively contemporary art traditions, and saw 18 contemporary Bahraini artists — 15 of whom were at the opening. Many, like Omar Al Rashid, Mariam Fakhro, and Seema Baqi have won prestigious art awards and exhibited in Europe, South America, and across the Middle East. It’s a welcome insight into a world so full of inspirational heritage, and we can only hope they return in 2019.

Tropika launched its inaugural social conscious event

Photo courtesy of Colossal Photos

Earlier this month saw the first edition of Tropika, a homegrown interdisciplinary events brand dedicated to worldly rhythms, art, and social justice. A gathering to drive conversation on inclusivity, sustainability and wellness, the one-day outdoor party inside Fort Canning Park was nine straight hours of quality music and wholesome food and drink. There were also inspiring panel talks about inclusivity in the creative industry with Audrey Perera (Festival Director of True Colours Festival), artist-performer Deborah Emmanuel, and Prashant Somosundram, a committee member at Pink Dot. It was a rainy affair, but that didn’t stop up from dancing to the cool tunes set out by local reps Funk Bast*rd, Beatroot Ensemble, NADA, and to complete the night — international luminaries Daniel Haaksman and Gabriele Poso.

Culture Cartel brought together region’s largest names in street culture

Singapore has never had a street culture convention as big as this month’s Culture Cartel, and the same goes for a large part of the region. And at a time when KAWS and Supreme have become household names around the world, it’s about time. With whole sections of the F1 Pit Building dedicated to art, toys, tattoos, and fashion, more than 100 participating street artists, designers, tattoos, and urban brands presented their wares and services across two floors. Participating brands and individuals included SBTG, Mightyjaxx, Obey, PUMA, and Stash — mighty big names for this first-of-its kind street culture extravaganza.

Top Image: Tropika (Photo courtesy of Colossal Photos)