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Ann Siang Hill, Singapore

Notebook with painting of Ann Siang Hill painted by watercolour artist Loy Chye Chuan

Many artists love Ann Siang Hill. The quaintness of the yellow-painted shophouses attracted artists to pick up their palettes and paints. Probably the yellow stood out from the paintings or the little steps leading to the front of the shop, the charm is unexplainable. This nostalgic and eye-catching shophouse is definitely not a place to be missed by anyone who is looking to paint those historical shophouses of Singapore.

A little background about Ann Siang Hill

Ann Siang Hill is named after Chia Ann Siang, a wealthy Chinese saw-miller in the 1800s. This attraction is situated along a small stretch of road in Chinatown, flaunting its array of refurbished shophouses. The street was formerly a place where many locals conjugate and share their cultures into the mix of Singapore’s cultural diversity.

The architectural designs of these shophouses incorporate the use of Chinese porcelain roof tiles, French windows, as well as Malay fretwork, all of which reflect Singapore’s distinct blend of cultural heritage. Quaint and picturesque, this humble place holds a rich history behind the facade of every shophouse.

These shophouses were once owned by Chinese clans as well as associations. You can hardly discover any location as unique as Ann Siang Hill in Singapore.  Ann Siang Hill is a place where the city’s modernity and tradition converge as well. It presents itself as a pretty piece of Singapore’s heritage in the day while transforming into a place for fun and buzz during the night with its rows of shops and bars to satisfy any customer. Ann Siang Hill is a great spot to unwind after a long day, catch up with buddies, or have a family outing. If you are a tourist or visitor venturing around Singapore, Ann Siang Hill is highly recommended. 

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Singapore River

A stroll along Singapore River and one will be enchanted by the beauty and rich history of the river. This is another favourite place frequently visited by an artist to capture the bumboats cruising along the river and under the sunray filtered through the old trees along the bank of the river.

Since 1960 Singapore watercolour artist Loy Chye Chuan has been capturing the scenes at Singapore River and painting it passionately through the decades, he loves the allure of Singapore River and it remains one of his favourite scenes to paint.

Some of the historical buildings like Fullerton Hotel (previously the General Post Office Building) and National Gallery are located within a short walking distance from Singapore River.

Singapore River is the Heart of the city.

Originally, the entrance to the river was once the Port of Singapore. Throughout the history of Singapore, the river is where all the hustle and bustle of the city revolves around. The port was the centre of the city’s main trade, commerce as well as finance, which resulted in growth around the port as well.

Like the heart of the city, the river pumps and transports in trades and finance needed for the developing country to grow and flourish. In the past, the river was always chocked full of sampans, lighters, tongkangs as well as bumboats. Hawkers and vegetable sellers would squat by the river to carry out their daily barters.

However, the river got polluted from the build-up of waste produced by these daily businesses. As a result, the government had to issue a massive clean-up of the river from 1977 to 1987. Presently, the river is a prominent landmark that helps with the sustainability of Singapore’s water supply while providing the citizens with a spot for sports leisure.  

 Singapore River bears witness to how Singapore went under British colonial ruling as well as the Japanese occupation before gaining their rightful independence in 1965. It now narrates the great tale of Singapore’s history and development over the years, from a tiny fishing port to a prosperous bustling city. 

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Chinatown Singapore

Many local artist love to find a spot in Chinatown Singapore to sketch, draw and paint. The nostalgic shophouses and bustling street scene bring in fond memories and nothing is more fulfiling than seeing the vibrant colours of the street come alive in paintings. The streets of Chinatown are especially beautiful with bright lanterns and colourful displays of Chinese harmonic characters during the festive season like Chinese New Year and Mooncake Festival.

Veteran watercolour artist Loy Chye Chuan has painted many of the Chinatown Street scenes from Smith Street, Trengganu Street, the alley between the shophouses, morning market scene of hawker selling vegetables and other fresh produce are some of the pictures that he had captured and painted.

Here’s a brief history a Chinatown Singapore

Chinatown, Singapore is likewise known as Niu Che Shui in Mandarin is located within the Outram Park district in Singapore. Niu Che Shui directly translates to “bull-cart-water” since Chinatown’s supply of water was mainly transported by animals back in the 1800s. This term is still commonly used among the ethnic Chinese in Singapore and links back to the fact that Chinatown was once an ethnic Chinese enclave. Chinatown is the incorporation of 4 prominent sub-zones such as Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar as well as Bukit Pasoh. Many immigrants from China resided in this area due to the Raffles Town Plan in the 1800s.
Now, Chinatown has many temples and mosques for worship. These religious sites are placed beside one another such as the Sri Mariamman temple, Buddha tooth relic temple and the more well known Thian Hock Kheng temple. Visitors of these temples often pay their respect to other religions as well. This act signifies Singapore’s religious harmony and the fact that they were placed together shows that the different races and religions in Singapore had no qualms.

All across the streets of Chinatown, are rows of quaint shophouses. The architectural designs of these shophouses are a mixture of Baroque as well as Victorian style of architecture and have been restored in the style of painted ladies. It is evident from the addition of fanlights and pilasters which were Italian styled. These architectural designs are brought in by the Chinese immigrants inspired by similar architecture in Macau. 

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The Arts Community in Singapore

In the span of only 50 years, Singapore has grown from a conservative kampong town to a community of culturally expressive arts lovers.

The city’s thriving arts scene and growing acceptance of the arts as a viable education and career choice have seen the community grow exponentially in recent years, with the numbers of artists and educated audiences steadily rising.

What Singapore lacks in history (we are only 50 years young, after all), is made up for with enthusiasm for pushing arts to the forefront of society. The country’s collection of world class arts events, exhibitions and galleries have added to its reputation as a flourishing regional and international arts hub. With this branding firmly in place, Singapore commonly draws affluent collectors to the country and its many exhibitions.

Local painters are benefiting from the shift in landscape and wider appreciation for the arts, and are now seeing a higher demand for their work from international art collectors and investors. Once unheralded artists and artworks are now being exhibited at local galleries and sold at the premium valuations they deserve.

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Art Exhibitions

Individual art exhibitions and displays are held at boutique galleries around the island every month. Keeping up with these exhibitions keep arts lovers happily occupied, and ensure a stream of buzzing chatter amongst the arts community, both on and offline.

If you have a more casual appreciation of the visual arts and prefer to look for “always there” exhibitions in and around the city – you’ll be delighted to know that rotating arts displays and public events are held at several national landmarks. Take a stroll around these venues (listed below) and challenge your imagination.

National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore aims to solidify Singapore’s identity as a regional hub for visual arts. At an impressive 64,000 square metres, the gallery is one of the largest visual arts venues in the region.

National Gallery Singapore also organises activities the public can take part in and enjoy. These include artist workshops, doodling lessons, film screenings, children’s workshops and more.

National Gallery Singapore will display a comprehensive collection of modern art from Singapore, Asia and the world.


The Esplanade is a brilliant showcase of Singapore’s dedication to the arts. 365 days a year, the arts live in every corner of the Esplanade, beginning from the walk toward its underground entrance – a 100 metre long tunnel transformed into a rotating visual arts experience that throughout the year, scrolls through a myriad of themes, cultures and art types, including paintings, crafts, words and film.

Inside the Esplanade, the concourse is home to music, craft and sculpture.

Singapore Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) keeps the arts at the forefront of people’s minds with engaging activities all year round, including:

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The Value of Art as a Collectors’ Item

While it is true that an artist’s skill, technique and ability to capture the essence of his subject are crucial elements in creating a masterful work of art, history has shown that art collectors purchase art for personal reasons (that may not be associated with the artist’s skill with the brush).

For this reason, art is often appraised according to the perceived value art collectors put on a particular work of art, rather than the technicalities of the artwork itself.

What then, is the defining characteristic that differentiates a $50 art piece, from a $10,000 one? Often, it is the story behind the art. This could mean the biography of the artist, and how this one painting was influenced by a particularly powerful time in his life. Or it can be the history, memories and stories that are captured by a snapshot of a historical location, influential person or time in history. It is the art that emotes, that is special.

The true value of art lies not in its physical beauty, but its ability to inspire significance, feelings and meaning that’s beyond skin deep. That is what art collectors appreciate, and the gauge of an art piece’s value as a collectors’ item.

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What is Art?

“Art is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary.”

Paul Gauguin, (1848–1903), Peruvian-born French Artist

Imitation or creation, self-expression or autobiography? Art is a kaleidoscope of everything it means to be human. It is a form of communication, a transmission of the feeling through a burst of colour and movement, or the stillness of sculpture. Art is imagination, a journey into environments and worlds previously unseen. Or a stroll into the familiar.

Art is studied, its vaunted professionals credited with fine brush strokes and other artistic skills. Yet art is inspiration, and inspiration cannot be studied. Art is born of ideas, yet thoughts alone cannot be considered as art. They must be transferred from the artist, to the recipient – in the form of physical pieces such as paintings and sculptures, or through other visual and auditory ques.

Though the concept of art is broad, the commonly appreciated form of art is in its visual form. This includes drawings, paintings and sculptures that are appreciated for their beauty, brilliance and emotive appeal.

Art is simply, an artist’s ideas brought to life – to be seen, felt and cherished by an appreciative audience.

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The Art Scene in Singapore

The Art Scene in Singapore

The popularity of art in Singapore has been on the rise since 2006, when the country hosted its first Biennale. Today, the local arts scene is as a diverse as its cultural makeup and features a vibrant collection of local and international artists sharing the spotlight at exhibitions throughout the year. This country’s diminutive size, definitively contrasted by the dazzling breadth and depth of artwork on display.

Museums and galleries are not the only places you will be able to appreciate Singapore artists’ talents. A stroll along Orchard Road and Marina Bay will reveal various art installations. While you’re in the city, look closer – hidden in plain sight are boutique arts retailers, privately owned establishments that offer an eclectic selection of paintings, sculptures and other valuable works of art within their walls.

Funding for the arts is alive and well in the country, with over S$80 million projected to be invested into the local arts scene over the next few years. In arts education, $160,000 has been put aside for 13 selected schools to implement customied arts initiatives for students.

Major arts events in Singapore include Art Stage Singapore, Affordable Art Fair and Singapore Biennale. In 2013, the country’s most popular arts exhibition (Art Stage Singapore) drew an impressive 46,000 visitors in 4 days, including prominent local and international collectors. Unfortunately it was discontinued in 2019.