Category Archives: Arts

Dempsey gets a new lifestyle quarter

Tanglin Village started out in the 1860s as army barracks. In the 1990s, it became known for its furniture shops. After the turn of the century came upmarket restaurants such as PS. Cafe, as well as art galleries.

Now, Tanglin Village is undergoing a makeover and is getting Dover Street Market a well-known multi-label fashion store in  a new lifestyle quarter.

Chang Korean BBQ Restaurant and antique store Shang Antique – will move out when their leases expire on Feb 29, to make way for the new tenant.

Como Dempsey, a complex housing Dover Street Market, is an edgy concept store conceived by Comme des Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo, and a specially conceptualised restaurant and bar by renowned French restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The 5,268 sq m site, comprising blocks 17 and 18, will also have a new dining concept offering signature dishes from around the world. Popular local Peranakan restaurant Candlenut has been included in the proposal.

The new project is expected to “significantly contribute to creating and sustaining the vibrant Dempsey atmosphere and Singapore’s tourism scene”, said Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, STB’s director of attractions, dining and retail.
Como Lifestyle offered to pay a monthly rent of $106,300 for an initial lease term of three years, renewable up till Dec 31, 2022.
The debut of “Como Dempsey” will mark the latest chapter in the area’s transformation.
You can find out more:

A Family Business, a Heritage Legacy

Kampong Glam, an ever hip arts enclave, is a heritage district in the city. It is distinctive as being the former palace of the sultan, it has an immersion of rich cultures from Malay, Arab, Turkish, Javanese influences, while also having Indian, Chinese and Eurasian touches in the neighbourhood. Sultan Gate, a road leading to the former Sultan Palace which is currently a Malay Heritage Centre, is also a “gate” to a wealth of Art and Legacy.

pic2Just located outside the Malay Heritage Centre, lies a row of shophouses that are full of art and heritage. Within a wall of street art, a shop strikes out. Within a glass frontage, one can see the unique Malay and Javanese craft welcoming you into the interiors.

SAMSUNG CSC “Kiah’s Gallery” is a Batik-inspired arts showsroom. Started by a Malay family, one can see the family legacy passed down to the modern age. Yati, the founder of the gallery, started the business together with her family, including her husband and daughter Ain, three years ago. They called this business “Kiah’s Gallery”, with inspired with the name of Ain’s nenek or grandma, as part of keeping the family legacy.

SAMSUNG CSCBeing inspired by a Batik piece they bought from a trader, they grew to love this art, despite it being a dying craft in Singapore. With their personal love of the art reaching its peak three years ago, the family decided to convert their personal love to share with the lovers of this unique Batik art.


SAMSUNG CSCFor the first 18 months, the business was tough. Being new in this line and having to compete with other players in the neighbourhood, Kiah’s Gallery had to find a place in this business. From purely retailing batik-designer pieces, they have extended their services into tailoring and customization, as well as introducing other art pieces like paintings and sculptures.

SAMSUNG CSCSince then the business has been growing well. Their customers consist of a mix of locals as well as tourists. Kiah’s Gallery also carry designer pieces and artefacts that reflect the cultural influences of the Nanyang and Malay heritage. Art pieces from internationally renowned Batik painter Sarkasi Said are also displayed and sold here.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery Batik piece is an art. There are several techniques in the craft. It has influences involving Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Malay and Javanese cultures, as this part of the world has such infuses of these cultures throughout the centuries. Different emblems, like the phoenix and other legendary icons symbolizes the influence of the associated culture. Now there are also modern touches to the craft, like Japanese incursions, to make Batik an exciting artpiece to wear. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSC If you are interested to visit the gallery and explore for yourself, please note the following information.

Name: Kiah’s Gallery (look for Yati and Ain)

Address: 71 Unit B Sultan Gate Singapore 198496

Wear an Artpiece, Touch a Legacy (Introduction to Batik Art and fashion)

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

“Batik is a technique of manual wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. Batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colors are desired.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCA tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Nigeria, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the most well-known. Indonesian batik made in the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. ”

Batik art was rather unappealing to me for quite a long time. Preferring contemporary art work, I thought Batik art as somewhat outdated and unfashionable. Even old Chinese art fascinated me more than Batik. The closest encounter I had with Batik art, was during a trip to Genting in 2001. It was during a short trip shortly after my graduation when my friends and I were thinking of visiting the casino, but we were not in the right attire. Based on the management, we have to wear either collared formal or Batik wear. Being newly-minted engineering graduates then, our apparel style was just the basic streetwear of T-shirts and jeans. That killed off any idea of visiting the casino there even till now, as well as any positive feel in this art ironically.

After the visit to Kiah’s Gallery in 71 Unit B Sultan Gate, my encounter for Batik art took a new twist. The owners of the gallery, Yati and Ain, introduced  a new batik world to my partner and I . What I thought as just some outdated craft in making clothes is actually a detailed art with centuries of history. It has influences from Chinese, Indian, Dutch and other cultures, which periodically have a major influence in the South-East Asia region over the past millennia. Every fabric has a story to tell and a culture to teach.

SAMSUNG CSCUsing each batik fabric, one can tailor into fashionable apparel according to one’s needs. Kiah’s Gallery is retailer of Batik art as well as customizer of batik wear. Their passion to revive the dying batik art propelled them to share with the public, using dedicated craftwork and skillful hands into an fashionable wear one can put on their body.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCEvery batik fabric is an delicate piece of art. The fine prints as well as the details of every step can be observed on the fabric itself.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCAt Kiah’s Gallery, the owners have prepared many fashion wear based on the batik fabric. Styles similar to Chinese, Arabic, African and modern wear can be found in Kiah’s Gallery. Each batik fabric can be bought from $35 onwards, while each fashion artwear can be had from $100 onwards.

If you are interested to find out more, you can visit Kiah’s Gallery @ 71B Sultan Gate in Kampong Glam. 71 sultan gate

ST: Bringing back Buzz to Orchard Road

If there is one commodity you can find easily at Orchard Road these days, it’s the doldrums. Anywhere you look, someone is peddling a downbeat message.

The latest came from property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield, which reported that rents of prime retail space have fallen to a four-year low in Singapore’s premier shopping strip.

Then there are the lacklustre economy that is keeping spending in check, the rise of suburban malls and online shopping and fewer tourist arrivals.

Add in reports that long-time retailer Metro was disappointed with the level of sales rung up after moving to The Centrepoint, or that the newest mall, orchardgateway, lacks shoppers, and it’s hard not to get the impression of an Oscar-winning actress past her prime.

But take all these portents of doom with a pinch of salt. Orchard Road has been a shopping haven since the 1960s and it isn’t going to lose its crown without a fight.


Take a stroll along Orchard Road and the Singapore business scene unfolds in front of you. Old money, new kids on the block, Singapore corporates and foreign players are all present. Regional diplomacy is on show with the sprawling Thai Embassy offering a stretch of greenery and calm.

Take a short detour along Scotts Road, where the Sultan of Brunei lends a royal touch with his Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel. Shaw House and Shaw Centre, built by entertainment moguls the Shaw Brothers, represent the presence of old money.

Take a stroll along Orchard Road and the Singapore business scene unfolds in front of you. Old money, new kids on the block, Singapore corporates and foreign players are all present. Regional diplomacy is on show with the sprawling Thai Embassy offering a stretch of greenery and calm.

The portfolio of some of the biggest firms in Singapore is on show here, including City Developments. Far East Organization, whose founder Ng Teng Fong earned the moniker “King of Orchard Road” for developing eight malls in the stretch – it has recently added a ninth – still stands tall. It owns Orchard Central, large chunks of Orchard Towers and Far East Shopping Centre, among other jewels.

Tycoon Ong Beng Seng speaks for the rest of this stretch with HPL House, Forum The Shopping Mall, and the Hilton Singapore and Four Seasons hotels.

Ion Orchard, developed by CapitaLand in a joint venture, adds a wealth of glitzy charm with its unusual facade and duplex flagship stores of top designers.

Singapore Press Holdings’ Paragon and its expensive shops help give the shopping belt an air of exclusivity. Frasers Centrepoint owns The Centrepoint while OCBC Bank owns orchardgateway. Australia’s Lend Lease has made its foray into Orchard Road with 313@somerset.

But imposing Ngee Ann City, owned by the Ngee Ann Kongsi, with its Civic Plaza the centre of any action, continues to dominate Orchard Road.


International brands still continue to make Orchard Road their first port of call when they come to South-east Asia. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M and American casual wear brand Abercrombie & Fitch opened mega-stores in the vicinity to much fanfare in 2011.

American sports apparel brand Under Armour opened its first South-east Asia outlet at orchardgateway in May last year .

French-Italian apparel and lifestyle brand Moncler will launch its first South-east Asia stand-alone boutique, slated to be completed by the end of this year, in Ion Orchard.


Shopping in Orchard Road remains an experience that can’t be found elsewhere. Dr Lee Nai Jia, DTZ research head, said the street has constantly been reinventing itself. He and various industry players cite events such as annual fashion extravaganza Fashion Steps Out and Pedestrian Night. Both are initiatives by the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) and the Singapore Tourism Board.

Mr Mark Shaw, Shaw Organi- sation’s executive vice-president and Orba chairman, said: “It’s a day out. Even if you live next to Jurong Gateway, or Nex in Serangoon, the pedestrian street experience differentiates Orchard Road. You can walk the entire length and pop into any shop you choose. It’s not just a single mall in the suburbs.”

Malls owners are kept on their toes with the new competition.

“Six years after Mandarin Gallery was launched, we have to go about updating our tenancy mix to ensure that the mall remains relevant,” said Dr Stephen Riady, executive chairman of OUE, which holds Mandarin Orchard Singapore and Mandarin Gallery through OUE Hospitality Trust. Mandarin Gallery had a $200 million facelift and opened in January 2010 with high-end shopping in mind. Dr Riady said the mall has a part to play in upkeeping Orchard Road’s reputation of a “world-class shopping street”.

Certainly, the retail sector is risky to begin with, said Knight Frank Singapore executive chairman Tan Tiong Cheng. “Every five to seven years, you need to do some repositioning and strategic thinking.”

Shaw Centre and Shaw House completed their revamp in November, while Tangs started a $45 million revamp of its store in 2012.


Critics may say Orchard Road has stood still but the new malls near Somerset MRT station that replaced an open-air carpark and tired buildings prove them wrong. Lend Lease’s 313@somerset and Far East Organization’s Orchard Central opened their doors in 2009, while orchardgateway opened last year.

Now that the area around the Somerset station is up and running, the action is moving elsewhere.

The eight-storey Cairnhill Place carpark – part of the Cairnhill Place property – closed in 2012 for the site to be redeveloped by CapitaLand.

Nearby, the new 268 Orchard Road, formerly the Yen San Building, is being connected to The Heeren via basement and overhead walkways. These will put Orchard Road on a par with other inter-connected shopping havens like Hong Kong.

Further along the stretch, Hong Fok Corporation, which owns International Building, is redeveloping the adjoining carpark and the land parcel between the Thai Embassy and International Building, which it also owns. The carpark site – which drivers can see as they exit the Shaw Centre carpark – is being developed into a 30-storey, 610-room hotel to be operated by British brand Yotel.


This stretch of the Orchard Road shopping belt, from Far East Shopping Centre to Tanglin Mall, has seen little change in the past decade or so, with the exception of luxury hotel St Regis Singapore, which opened in December 2007.

Mr Kwek Leng Beng, whose City Developments and Hong Leong Group own several properties here, called for a more cohesive approach for the entire belt, for the Orchard Road precinct to retain its lustre.

R’ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said new strata malls could bring in more innovation from small retailers, which can offer personalised services and products.

Orchard Road enjoyed a big lift when the Orchard and Somerset MRT stations were built and Mr Kwek is confident the same will happen when the upcoming Orchard Boulevard MRT station on the new Thomson Line, near Camden Medical Centre, is completed, probably by the end of 2021.

“The future redevelopment potential lies in the upper Orchard area,” Mr Kwek said.

Mr Shaw still believes in the Orchard Road experience. He said: “Between all the buildings, there are plenty of offerings… When I go out for lunch, I regularly walk from Shaw Centre to pretty much anywhere; it’s great. These are the strengths of Orchard Road.”

You can also check out our online interactive graphic for more details about each building.

Oh, my Old SIngapore

As the nation celebrates its jubilee year, Nabilah Said & Deborah Lee speak to 10 local personalities about places that remind them of the Singapore of the past

1 JANICE WONG, 32, pastry chef and owner of 2am: dessertbar

Favourite spot: Chinatown

I lived in an apartment just above the Hong Lim Market and Food Centre till I was three years old and my grandmother continued to live there till I was nine.

In fact, the staircase I would take up to my house was just next to the popular Heng Kee Curry Chicken Noodles.

There used to be street buskers who would play music while we ate.

These days, I come here once every two months and the owners of Heng Kee still remember me.

Sometimes, they automatically serve me a glass of my favourite sugarcane juice when I am here.

It’s like coming back to family.

These hawker stalls that have been here for years are the ones that should be celebrated.

The owners of Heng Kee are here from as early as 3am to prepare the curry noodles and the queues are always snaking long.

I may be in the pastry business, but I love the flavours of food like this.

I take my friends from overseas to Chinatown often.

Even though some parts have been modernised, I think there’s still a lot of heritage to be found here.

One thing is for sure – the crowd has not changed. There’s a certain generation of older Singaporeans who are still here.

Nabilah Said

2 CAROLYN KAN, 42, founder- designer of Singapore artisan jewellery label Carrie K.

Favourite spot: Lazarus Island

Going to Lazarus Island (below) always feels like an adventure to jewellery designer Carolyn Kan (above). ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, ASHLEIGH SIM

Lazarus Island, off the south-west coast of Singapore, is the only place here where I feel like I am on an adventure.

It is an uninhabited island to which one does not have direct access – you have to take a ferry to St John’s Island and cross a link bridge to Lazarus.

One memorable incident there was when I found a set of train tracks that led nowhere. I wish I could remember exactly when.

Nowadays, whenever I visit the island with my husband, we make it a point to look for them after taking a boat ride to the island and after a swim.

Deborah Lee

3 KENNY CHAN, 63, store and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya

Favourite spot: Former MPH Building in Stamford Road, now known as Vanguard Building. The Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded it conservation status in 2003.

A good experience at the old MPH bookstore in Stamford Road (below) inspired Mr Kenny Chan (above) to join the book industry. PHOTOS: ST FILE

I love books. The MPH Building was one of my favourite places because it was right next to the old National Library. It was at the now-defunct MPH bookstore there that I was awarded the store’s book voucher, as a literature prize in school.

Inspired by the service there, I vowed to become the store manager and I eventually did it in the late 1980s.

Deborah Lee


4 BOO JUNFENG, 32, film-maker

Favourite spot: Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Film-maker Boo Junfeng (right) shooting his film, Parting, at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. PHOTO: PEANUT PICTURES

When I was in primary school, my parents took me on a train ride to Johor Baru. I still remember being on the noisy train, chugging through lush greenery and old HDB estates.

Tanjong Pagar was relatively quiet when it was still functioning.

I guess that was because it was the terminus of the KTM line. We used to say that when you came to the station, you were kind of already in Malaysia. We don’t get to say that anymore.

In its later years, I often went there with my friends for supper. The mee rebus at the cafeteria was very good.

It isn’t easy gaining access to the station now that it’s closed, but I’m glad the authorities have decided to open it to the public on public holidays.

I shot a key scene in my short film, Parting, which is part of the anthology 7 Letters, there. The scene is set in the 1960s.

For a brief moment, I tried to bring the station back to life again.

I’m glad I got to put it on film.

Nabilah Said

5 SAMANTHA SCOTT-BLACKHALL, 36, theatre director and artistic director of Blank Space Theatre

Favourite spot: Colonial-style cafe Colbar, Wessex Estate

Theatre director Samantha Scott-Blackhall likes Colbar cafe for its laid-back feel and quiet surroundings. ST PHOTO: NABILAH SAID

In the 1990s, I had just entered the theatre scene and a lot of the new friends I made then happened to live in the Portsdown Road area.

It was not unusual for us to clear their living rooms to rehearse for shows.

Colbar, nestled among the foliage of Portsdown Road, was a cool place to hang out at after rehearsals.

It was a very peaceful place to be at. All our attention was on one another and our stories.

The cafe is located away from the main road so there are no cars whizzing by – it is just the gentle hum of fans and pockets of laughter competing with the army of crickets all hanging out at Portsdown.

Actually, I didn’t realise it till now, but Colbar moved from Jalan Hang Jebat to its present location in Whitchurch Road in 2004.

I had some trouble finding it as I didn’t know it had moved, but then I saw the recognisable blue exterior and I knew that was it.

It has retained a lot of the old architecture, such as the timbre panels and clay roof tiles.

The laid-back atmosphere is still the same – and the insects are still there.

Nabilah Said

6 SANTHA BHASKAR, 76, Indian dance pioneer and artistic director of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy

Favourite spot: Victoria Theatre

Dancer Santha Bhaskar performed her first solo at the Victoria Theatre in 1955. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

I associate Victoria Theatre with my performances and my life.

I have performed there many times. In 1955, that was where I had my first solo performance. I was 15 or 16 years old and had to perform in front of a big audience.

I was from India and had only performed in temples or small theatres before.

The theatre was huge, like a palace, and the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles by the river made it seem even more majestic.

I remember the curtains and the lights, and the general impression of floating through space.

I wasn’t nervous, but I was filled with positive energy.

The theatre has been renovated since and its interior has shrunk in size. But I feel the same emotions when I step inside it. The spirit of the place remains the same.

Home is home.

Nabilah Said

7 SANDRA RILEY TANG, 25, musician from pop-folk band The Sam Willows

Favourite spot: Old-school HDB playgrounds

Musician Sandra Riley Tan (above) has happy childhood memories of playing at old-schoool playgrounds (below). PHOTOS: ERIC CHEN, STEPHANIE YEOW

There used to be a playground in the shape of a dragon near my school, Yuhua Primary School, in Jurong. I have fond memories of going there every day after school with my friends. We’d play catching and hide and seek, running up and down the spine of the dragon.

I would feel very excited, but also scared because I was supposed to be home. We’d spend one to two hours there before heading home.

It’s a bittersweet memory because I won’t be able to show my future kids that playground. Nonetheless, I still can’t resist a good playground. You can always find me on the swings. The higher the swing can go, the better.

Nabilah Said

8 JASON WONG, 51, board chairman of Focus On The Family and former Singapore Prisons Service deputy director and chief of staff

Favourite spot: Mount Faber

Mount Faber (below) was the playground of Mr Jason Wong (above) when he was growing up. PHOTOS: ST FILE

My father used to work for Keppel Shipyard, so my family lived in the shipyard’s staff quarters at the foot of Mount Faber until I was 12 years old.

I was still in lower primary school when a few families who were close friends started going on weekly pre-dawn walks. The walks usually took place on the weekends, when the fathers were not working.

We would set off after 5.30amto catch the sunrise on top of Mount Faber. I still remember the beautiful scenery at the peak.

On weekdays, the children would meet in the evening atop Mount Faber – where the cable car station is now located – or at a nearby park several flights of steps below Mount Faber’s peak, to play hide and seek, and catch butterflies. It was a playground in our backyard.

Deborah Lee

9 RANDY CHAN, 45, principal architect of architecture studio at Zarch Collaboratives

Favourite spot: Shophouse at 43 Blair Road

Mr Randy Chan’s grandmother once owned this shophouse in Blair Road. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The shophouse belonged to my grandmother and was where the Chan clan gathered for monthly reunions or festive occasions.

The house looked huge when I was younger. I remember seeing huge spiders and cobwebs at every corner of the house.

Its architectural features, such as the fan-shaped windows, had an old-world charm. The aged Peranakan floor tiles, some cracked, were rich in texture.

When my grandmother’s funeral was held there, there was one memorable incident.

I was on night vigil with some of my relatives, but had fallen asleep near the coffin after offering incense. At around 2am, a loud knocking came from within the coffin. Everyone became scared and huddled together, except for me – sound asleep and oblivious.

The next morning, my uncles said that it was possibly my grandmother’s ghost.

Vigil-keepers for the remaining nights of the wake stayed awake.

We sold the shophouse after my grandmother died in the 1980s.

Deborah Lee

10 FANDI AHMAD, 53, former captain and current coach of Singapore’s national football team Lions XII

Favourite spot: Bussorah Street

Fandi Ahmad (above) hangs out at Bussorah Street (below) with his friends on Fridays. PHOTOS: ST FILE

This street is my favourite because I hang out with my friends there after Friday prayers at Sultan Mosque every week.

There are many interesting shops that sell things from books to trinkets to accessories.

I usually drive there. I get to chill with my friends, relax and take in the atmosphere. Sometimes, we even jam and play music there.

Singapore Heritage tour of Gillman Barracks launched

A new history and heritage tour of the Gillman Barracks was launched on Saturday (May 2), in conjunction with Singapore HeritageFest 2015.

The conserved colonial barracks is currently home to the visual arts community.

Members of the public can go to to register for the free hour-long tour, where museum volunteers will share many interesting facts about Gillman Barracks.

The tours will take place on May 2-3 and May 9-10. Subsequent tours will be held once a month from June.

The tour is in addition to the weekly Art and History tour at Gillman Barracks.