by Karen Day
After feasting on orh lauk (oyster omelettes), chicken rice, a range of satay items (including king-sized squid) and plenty of Tiger beers at the food stalls beneath the Singapore Flyer, we set out to discover what else this vibrant island has to offer. We stroll along the bay and take in the sights: the Flower Dome, Helix Bridge, the spaceship-like Marina Bay Sands, the lotus-like ArtScience Museum and the country’s national mascot, the Merlion. The Singapore skyline includes one architectural amusement after the next, and seeing their neon lights at night is on most traveler’s to-do lists.
Our next stop, the National Gallery, comes as a surprise. We enter the 690,000 square-foot museum—which opened in November 2015—head past the extensive collection of Southeast Asian works and up an escalator to its forward-thinking “gift shop” Gallery & Co.
Even at first glance you can tell this is no ordinary retail outlet; it’s like the MoMA Store meets Colette but with a fresh, Singaporean design perspective. The collaborative team behind the project includes industry veterans Loh Lik Peng (Unlisted Collection), Alwyn Chong (Luxasia), Yah-Leng Yu and Arthur Chin (Foreign Policy Design), who describe the space as an “entrepôt of visual dialogues” that’s designed to inspire and make art accessible to everyone. With that in mind, they’ve tapped several of the city’s top artistic talents to create original products for the shop, many of which are modern riffs on traditional Singaporean housewares or inspired by paintings within the museum.
From there we head to the rooftop for another unexpected experience. We walk through a small garden to Smoke & Mirrors, a craft cocktail bar helmed by award-winning bartender Yugnes Susela of Tipping Club fame. The drinks are rivaled only by the view, which offers guests a stunning panorama of what seems like the entirety of Singapore and is beautifully reflected in the mirrored bar reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate.” And the cocktails really are equally impressive: Duck’s Fat Hope draws on local flavors, which sees droplets of peking duck juice added to the rum-based drink, the florally and fizzy Painting Class speaks to the museum digs, and arrives in a flute streaked with edible paint, while the bourbon-based Nakajima’s Dansu plays with sight and smell, and is a drink that you aerate with a Japanese folding fan.
In addition to the retail concept shop and rooftop bar, the National Gallery, housed in the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall, is home to the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian art. From top to bottom, this is one special establishment worth dedicating several hours exploring and enjoying.
The National Gallery is located at 1 St Andrew’s Rd, Singapore.
To celebrate their Round The World offering Star Alliance partnered with Marriott TRAVELER to offer Cool Hunting Editor-at-Large Karen Day her dream trip. She chose to explore locations she’d visit on a professional gap year, taking a break from the grind of NYC to explore places that inspire the creative spirit.
Images by Karen Day