Have you ever wondered why people would pay a small fortune for Hermès products? Or why do Birkin bags command years-long wait lists? Or why do their stores carry this mystical air of timelessness?
Learn about the magic behind Hermès
Natsu Matsuri, or Japanese Summer Festival, is an annual event held at The Japanese School (Primary Level) in Changi, Singapore. Highlights include festival games, performances and a bazaar sprawling across almost all major hallways at ground level.
Although I knew about this event for years, I have not been to the festival until mere days ago. This is the first time I secured my admission ticket before the event, thanks to Dwight and his connections at the NUS Japanese Studies Society. Each ticket costs $2 – just a token fee – but the most important thing is getting tickets BEFORE the event, so that you could bypass the long line outside the school and enter the festival compound quickly.
The queue is actually 6-7 times longer than what it appears here.
There are actually 3 lines at the festival: Queue to buy tickets, queue for those with tickets on hand, and queue for those who wish to rent yukatas. Yukata and Obi goes for $2 and $1 respectively and can be worn throughout the evening until the festival programme ends.
As for the bazaar, it’s a mix of the usual Japanese snacks, such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, to bento boxes and some unusual treats – the infamous candy apple for example, which gets sold out within the first hour of the festival. Food here is slightly marked up compared to outside, but hey, it’s really all about the atmosphere here! As for the merchandise available here, well, there was a stall selling some figurines at fire-sale prices. If you are in the market for Japanese trinkets, there were quite a selection available. There was even a random nubox outlet selling accessories for Apple products(?!). The main problem really was getting around because of crowd issues, despite the organiser’s efforts.
The expansive grass field is most people would end up later in the evening, either to enjoy their picnics in the open and/or watch the performances. Festival games are located at a far corner of the field.
Festival Games (as in, the “official” games conducted by the event organisers) cost $2 per game round. One tip: Buy game tickets early if they are offered for sale by roving staff members! The queue to buy tickets at the game booths are just as long as the line to ENTER the school. Anyway back to games: there were three stalls this year.
Yo-yo Tsuri, or “Yo-yo Fishing” involves picking up a floating water balloon from a pool of water. The thing is, you are only given a “W” shaped hook that is attached to a curious white “string”. Sounds easy? Unfortunately most players end up catching nothing! Well, the white string is just rolled tissue paper. The game keepers are kind though, and give away “sympathy” water balloons even if one fails. The trick here is to find the lighter balloons – those that are floating higher than the rest. I managed to catch one water balloon (which had barely any water), but made the mistake of swishing the hook around to get a better view of the rubber band loops – the paper broke when I tried to lift another balloon.
The second game, which I will just call Shooting Game uses NERF guns instead of the traditionally seen BB guns, thanks to local regulations. One game coupon gives you just two foam bullets – it is more of a game of luck than skill. Prizes include well, Collon biscuits, pocket notebooks (which go for $0.30 outside ??!) and some toys for children (the real prizes).
The last game is Senbonbiki (千本引き). I don’t know what’s the right translation but most people call it the “Pull String” or “Lucky String” game. Each game station is a box with a lot of strings from the centre. These strings are connected to items flowing out from the sides of the box. To play this game you simply have to choose a string and pull it, causing an item to rise. You just win that. Prizes range from small packs of snacks, cute trinkets, toys and even shockingly, the worst prize possible: a bottle of mineral water.
Since this is really based on luck, there really aren’t any strategies at all. There are three lines for this game, each with a different choice of toys: Boys, Girls and Unisex.
The last event at Natsu Matsuri is the Bon Odori, which is a sort of dance around the stage at the grass field. Everyone is encouraged to take part in this simple, rhythmic dance which lasts for about 90 minutes. I didn’t stay late enough for most of the Bon Odori though.
After finishing two examination papers, I could finally catch a breather and go on an adventure. This time: The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands!
At time of visit, there were three exhibitions happening:
– Van Gogh Alive: The Exhibition
– Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds
– ArtScience: A Journey Through Creativity (Permanent Exhibition)
It is very important to know what is being shown at the Museum before planning a visit. Read the next section!
Admission for ArtScience Museum is a simple: You just pay a standard fee to enter ($30 for adults, $27 for seniors, $17 for children) and you can view all the exhibits in the museum. This means that it is best to visit when there are a lot of traveling (or new) exhibitions and just “swoop” them all up in one go. The ticket price is not very encouraging for frequent revisits and there is no “annual museum pass”.
The ArtScience Museum Lobby is a very open glass house which is located at the base of the lotus-shaped Museum. There is nothing much here apart from ticketing counters, entrance gantries and also the glass lifts that travel to all the gallery floors. According to the brochure, the Museum has 21 gallery spaces which totals up to 50,000 square feet of exhibition space!
Like any other good Museums in the world, there are of course etiquette guidelines. The same things basically: No flash photography, eating, drinking, loud noises and rowdy behaviour in galleries!
ArtScience: A Journey Through Creativity
The Permanent Exhibition is located at the highest (guest accessible) level and it is a “light” exhibition, with just about three small galleries. Each gallery has a theme to bring guests through a “journey inside the creative process”: Curiosity, Inspiration and Expression.
The galleries three
The first gallery, Curiosity is rather focused on the design of the ArtScience Museum. Here guests will be able to see the sketches, mock-ups and engineering research that were part of the process to create the Museum’s unique building.
The Inspiration gallery is an interactive space that allows guests to view some important inventions and discoveries in the history of mankind. There are many interactive screens and also places where guests can create their own postcards to share the experience.
Lastly, Expression gallery is actually a small sit-down theatre showcasing various major art and science periods. The video has high production values and the theatre itself is very uniquely designed – with many objects (relevant to the video) and panels layering around the main screen.
All in all, this is like an appetizer to the actual traveling exhibitions. It is probably relevant if you are interested in the story behind the Museum. Takes about 20-30 minutes.
Van Gogh Alive: The Exhibition
A Thousand Pictures Tell A Single Story
Although the famous Dutch genius artist has only sold one artwork during his life, his work is celebrated by millions after his death, with landmark pieces such as Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers and Starry Night becoming legendary Post-Impressionist works and also hot auction items. In Van Gogh Alive, more than 3000 images have been transformed into a multi-sensory experience in the form of immersive large-scale projections spanning many galleries.
No photographs are allowed in this gallery so I have nothing to show. Essentially there are many expansive galleries linked together showing the same projections, synced with soothing classical music. There is a small gallery at the side which shows and describes some of Van Gogh’s famous pieces as well as some details about his (troubled) life.
You may either walk around or find a good place to view the projections and drown yourself into Van Gogh’s magical world. The projections last around 25 minutes and restarts immediately after a cycle. The benches in the galleries are strategically placed for viewing – take note though, there aren’t a lot of them!
Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds
Thousands of salvaged treasures from the maritime silk road are presented in this traveling exhibition. It is designed to provide a sequential narrative for guests, starting with the story of ocean trade and the importance for trade in the region.
The later sections describe the conservation processes for the artefacts and finally, large galleries showcasing hundreds of preserved artefacts. While there is definitely volume in terms of what is being displayed, it does get a little repetitive after a while – especially a room that focuses on different ceramic plates and being plates, most of them share similar designs.
Apart from videos and displays, there are two small interactive sections in the galleries: A simple boardgame and a “pattern press” for guests to collect free souvenirs. It takes about 30-45 minutes to walk about, watch the videos and enjoy the exhibits in the galleries.
Is the ArtScience Museum worth visiting? Well.. the admission fee is rather steep and there are no discounts, apart from a group ticketing option but you will need a lot of people. You may probably want to wait for the Dali exhibition to be open to get more value from your ticket too.
Also included in the ticket is access to the open-air area of the Museum directly beneath the “Lotus”. There is nothing much here apart from water pools (and dying lotuses) but it is a nice windy place, with some tables and chairs, to relax and enjoy the views.
Featuring 60 artists from 30 countries, Singapore Biennale 2011: “OPEN HOUSE” promises to intrigue and invoke the imagination of its visitors. This year the Biennale venues are a bit more unique, going to places such as the Old Kallang Airport, SAM @ 8Q and even at the Merlion (Singapore River/Marina Bay version). I find that this year’s exhibition is a lot more thematic and has many contextual pieces. The strongest works are, like back in 2006, very closely linked with the venue where it is being shown. The Old Kallang Airport venue has some of the most interesting – especially the interactive – pieces I have seen so far!
While the 2006 Biennale has a special place in my heart, 2011 has somewhat redeemed the Biennale for me. I’m sorry, but SB2008 was felt rather incongruous as a whole and had a very (inherently) vague theme, “Wonder”.
Enjoy the photos.
Complete photo set can be found here: Flickr: Biennale 2011
“This exhibition pays tribute to a man who has been placed in the history of haute couture as an undeniable ambassador of elegance. His work combines romanticism, modernity and classicism; his silhouettes combine sovereign grace with timeless allure. His style is determined by a graphic line which is sober and sophisticated at once. His designs accentuate the silhouette, giving it fluidity, femininity and sensuality. Forms are clear, fabrics are sumptuous and all collections always possess a large scale of colours enhanced by rich embroideries.”
– Ms Pamela Golbin, curator-in-chief for the Fashion and Textiles collection of Les Arts Décoratifs