Local Art Meets Retail: Creative Unions at Funan

Creative Unions
Creative Unions

As part of the Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2021, Funan presents Singapore’s first mall-wide art activation, Creative Unions, curated by arts collective Neighbourhood.

What is Creative Unions?

Creative Unions is a major month-long art-meets-retail programme that engages visitors in the art of shopping across fashion, food and lifestyle. It invites visitors to a ‘shoppable’ experience to discover over 10 unique artist and brand collaborations, as part of Neighbourhood’s and Funan’s commitment to provide a commercially viable and creatively fulfilling platform for artists and retailers to create and engage with one another.

Thanks to Neighbourhood’s curatorial experience, selected tenants at Funan were paired with emerging and established Singaporean visual artists who share similar values and aesthetic visions — to bring about a eventsliheartening movement that deepens art appreciation in an unexpected yet natural setting: a shopping mall.

The full list of brands are:

Love, Bonito x Allison M. Low
Minor Miracles x Objects of Mass Distraction
Butterknife Folk x Nur Aida Sa’ad
LiHo TEA x Howie Kim
PPP Coffee x Alex Lim
Edible Garden City x Bewilder
Bernina x Samuel Xun & Tiffany Loy
Brompton Bicycle x Jahan Loh
Grafunkt x Various Artists
Vans x Various Artists

READ: Three One-day Itineraries to Explore the Singapore Art Week this Weekend

‘An imaginative and collaborative future for art and retail’

Centre Manager for Funan Mr Augustine Ow, said: “Funan as Singapore’s Creative Intersection provides a common platform for retailers and local artists to collaborate meaningfully through the co-creation of exclusive merchandise and experiences for the public. Funan is proud to be a partner of the National Arts Council in supporting and growing the local art community. We hope that shoppers can experience their favourite international and local brands in an all-new manner; and the community can also be inspired by the new perspectives of the local creative. Funan will continue to bring about unique retail experiences and is dedicated to being the intersection for passionate consumers to build strong social communities.”

Director of Neighborhood Mr Aravin Sandran also echoed a similar view: “Creative Unions embodies the resilient and innovative spirit of both Singaporean visual artists and retailers. These diverse collaborations have dismantled cookie cutter formats of presentations in art as well as experience design in retail. By augmenting and amplifying artists’ ideas and voices into accessible yet high quality works, Neighborhood hopes to ignite the imagination and provide a dynamic experience for all to enjoy.”

When THG visited Funan last week, we were treated to the various eye-catching installations around the mall, which beautifully showcased the work of our local artists.


Highlights included the pop-up VANS booth at level one, which showcased film shots from students of Laselle College of the Arts, as well as a zen garden display outside Minor Miracles, which features a poem written on rocks.

READ: Seniors Contemporary Art Exhibition Sees Seniors Co-create Artworks


A deeper look: interviews with Erika Tay, VANS and Charlene Kuah (Objects of Mass Distraction)

In order to gain a better understanding of the inspiration behind some of the collaborative works, THG spoke to the artists behind the works from VANS and Minor Miracles.

Interview with Charlene

Creative Unions

1. Could you share more about how Objects of Mass Distraction (OOMD) was created?

Before starting OOMD, I was a full-time copywriter. Even though I like words, I have always felt the need and urge to express myself visually as well. I like tactile things and amassed a small collection of rocks and shells from my travels. When I left my full-job, I took some time to explore what I could do with them. I even did a short course in Florence, Italy, in contemporary jewellery. That was how OOMD began.

READ: Bus.Stop.Art – Reaching the Everyday Singaporean Through the Daily Commute

Creative Unions

2. What were some of your inspirations when working on the collaboration with Minor Miracles (MM)?

Before the collaboration, the visual I had of MM that made the strongest impression was this abstract, painterly print with vibrant colours. That was the inspiration for the collection and I wanted to translate the print on stone. The brand and I agreed on a spray painted treatment.

We also agreed on a zen garden display to complement the collection, and I chose a particular poem that I feel encapsulates the spirit of OOMD to be written on the rocks. It’s a poem by Mary Oliver called Wild Geese, and is really about celebrating nature and how it’s a constant we can turn to any time.

3. Are there certain ideas or values behind this collaboration?

Not particularly. It was pretty open and straightforward and everything went smoothly. I think we managed to meet quite nicely in the middle.

4. Which piece do you feel resonates with you the most? Could you share why?

I think the pieces which are partially spray painted, where the texture and pattern of the raw stone is juxtaposed against the metallic and glossy finish of the paint resonate with me most. I like the contrast between natural and synthetic.

5.How do you think collaborations like these can help to strengthen the local arts scene?

Situating art in these kinds of settings makes art democratic and accessible, which is great for reaching the masses. It also pushes brands to envision possibilities they may otherwise never have. It’s a win win for everyone.

Interview with Erika and representative from VANS

Creative Unions

1. What inspired this collaboration between VANS and the artists?

Erika: My idea behind my design was to create a creature based on the silhouette of a pair of old skool. The toe box of the shoe reminded me of the spark bombs painted on the vintage fighter planes and that’s how I came up with the design.

VANS: We had worked with Erica previously on a workshop in our Bugis Junction store. It was truly inspiring to see the ideas she brought to the table, and how she interacted with the individuals who came through. When we were thinking of who we wanted to engage for this particular platform, her name popped up.

Creative Unions

2. How was it like working with these artists?

Erika: I had fun working with Vans as they are very open to ideas. I get the chance to go crazy and weird with my ideas and that is a rare treat for creatives especially in Singapore.

VANS: It’s a pleasure to work with these artists. To be able to not just speak with them, but be able to actually interact and give them the keys to the car is a learning experience for both of us. Watching what artists and creatives like Erika come up with is half the fun.

3. How do the works of these artists resonate with the values that VANS embodies?

Erika: VANS has always been supportive of the creative scene in Singapore and I really enjoy working with vans as they gave other artists and myself the freedom to express fully on this collaboration. It’s also interesting to see the different styles of drawings applied on the shoes by the other artists, giving each shoe its own identity.

VANS: A key goal for VANS is to enable creative expression. Whether the creative we’re working with focuses on illustration, graffiti, oil paint, or patchwork, being able to provide them opportunities and further enable them to create is the value we try to embody.

4. How do you think these collaborations can help to promote the work of local artists and support the art scene in Singapore?

Erika: These collaborations help to showcase the works of local creatives to the mass public who visit vans stores. I think people will be more curious in knowing more about the artist after seeing their works and also hopefully inspires them to create too!

VANS: There are so many creative people in Singapore. Over the past year with circuit breaker and Singapore being in various phases of reopening, we have seen even more creativity than normal rising to the surface. We hope that we can find the appropriate opportunities to elevate some of these artists and give them a new and broader audience. This opportunity with Creative Union and aligned with Singapore Art Week (SAW) is a perfect example.

5. What have participants said about the workshop thus far?

Erika: The workshop has given me a chance to push myself beyond 2D and imagine my artwork on a different platform. I am now more inspired to make more drawings on different canvas!

VANS: So far there has only been positive feedback from the participants and the community in general. Being able to learn or hone a new skill with an established artist is a fantastic opportunity for anyone. To be able to actually sit down with that individual and have them provide you constructive feedback and work with you, even more impactful!

Being the first of its kind, Creative Unions is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to find new ways to appreciate and support our local arts scene. The installations will be at Funan till 21 February, so do visit them soon!

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