SINGAPORE - More dining options, a new gallery and covered walkways are in the works as Gillman Barracks gears up to mark its second anniversary.
In response to feedback that F&B choices at the visual arts cluster are limited, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), which manages the venue jointly with JTC Corporation and the National Arts Council, will add four eateries to the current three.
Ms Kow Ree Na, 37, director of EDB's lifestyle programme office and consumer businesses, says: "These dining concepts are being introduced to meet the needs of tenants and visitors and are in response to feedback we have received."
The new joints, which are slated to open in the first quarter of next year, include Naked Finn's new 60-seat fine-dining restaurant. Its current outlet, a seafood shack in the Barracks, will be turned into a tapas bar.
Artistry Cafe, which has an outlet in Jalan Pinang near Arab Street, will open two cafes while Handle Bar, the popular biker hangout that moved out in 2011, will make a comeback.
Other changes are afoot at the arts venue, which will hold its anniversary celebrations on Sept 26. A former military camp off Alexandra Road built in 1936, it is now home to 17 art galleries, up from 13 in 2012.
A new gallery, Yavuz Fine Art, will join the stable next week, offering South-east Asian art. It will move into Block 9, in time for the Barracks' anniversary celebrations.
Owner Can Yavuz, 42, is moving the gallery from Waterloo Street, where it has operated since 2010.
He says he was drawn to Gillman Barracks because of its energy, the sense of community, the space and the high ceilings.
"This art space... has evolved over the last two years. There is an incredible sense of community here and the art world flourishes wherever there is a community of art lovers," he says.
Prominent German gallerist Matthias Arndt, 46, who opened Arndt in the Barracks two years ago, moved to a bigger space at Block 9 from Block 22 on Thursday.
He says he chose to expand as the "testing phase" for the arts cluster is over.
"I live in Singapore now and work with some of the most important South-east Asian and international artists. The gallery needed more space so artists can take on more ambitious projects."
Its opening show for the expanded gallery, for instance, focuses on German great Heinz Mack. What gives Gillman Barracks an edge, adds Mr Arndt, is the fact that it offers "the best of the city and rainforests".
"This is a perfect setting for art."
The Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, a non-profit exhibition and research centre run by Nanyang Technological University, has been key in drawing traffic to the Barracks since making its home there last October.
It has held more than 40 public events and staged three large-scale exhibitions, including No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, the first touring exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. The 10-week showcase from May to July drew more than 8,000 visitors.
To pave the way for a smoother visit, improvements have also been made to the infrastructure.
Covered walkways have been built in various parts of the arts venue and a new sheltered path will soon link the bus stop in Alexandra Road to Malan Road, where the Centre for Contemporary Art's exhibition space is.
This will give visitors direct access to both ends of the Barracks, halving the time it usually takes to cover the distance.
Prominent American gallerist Sundaram Tagore, 52, who runs the Sundaram Tagore Gallery, is pleased with how things are shaping up.
"I think they have covered everything, infrastructure-wise, and turned Gillman Barracks into a beautiful art space."
Home-grown artist-writer Jason Wee, who has visited the Barracks regularly since it opened in 2012, also gave the changes the thumbs-up. The 35-year-old, who is curating an exhibition that opens at Silverlens Gallery this month, says: "It is finally looking less like a construction site and more like an art district.
He picks the opening of the Centre for Contemporary Art as a highlight.
"The Centre changes Gillman Barracks from a purely market-driven enterprise to one that offers research, on-site residencies and publications. They should continue this trajectory by offering space to non-profit art groups," he suggests.
This article was first published on September 13, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.