Artbox goes the pasar malam route

Artbox Asia co-founder Haoming Lee said that using scaffolding and canvas to create Artbox Singapore's pop-up stalls is more eco-friendly, and cheaper, than using shipping containers. Photo: Jason Quah
Don’t expect shipping containers. Rather, the vendors will be housed in booths with scaffolding
Published: 10:00 PM, April 13, 2017
Updated: 10:18 PM, April 13, 2017

SINGAPORE — Visitors to the first Artbox Singapore event on Friday (April 14) will be in for a bit of a surprise. Instead of being housed in the shipping containers one has come to expect from an Artbox — or any box park — event, vendors will be hawking their wares at stalls. The stalls at the pop-up market will have “modular scaffoldings” made of metal, but overall, the event will have a pasar malam (night market) vibe.

Co-founder of Artbox Asia, Haoming Lee, explained the reason for the change. “Getting the entire event to be fully decked out in shipping containers is (logistically) impractical,” he said. If the event solely used shipping containers, a crew would have to make some 180 trips between a shipyard in Jurong and the event’s venue at Bayfront Avenue. Trailers and cranes would have to be deployed to get the containers on-site, he added.

In the end, he decided that it was much more practical to use structures with scaffolding made of steel beam frames. The sides of each stall are made from PVC canvas, printed with the Artbox logo.

Artboxes in Asia will be modelled after the Singapore event. “You can dismantle (the scaffoldings and stalls), you can build them up again, and you can lay them flat for packing to ship to other locations in the Artbox Asia tour,” said Lee.

For the tour, if he committed to using shipping containers only, he would have to “ship 80 to 100 shipping containers all around Asia”, said Lee. This would not be eco-friendly, he said, which is one of Artbox Asia’s goals. Materials used for some 320 stalls can fit into one shipping container, said Lee. And this all means that working with these, instead of shipping container units, is also cost-effective.

Ultimately, it would have cost S$500,000 just to rent shipping containers for vendors here, while the cost for materials in the current format in Singapore is S$50,000. The entire cost for the set-up in Singapore — where the event sprawls across a 50,000 sq ft space — is S$200,000, including venue rental over two weekends.

Artbox Singapore is the first stop in the Artbox Asia tour, which is organised by events management company Invade Industry. The next stop is tentatively set for Taipei.

There will be around 10 actual shipping containers at the event, said Lee, 29. The souvenir store, media booth, and even toilets will be housed in these, he added. And a beer garden, a 6m by 6m space that will be serving Chang Beer, will be set up in a 20-foot double-stacked container.

“You can take your beer to the second-level rooftop and chill out with your friends there,” Lee said.

The event will see 500 exhibitors in all, hailing from Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, in residence. The ratio of regional to local vendors is 1:3, said Lee, who believes in showcasing not only the talent of the region, but also that of the host country. Artbox Singapore will also feature 200 art installations created from metal sheets, shipped in from Thailand, and the event will showcase Thai cultural activities and live music. Some 400,000 visitors are expected over the two weekends.

Lee foresees Artbox Singapore becoming an annual event. “We want to use Artbox as a platform to help build the creative community,” said Lee. “We want it to be a place that people look for every year to check out local (craft) makers and designers.”

Artbox Singapore will run for two weekends, on April 14 to April 16 and April 21 to April 23. It is located at Marina Bay Sands event space at 12A Bayfront Ave. Admission is free.