The young and amicable Kelley Cheng is no stranger to the local art scene. Featured as one of the 20 outstanding designers in Singapore in 2004, she regularly serves on the judging panels of local as well as Asian design awards. She also sits on several advisory panels such as the Communications Advisory Group of the National Art Gallery and the Singapore Polytechnic School of Design. The unique Night & Day Bar + Gallery + Friends was born when Kelley and co-founder Randy Chan wanted to create a hangout for artists and designers. It has since provided a platform for emerging Asian artists to showcase their works and designs.
What sparked off the concept of fusing an art gallery and a bar?
There were quite a few reasons, one of which was we really wanted to create a hangout place for artists and designers. We felt that most bars in Singapore are quite "commercial" in terms of their clientele, designs and vibe, so we really wanted a very chill-out place that artists and designers would feel comfortable in. The inclusion of the art gallery is important to send out that message. We also noticed that at many art exhibition openings, the artists and people from the art industry would still be hanging around to chat after the gallery closes at 10pm. Thus we thought that a bar will complement the gallery, so that artists and their friends can hang out after a show.
Can you describe the vibe of the bar?
Relaxing, chill-out and arty.
Does Night & Day Bar + Gallery + Friends' clientele differ from the usual bar-goers?
I think so. We tend to attract artists and people from the design industry, who are not your usual bar-goers. But the bad news for us-these people don't really drink to get drunk.
How do you decide on which artist to feature in your gallery? How can artists interested in showcasing their work go about doing it?
It pretty much depends on my preference, that's the privilege of running a gallery don't you think? I try my best to pick out young artists whom I think are very talented and show great potential. Of course, those interested to showcase their art can always come and have a chat with me and show me their portfolio. It is always difficult to turn people down and that is the part I really hate.
How would you rate the level of art appreciation in Singapore?
Honestly, we still have a long, long way to go. I think only a very small percentage of Singaporeans can truly appreciate art, and of this small percentage, a large number of them are collectors who are interested in the works of famous artists only, Singaporean artworks are usually not collected by them. Thus we really need more people to see themselves as "patrons" of the art scene here, and start supporting local artists and buying their works, whether they are budding or established. If even Singaporeans don't support them, how are they ever going to get support or recognition from the world?
Is there an artist who inspires you greatly? Has he/she exhibited his/her artwork in your gallery?
Yes, I'm inspired by so many of them! I really admire all these young artists who choose to become full-time artists, knowing that the path is long, lonely and difficult, as the art appreciation level here is so miserable.
What are some of your favourite artworks and beverages you would recommend to your customers at Night & Day Bar + Gallery + Friends?
A few local artists whom we have exhibited and who I highly recommend are Weng Pixin, Sia Joo Hiang, and local-based British artist Ann Healey, who recently had a very successful sold-out show at our gallery. As for beverages, I think our bartender can whip up a really delicious Mojito.
What is the greatest satisfaction you get from opening Night & Day Bar + Gallery + Friends?
Actually, it is a lot of hard work and it can be quite stressful running a bar and a gallery, as each has its own set of problems. I get the greatest satisfaction when we stage a successful show for an artist. If everyone can do their part to help promote local artists in his own way, maybe our art scene can be much more vibrant and exciting. The young local artists really need a lot of support. The funds they can apply for are terribly limited, and what about the rest who do not get funding? How would they be able to stage a show? We definitely need more alternative art spaces in Singapore.
F&B and nightlife establishments come and go quickly in Singapore. How do you ensure Night & Day Bar + Gallery + Friends stays relevant and attractive to your customers?
I think for a small bar like ours, it is important to mingle around and get to know our customers so that they feel at home here. We do not have big marketing and promotion budgets to attract our customers, so it really boils down to making our customers feel at home here. As the famous quote from Wizard of Oz goes- "There's no place like home" - so hopefully our customers can feel that we are indeed one of a kind.