Curated by design studio Kinetic, K+ is a pop-up initiative straddling gallery, retail, workshop and community aspects that adds verve to the retail and art scene in Singapore. Luo Jingmei reports.
Top: K+ Keng Lye. Photo: Kinetic
“Artists who peddle the extraordinary, things that tickle the imagination, brands that stand out from the bland. These we bring to you in a space dedicated to their discovery and appreciation.”
K+ is a curatorial space, which opened in January this year at Scotts Square, Singapore. The above introduction plastered on the gallery’s wall of K+ is a pretty accurate description of the showcases that the curators, design and advertising studio Kinetic, have brought in so far.
Ranging from Singaporean artists, such as Keng Lye who makes intricate three-dimensional resin artwork and Sokkuan’s subversive alter-ego displays inspired by Sadako, the star of the Japanese horror movie ‘The Ring’, to international talents such as young, Japanese illustrator Mondo and most recently, popular Scottish designer Donna Wilson’s with her kooky knitted creatures, the mix is diverse, the execution sophisticated, and the atmosphere, inspiring.
Says Carolyn Teo, co-founder of Kinetic, the idea started with their pop-up store, ‘Uu 3D Custom Figurines’ held at Scotts Square two years ago, where Japanese 3D-printing guru Mikanbako delighted visitors with his miniature life-like figurines using the technology. “After the huge success of Uu, we wanted to explore the possibility of being a curator. Due to our great collaboration with Scotts Square for Uu, they were the first we approached [this time] and thankfully, they were once again very supportive of our proposal,” she adds.
While K+ is described as a “curatorial space”, it is in fact a combination of gallery, shop, workshop space and community creator. “We started K+ with a vision to present an experience that is less mindless consumption, more mindful appreciation. As we sought out collaborators who ‘peddle the extraordinary’, we realised that our one gallery space may not do them full justice; for example, an artist versus a retail brand would have quite different requirements. In light of this, we have a vision of branching out to K+ Gallery, K+ Retail, K+ Workshop and K+ Community,” says Carolyn.
The result is a multifaceted endeavour that, being enclosed in a mall, adds a richer dimension to the consumer experience. For instance, K+ Floral Obsession, florist Christopher Teo’s creative and exuberant flower arrangements, being located on the first storey, brings a sort of street side character indoors – so impressed were the crowd with his artistry, shares Carolyn, that many walk-in customers, after standing and watching him work his floral magic, broke out in applause; upstairs in the main gallery, Donna Wilson’s whimsical range of products on display – the biggest in Singapore so far – ranging from blankets to ceramics, tea trays and towels, animal-shaped scarves and eye-catching socks appeal to the a wide audience: the inquisitive child, the quirky fashionista, as well as the homemaker with a design eye.
This June, K+ presented a new Singaporean menswear label by President’s Design Award 2014 ‘designer of the year’ recipient and founder of design studio &Larry, Larry Peh. Titled Faculty, it takes a “refined and functional approach to the crafting of apparel and products based on the idea of intrinsic human ability in thought or action.”
Under the workshop element of K+, visitors may participate in upcoming hands-on experiences with Japanese artist Tama-chan’s sushi roll art in September and calligraphy classes with The Letter J Supply in August.
From the overwhelming positive response thus far, K+ holds great potential beyond a temporary set up. Says Carolyn, “Some of [the visitors] were extremely excited about how we managed to work with the various collaborators. For instance, Keng Lye’s fans commented that they were able to see his works in the flesh rather than just from pictures online. Out of the 16 pieces of artwork that was available for sale at K+, 14 were sold, including the most expensive piece priced at $21,400.” She shares further that Mondo ‘the little artist’ with his trademark style of using humble black markers, had his portrait drawing sessions completely booked out the three days he was there.
To Kinetic’s credit, its marketing savvy also helped to draw crowds. For example, to bring more awareness about Donna Wilson’s exhibition, it started a social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram, posting pictures of two of her XL Giant Creatures in various tourist spots around Singapore. In just a week after the exhibition opened, most of her scarves and homewares were sold out and Kinetic had to arrange for a second shipment.
“As a design and advertising agency, art is a big part of everything we do, so in a way K+ is a natural extension of our business,” says Carolyn on the foray into exhibition curation such as K+. “For too long have we lamented over the lack of an aesthetic sensibility in Singapore. Through K+, by raising the visibility of good works, we hope to do our small part in helping to cultivate an appreciation for design and the visual arts.”
But beyond business, it is all about having fun while at work, whether it be in the office or outside of it. Concludes Carolyn, “venturing into curating and running a gallery space is our idea of shaking things up – a refreshing diversion that allows us to exercise our creativity in different ways.”