Singapore’s first home for experimental and underground arts that once hosted punk shows and grew into a fully fledged contemporary arts center announced today it will shut down after 31 years.

The Substation will leave 45 Armenian Street after rejecting a National Arts Council plan that would have forced it to share its historic building – a former utility substation – with other tenants starting in July, leaving it with less autonomy over the space.

“It is with profound sadness that the Substation Board announces the permanent closure of the Substation. There is no other place like it,” its announcement said. 

[MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT]

2 March 2021 — It is with profound sadness that The Substation Board announces the permanent…

Posted by The Substation on Monday, 1 March 2021

Word that The Substation would close for good comes weeks after it was reported that it had to leave. It had cleared out of the building while it was undergoing renovation, and the arts council stipulated that it could return only as a co-tenant. The heritage building has been The Substation’s home since the ‘90s.

This change would have caused The Substation to “lose a fundamental part of its identity and heritage,” it said today.

But money was also on the line, as it noted that the new arrangement would mean loss of control over the theatre and gallery facilities it had rented out for income. 

The facility operated with the help of a council funding grant still valid through March 2023, and it was unclear what would happen to the remaining funds. 

“With respect, the Board does not agree with NAC’s decision to convert 45 Armenian Street into a multitenanted building. The Substation will not be in a position to fulfil its mission to support and provide a safe space for artists to do pioneering and experimental work,” it said. 

The pandemic also contributed to its demise, affecting the donations it has heavily relied upon as donors turned to causes deemed higher priority.

The building had been abandoned many years when playwright Kuo Pao Kun opened it in 1990 with over $1 million in government funding help. The Substation became a rare outlet for underground culture and saw frequent artist collaborations for events and concerts, including gigs by the local skinhead, punk, and hardcore acts. It was also an early advocate for promoting LGBT rights.

It takes credit for developing 100 artists and nurturing more than 30 winners of prestigious art awards. 

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