Inside abandoned shopping mall that’s become a haven for graffiti artists

AN ABANDONED shopping mall in Singapore has become a secret haven for graffiti artists despite a ban on street art.

The Peace Centre may have lost its shine over recent years but young creatives have been doing their best to bring it back to life with colourful murals and art workshops.

The abandoned Peace Centre in Singapore has been turned into an art haven
The abandoned Peace Centre in Singapore has been turned into an art havenCredit: AFP
Graffiti has become a large part of the building's make-up
Graffiti has become a large part of the building’s make-upCredit: AFP
The art enclave is littered with all types of creative work
The art enclave is littered with all types of creative workCredit: AFP

Despite needing permission from authorities for any kind of street art in Singapore, the Peace Centre has provided a rare space for self-expression.

But the building, which is around half a century old, is scheduled to face the wrecking ball later this year.

Back in August, PlayPan, an initiative co-founded by entrepreneur Gary Hong, convinced developers to postpone the mall’s demolition.

They were told that they could go ahead and use the space for “a social experiment to bring (the) community together”, Hong told AFP.

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They were given the space to host performances and workshops for several months, allowing artists, students, charities and small businesses to set up shop for free or at heavily discounted rates.

The eclectic mix of pop-up stores, art tours and musical performances has transformed the once lacklustre mall into an unexpected art haven.

At the end of January, however, the mall will close definitively, bringing an end to the art project.

Peace Centre was once a popular mall but lost its shine to glitzier shopping centres that mushroomed over recent years.

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In the last two decades it was mostly known for its printing shops and seedy karaoke lounges.

Since its revamp into an art space, young people have attended graffiti workshops, colouring shuttered shopfronts with spray cans while punters browsed through second-hand clothing stalls and exhibits.

“It’s not something you do on a normal weekend, less so inside an indoor area, in a mall,” said Darryl Poh, a 29-year-old sales trader who took part in a spray-painting workshop.

The bathroom walls and mirrors were splattered with graffiti, while a Rage Against the Machine song blared from one of the pop-up stores.

Craft cocktails were served on the ground floor and nearby, death metal CDs and trinkets were on sale.

Such spaces are uncommon in Singapore, a top financial hub in Asia.

“I think you just got to know where to look. The government can curate things, but people are still going to do their own thing,” said Ning Fei, 34, who was selling typewritten poems.

The outer walls were plastered with flyers advertising activities from ukulele classes to pebble painting, while a futuristic mural welcomed visitors arriving at the main entrance.

Gabriel, a 43-year-old photographer who asked to be identified only by his first name, set up a booth to take portraits of passersby for charity.

“The energy here was really exciting. There were a lot of things you don’t typically see in Singapore malls,” he told AFP, describing the vibe as “very non-Singaporean, very organic”.

“I’m going to miss this community very much. I’m glad to have plugged in and participated in this swan song.”

Elsewhere, a mall that once boomed with shoppers now looks like a scene from a Zombie apocalypse, causing widespread outrage.

Horrifying images show a deplorable state of the Market Square in Australia, where broken glass, graffiti and rubbish are strewn everywhere.

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And a luxury estate in southern Malaysia built by the Chinese has been left to rot – becoming the most controversial development in the country’s history.

Dubbed the “ghost city”, the $100billion estate is built on reclaimed land far off from the nearest major city in Johor Bahru.

An eclectic mix of pop-up stores are on offer inside the shopping mall
An eclectic mix of pop-up stores are on offer inside the shopping mallCredit: AFP
A girl walks past an impressive Star Wars mural
A girl walks past an impressive Star Wars muralCredit: AFP
Bathroom walls and mirrors are also splattered with graffiti
Bathroom walls and mirrors are also splattered with graffitiCredit: AFP
Imaginative street art has taken over every floor of the shopping centre
Imaginative street art has taken over every floor of the shopping centreCredit: AFP
Stairs have even been redesigned as people take advantage of the safe space
Stairs have even been redesigned as people take advantage of the safe spaceCredit: AFP

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