THE Singapore Grand Prix season just got busier this year as more fringe activities from a diverse range of sectors are being added to the calendar of events taking place next week.
It has spawned a pop-up industry of sorts with various one-off markets, parties and exhibitions to keep the buzz and action off-track as fast and furious as it is on the Marina Bay circuit.
And it's not just Formula 1 (F1) attendees that are being targeted as these activities often do not directly revolve around motor sports.
Tribute to national pastimes
The Hidden Finds Market, for example, puts our national pastime of shopping in the spotlight. It's a special edition of Public Garden's series of pop-up flea marts and the first time that the organisers are holding a full-fledged market in the Orchard Road area.
The intention is to showcase an interesting side of Singapore retail to visitors from overseas and to offer an alternative experience to shopping in a mall; similarly, locals who bemoan the lack of activities if they are not caught up in the F1 frenzy can come to explore and discover under-the-radar business concepts.
Hidden Finds Market, as the name implies, revolves around discovering the essence of creativity and the pulse of the city through interaction with the various independent vendors who will be setting up shop there.
It marks the first time that the three-year-old Public Garden outfit has organised an event in conjunction with the Singapore F1, and it has been named the official market of the Grand Prix season. "We aim to create a retail platform for F1 visitors to enjoy during the day, before each night's races," says its spokesman.
Another favourite national pastime, eating, can also be traced to the cheeky one-off menu that Artichoke will be serving next week. Dubbed Dude, Where's My Food?, it's the brainchild of founder-chef Bjorn Shen who has come up with an array of over-the-top dude dishes such as Sticky Wings with Red Bull Glaze and Bak Chor Mee Sandwiches.
In his word, it's "everything your mum told you not to eat" and designed to add even more flavour to the testosterone-filled race event. "I thought that F1 is a rare occasion in Singapore when a significant number of blokes would leave their man caves and actually venture out into the open, so I wanted to do something that would appeal to them," he explains.
"The menu items are loosely based on major food groups that guys often live on - chicken wings, steak, fries, sandwiches, pretzels, nachos . . . not forgetting alcohol like bourbon and beer - but done with the typical Artichoke brand of reckless creativity," he adds.
It's the first time that he is creating a special F1 menu and he says that the inspiration came from seeing this year's events becoming more diverse with more dining options instead of just entertainment events like concerts and parties.
Even art lovers will have something to look forward to with Pinacotheque de Paris' The Art of Collecting. The pop-up exhibition at Fort Canning Centre will feature 20 masterpieces including works by Botticelli, Rembrandt and Picasso loaned from private collectors around the world, and never before seen in Singapore. It will also serve to whet the appetite of collectors and art buffs alike as the acclaimed independent French museum lays the ground for its second home here in 2015.
Art historian and museum director Marc Restellini reveals that it was during the 2008 Singapore F1 that the idea of expanding Pinacotheque to Singapore was mooted to him, so it's for sentimental reasons that the timing of The Art of Collecting's opening coincides with this year's race. "It's like a birthday for us," he quips.
When asked if he sees any relation between art and motoring sport, he says: "Both have their own entertainment value; also often around the world, the Minister of Culture is also the Sports Minister so there's nothing unusual about mixing art with sports."
Although he acknowledges that F1 has a posh side that attracts the well-heeled, he adds that the intention of the exhibition is not to try to sell anything but instead to spark people's passion for art. "I am also here to discover my audience because I feel many Singaporeans are interested so if they come to me, I will help them."
Race track to dance floor
Amber Lounge, the unabashedly luxe A-list pop-up party which has carved a reputation for attracting drivers, celebrities, royalty and fans, is also set to return for its fifth year. Founded by Sonia Irvine, sister of retired F1 star driver Eddie Irvine, it's undeniably the after-party to be seen at with admission starting from $900 (individual with no reserved seating) and going all the way up to $26,600 (table of eight).
"Individuality and exclusivity are what I think sets us apart (from other similar events)," says Olga Titarenko, Amber Lounge's public relations and media manager. "We pride ourselves on our level of service and attention to detail, and we treat every single guest as a VIP. Our Sunday night after-party is known to host F1 drivers coming in to celebrate the race finale, and it really is an amazing atmosphere and everyone has a great time."
She adds that the nature of the night race also makes Singapore the perfect place to host a party because the action moves straight from the track the moment the race ends to the Amber Lounge dance floor, just a stone's throw away at nearby Conrad Centennial.
Ms Titarenko refrains from revealing the actual cost of putting together such a grand party ("Amber Lounge is a bespoke concept so it does cost a lot!") but she adds: "As long as our guests are having the time of their lives, all expenses are justified . . . because that to me is priceless."