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A veritable art feast
Eyeing novice collectors
MILAN IMAGE ART & DESIGN FAIR
- Oct 24 - 26 | Marina Bay Sands
Forte: Photography, video and design for novice art collectors and home decor hounds
PHOTOGRAPHY buffs have never had it better. In conjunction with the Singapore International Photography Fair, the Milan Image Art Fair is coming to Singapore and launching its first international edition. The fair here is different from the original one in Milan in that it has the added "Design" element. It is thus renamed Milan Image Art & Design Fair (MIA&D).
MIA&D will feature 50 international art galleries and 120 artists spanning 30 countries. Among the heavyweights are Sundaram Tagore Gallery selling the photographic works of celeb shutterbugs such as Annie Leibovitz and Sabastiao Salgado, the local 2902 Gallery with homegrown stars Robert Zhao and John Clang, and France's Little Birds Gallery with Thierry Konarzewski.
On the design front, there are Secondme Gallery from Rome with its sleek collection of furniture and homewares, and Design Gallery Milano featuring designs by the famous Andrea Branzi.
Lorenza Castelli, organisation director of MIA&D Fair, says the fair organisation chose Singapore as its first international outpost because "Singapore is a gateway between West and East, which fits perfectly with our proposal. The Singapore audience also consists of globetrotters who are open-minded and keen on discovering art."
While its four-year-old fair in Milan showcases mostly Western galleries, the Singapore edition will have a 50-50 split between Asian and Western galleries, a formula that's similar to the incredibly popular Art HK (or Hong Kong International Art Fair).
Ms Castelli says the fair in Milan draws mostly novice European collectors in their 40s who are keen to collect art and turn to photography because of its lower price point compared to paintings and sculptures. She expects the demographic to be similar in Singapore, where starting prices are around S$3,000.
She says: "Photography is the fastest growing language in contemporary art that can be approached by young collectors thanks to a lower price range. The European collectors tend to appreciate more vintage black-and-white images. In Asia, collectors seem more attracted to contemporary photography that represents contemporary culture."
Ms Castelli, who is the daughter of well-known Italian businessman and art collector Fabio Castelli, says the organisers decided to add the "Design" element to the fair because "design is one of the symbols of Italian creativity that, we note, is very much appreciated in the Asian culture".
Still going strong
AFFORDABLE ART FAIR (AAF)
- Nov 20 - 23 | F1 Pit Building
Forte: Paintings, photography and sculptures priced under S$10,000
NOW in its fifth year, Affordable Art Fair has become the most popular art fair in the country. Its warm and friendly vibe, and wide range of artworks from the arguably kitschy to the indisputably solid are among the factors contributing to its success.
The numbers alone tell an exhilarating story: in its 2011 edition, it sold S$3 million worth of artworks; in 2012, S$4 million; and in 2013, S$4.9 million.
From this year on, AAF is holding two fairs annually, in May and one in November - making Singapore one of only three cities in the world where AAF takes place biannually. (The other two cities are London and New York, the art epicentres of the world.) The total sales figure for the two fairs in 2014 is expected to easily surpass S$8 million.
Despite there now being three art fairs in November, fair director Camilla Hewitson is confident that AAF can bring in the visitors: "There's still room to reach out to more people who are new to the fair - even though most of our visitors are seasoned fair goers who have visited us since we started in 2010."
AAF has traditionally been one of the places to look for strong young artists on the cusp of their professional careers. Its Young Talent Programme, carried out in collaboration with ION Art, spots exciting emerging artists and showcases their works at ION Art Gallery and a booth at AAF.
This year, its three selected artists under the age of 30 - namely Lennard Ong, Noor Iskandar and Hilmi Johandi - have already garnered strong critical notices.
AAF, however, is also not sitting on its laurels. Ms Hewitson revealed a new multi-disciplinary workshop designed to take an in-depth look at three media - photography, sculpture and watercolour. Experts from the Sculpture Society, the Singapore Watercolour Society and Objectifs (Centre of Photography and Filmmaking) will come together to offer live demonstrations, hands-on workshops and visual experiments, taking visitors behind the process of how art in these mediums are made.
"We've also got something new for the kids," she says. "The Children's Art Studio will offer an interactive workshop where the kids and their parents can create their own drawings based on their observations of wild plants and nature.
"Our core objective is to constantly reach out to existing and new collectors, and break down the perceived barriers to collecting contemporary art."
Spotlight on young talent
- Nov 20 - 25 | Artrium@MCI
Old Hill Street Police Station
Forte: Emerging art from South-east Asia priced from S$500 to S$6,000
SPOT Art positions itself as a non-profit exhibition that gathers some of the best works by Asian artists under the age of 30 for a five-day showcase. It's the smallest and least glamorous of the four art events, with only 150 works by 48 artists from 12 countries. It is held at the modest Old Hill Street Police Station, whose space and lighting are perhaps less than ideal for viewing and buying art.
Nonetheless, if you have a good eye for spotting emerging talent, you might find some strong works here priced within the S$500 and S$6,000 bracket. Its debut event last year saw works that ranged from the promising to the poor, but more than 40 per cent of them was snapped up by local and international collectors.
Spot Art doesn't call itself a fair because of its registered charity status. Much of the overhead costs are covered by founders Jerry Gunn and Mary Pan, husband-and-wife art consultants who moved from New York to Singapore four years ago to launch the platform.
Mr Gunn says: "Our mission is really to unite contemporary art students and young artists based in Asia who are passionate about their practice into a cohesive exhibition that provides its participants with the highest quality art experience."
"It also gives them a safe environment to explore and interact with the next generation of innovators and leaders in the fine arts industry."
Most of the artists here are students or recent graduates, with little exposure to the art world. Spot Art searches for them through its network of contacts in 25 Asian institutions that offer art courses.
Some of the region's best curators, including the Philippines' Patrick D Flores, Singapore's Milenko Prvacki and Iola Lenzi, and Indonesia's Aminudin TH Siregar, then go through hundreds of submission to shortlist the best.
Comparing the developed art scene in the USA to less developed ones in parts of Asia, Mr Gunn says: "Given the diversity and unpredictability of local economies in the region, it is difficult for any one market to nurture and sustain an arts ecosystem without maintaining regional or global interest.
"Within this very competitive and market-driven atmosphere, Singapore has positioned itself to become the thought leader in South-east Asia, giving precedence to education, dialogue and cultural diplomacy... Spot Art is aligned with this effort."
Arabia, Africa & Asia converge
SINGAPORE ART FAIR
- Nov 27 - 30 | Suntec City
Convention & Exhibition centre
Forte: Middle Eastern, North African and South and South-east Asian art
AFTER five successful editions in Lebanon, Beirut Art Fair is branching out into Singapore for its first international edition. Called Singapore Art Fair (SAF), it's organised by new company Orchilys, a joint venture between Cedralys, the organiser of Beirut Art Fair, and MP Singapore, a local exhibitions and conventions specialist.
Singapore Art Fair focuses on art produced in the Middle Eastern, North African and South and South-east Asian regions. They may seem like a strange mix of disparate regions, but they are tied together by their historical links to the Silk Road.
Sue Ngo, project director of SAF, says: "Their shared history started with archaeological excavations carried out by the Russians in the early 20th century in Eastern Turkestan. That led to the discovery of Christian worship objects which were then brought by Syrian merchants along the Silk Road. The first exchanges that took place between the traders were thus forged through artworks."
"We believe it is now time for artists from these regions to be given the opportunity to showcase themselves and develop awareness and appreciation for art from these regions."
Among the list of 60 galleries are several Arab galleries such as UAE's Salsali Private Museum, Lebanon's Emmagoss Art Gallery and Syria's Samer Kozah Gallery, which have never or rarely shown in Singapore before.
Ms Ngo says: "As the art market in Asia matures, there is a greater desire for art enthusiasts to be open to new experiences. The market in Asia so far has focused primarily on modern and contemporary art from the region. Hence, the Singapore Art Fair is coming in to fill a gap in Asia."
Indeed, SAF is likely to be an eye-opener in many ways. For one thing, the strongest Middle Eastern contemporary artworks are often political. Among SAF's highlights is the Lebanese Pavilion, curated by Janine Maamari, that will feature works that reflect the turmoil in the Middle East and its reverberations on the multicultural democracy of Lebanon.
"We hope it will help visitors understand the region's culture, history and political struggles," says Ms Ngo.
There will also be monumental sculptures and installations presented by 10 artists, including Korea's very popular Gwon Osang and Myanmar's living treasure Aung Myint.
Though SAF comes at the tail end of the packed month of November, a week after Affordable Art Fair and Spot Art, Ms Ngo is confident that SAF has a strong and unique enough of an identity to "carve a niche and establish itself in the region".