Thursday, 2 October, 2014

Published June 20, 2014
Putting East European art in the spotlight
Next month's Art Apart Fair will showcase Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian artworks, reports HELMI YUSOF
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Room for art: Ms Lim surrounded by pieces of art in a hotel room.  'Singapore' by Russian art collective Studio 30 is priced at $18,000.

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RUSSIAN art will take centrestage at the fourth edition of Art Apart Fair when it returns next month to the Parkroyal on Pickering.

According to founder Rosalind Lim, the last edition of Art Apart in January - timed to coincide with Art Stage and the Singapore Art Week - saw strong sales of Russian art among local and expatriate buyers.

Hence, she is devoting a quarter of the hotel rooms she's booked for the fair this time to Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian artworks from five Eastern European galleries. The remaining hotel rooms will feature art from Singapore and other countries including Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines.

Ms Lim, 63, says: "Russia, as we all know, has a long and important history of arts and culture. Its artists combine intellect, technical skills and emotions to produce their art . . . When we saw more than 15 Eastern European works, priced between $6,000 and $18,000, snapped up at the last fair, we realised that this was the direction we want to take for this edition."

For the opening night on July 18, visitors will be treated to classical Russian music played on the piano by mother-daughter team Iryna and Kfeniia Vokhmyanina, accompanied by soprano Anna Ivanenko belting Russian romances - a type of Russian music popular in early 1900s.

Russian canapes and champagne will be provided by Buyan, the Russian restaurant and caviar bar on Duxton Hill. And Russian artist Tatiana Lysak-Polischyk, who has painted the portraits of her country's celebrities, will be on hand to sketch your portrait.

Started in January last year, Art Apart is Singapore's first and only hotel art fair, modelled after a popular concept that originated in New York in the 1990s. The organiser typically books an entire floor of rooms in a hotel for a period of time and leases them out to galleries.

Hundreds of artworks for sale are then displayed on the walls, beds, tables and even toilets. For foreign gallerists on a budget, the rooms double as a place to sleep at night - an advantage ordinary art fairs don't offer. Since Art Apart's debut, two other organisers have attempted to start their own hotel fairs - but both failed to take off.

Art Apart has received criticism for featuring less established artists compared to premier art fairs, and for attracting a lower footfall. Its 3,500 visitorship number is much smaller than Art Stage's 45,700 and Affordable Art Fair's 13,300 in their last respective fairs.

But Ms Lim and her team have taken it on the chin and soldiered on. And from Oct 16 to 19, Art Apart will debut its London edition at Singapore hotelier Loh Lik Peng's Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green in London. It plans to show more than 1,500 artworks in approximately three dozen rooms at Mr Loh's 95-room boutique hotel. The dates are timed to coincide with London's biggest art fair, Frieze.

Ms Lim says: "An art fair takes time to gain traction, increase visitorship and strengthen its gallery credentials. So while the criticisms made about us in the past were certainly legitimate, we're taking it in our stride."

The galleries taking part in the fair here next month include Singapore's Utterly Art and Barnadas Huang Gallery, Craft 21 from Korea and Berlin- based Russian gallery Gaze.

Gallery 11.12, a Moscow gallery with a branch here on Armenian Street, will also be taking part in the fair for the first time. Founder Elvira Sharova says: "Gallery 11.12 has been operating in Singapore since 2012. We're quite familiar with the tastes of the buyers here, so we'll be bringing works we think the Singapore audience will enjoy very much."


Art Apart Fair (Singapore) will take place at the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel, 3 Upper Pickering Street, from July 18 to 20 from 11.30am to 9pm daily. Tickets at $10 can be purchased at the door.