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Setting the stage for edgy contemporary art
THE number of participating galleries might have fallen, but the seventh edition of Art Stage Singapore still opened on a fairly upbeat note, with several galleries reporting encouraging sales of mid-priced art works within a few hours of the fair's preview on Wednesday.
This year's fair sees 131 galleries from 27 countries, about 40 fewer galleries compared to last year's 170. About a third of the galleries are from South-east Asia, while 75 per cent are from Asia in general. Of the participating galleries, about 25 per cent are new, with 75 per cent repeat participants.
Highlighting how the Fair is being held in "dramatically changing times", Art Stage Singapore's founder and president Lorenzo Rudolf highlights how the world economy, politics and society in crises are clearly affecting the art market. "We have to be clear that art can no longer be seen as mere merchandise or commodity. For the fair, we have tofocus even more on content and to show art in context," he said in his opening speech.
Focus on capitalism
Mr Rudolf reaffirmed the importance of a cohesive South-east Asian art market, with Singapore as its de facto hub. To that end, the fair presented its second South-east Asia Forum, themed Net Present Value: Art, Capital, Futures focusing on capitalism. The Forum exhibition presented 24 works by 23 artists with works created in line with this theme - one of the highlights of the fair.
While the crowd numbers last night seemed subdued, exhibitor Richard Koh nonetheless thought it was not a bad thing as it is more manageable. "It's a tough situation - not just here but elsewhere as well; but there seems to be quite a number of new works this year and less re-hashing," Mr Koh sums up.
By Wednesday evening, several of the emerging artists' works he carried were already sold. Malaysian artist Haffendi Anuar's sculptures were bought by an institutional buyer, while other sculptures by Malaysia's Anne Samat, who's exhibiting for the first time in Singapore, and Singapore artist Melissa Tan have been sold as well. "Because we've participated every year, we were quite confident coming into the fair. It's not bad, no complaints - as long as we've paid our rent and expenses, we're alright!" Mr Koh quips. "It's important for us to sell on the first day as that's an indication."
Number1Gallery from Bangkok is also a returning exhibitor, and it did very well representing solo artist Saporn Kaewda. By Wednesday evening it had already sold four big pieces of his intricate wax pencil-on-canvas works depicting seascapes, priced at US$12,000 each.
The owner of the eponymous Marcdepuechredon from Switzerland was so pleased with his first outing in the fair last year that he returned to a bigger booth. "Last year, the solo artist I represented, Uwe Walther - who paints landscapes onto printed geographical maps, sold to collectors from Asia and Europe - there was even one from Basel," notes Marc de Puechredon. This year, the gallery is also showing Asian artists - whom he got to know at last year's fair. One is Singaporean Melisa Teo, who had a solo show at The Arts House last year.
Another returning gallery, Mixer from Istanbul, brought back its artist Berkay Bugdanoglu for another solo outing, because of the good reception the artist had last year with his painting on steel. The works are priced from US$4,000 to US$20,000 for a sculpture of Venus. An art fair would do well to attract new galleries, as that usually heralds new artists as well.
One of the main new exhibitors this year includes UOB Bank, which decided to take its art prize a step beyond - by giving their winning artists a platform to showcase new works.
"Although some of the artists have representing galleries, some may not. By showing their works off as our prize winners, this gives them another platform for sales," says Lilian Chong, senior vice-president of UOB's Group Strategic Communications and Customer Advocacy. The bank has taken up four of the walls near the entrance of the fair to showcase the works of 14 artists, priced from US$2,000 to over US$20,000. The works are priced by the artists themselves and UOB doesn't take a commission as proceeds will go to the artists. "We see this as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, and we're also out there to compete with galleries," explains Ms Chong.
Artists include those who had won UOB's art awards, such as Carey Ngui, Yeo Tze Yang and Stefanie Hauger from Singapore, Yim Sum Yen (Malaysia), Pannaphan Yodmanee (Thailand) and Antonius Subiyanto (Indonesia). The bank has also taken a corner of the exhibition hall to showcase a few prize-winning works in its own collection.
New exhibitor Regina Gallery from Seoul, has banked on a solo artist to make a presence, and that seems to be a good strategy, as Buddhist artist Kim Yun-Sik's paper and calligraphy works are notable - for the way he has reconstituted and reassembled calligraphy on Korean rice paper into installations. Works are priced between US$11,000 and US$14,500.
The role of the art fair, however, is most effective in building up South-east Asian artists' careers and spreading awareness of their works, especially when seen in the light of the ongoing Singapore Biennale now at the Singapore Art Museum and other venues.
Several artists whose works are now a part of the Biennale are featured at the fair as well. One of them is Eddy Susanto, whose solo installation presented by Lawangwangi, Bandung, sees his visual commentary on the impact of capitalism on Indonesia. Capitalism is presented by the pigs he constructed in this exhibition, their skins covered with commercial logos. They are grazing on Javanese letters on the floor, while in the background are faces of leaders on bank notes, framed by Indonesian window frames. This rampant capitalism has already been written about in ancient scripts such as the Serat Kalathida - a reminder that history repeats itself, and man doesn't really change.
- Art Stage Singapore runs from now until Jan 15, at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, from 12pm to 8pm daily; except Jan 15, 12pm to 6pm. Entrance tickets apply. For more information, please go to Artstage.com
A Chua Ek Kay for S$40,000
AN indication of works sold at Art Stage 2017, by Jan 12:
- Rudi Mantofani, Bertabur Bintang (Star Studded), by Gajah Gallery, for S$280,000
- Arifien Neif, Malam Cemerlang, S$45,000; Richard Winkler, Silent Garden (bronze), S$95,000, Zola Zolu Gallery
- Chua Ek Kay, six works, from S$40,000 to S$75000 each; Jane Lee, S$65,000; Rirkrit Tiravanija, S$80,000, STPI
- Donna Ong, And We Were Like Those Who Dream (IX), Fost Gallery, S$28,000
- Yayoi Kusama prints, Toki-No-Wasuremono, US$12,000 and US$27,000
- Takeshi Haguri, Otokogi (wooden sculptures); Toki-No-Wasuremono, US$19,500 each
- Suporn Kaewda, Seeing Mind Seeing Dhamma, Number1Gallery, US$12,000
- Sabri Idrus, Angle #1, Gajah Gallery, less than S$10,000
- Ernest Concepcion, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, US$5,500
- Yim Yen Sum, The Memories We Shared and Who Are You Staring At III; Yeo Tze Yang, Iced Tea; Aaron Gan, Probity; at UOB Art Space, S$2,700-S$7,000
Compiled by Cheah Ui-Hoon
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