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With new price cap, is it still Affordable?
THE very popular Affordable Art Fair Singapore (AAFS) returns this weekend with a new price cap on the artworks for sale - S$15,000, up from the previous S$10,000. Fair founder Will Ramsay defends this decision on the grounds of inflation and the need to keep up with the growth of its galleries and artists, who would like to bring pricier works to the fair.
But with prices seeing a bigger overlap with those of Art Stage, the country's biggest art fair, can AAFS still call itself "Affordable"?
Camilla Hewitson, who was the first fair director for AAFS and is now regional managing director Asia, points out that 75 per cent of the works still fall below S$7,500.
"So you're not seeing such a huge difference in the price point," she notes. "What you are seeing is a return of artists who have not shown with us for a while because their price points went above S$10,000 and perhaps a few new artists who now have the opportunity to show with us."
A walk through the fair on Thursday bears this out. Returning galleries still showed works mostly below S$10,000, with only one or two larger-than-usual pieces of work crossing the mark.
The more pertinent question, however, is whether AAFS has upped its game in terms of quality now that its price cap is higher. After all, the fair has established a reputation as a warm and welcoming place for novice art buyers.
For those who know art well, there are occasionally great deals to be snagged, such as an Angki Purbandono scanograph at S$1,500 instead of the usual S$2,500 or more price tag, or a Jolene Lai painting when she were just starting out, or a rare Chua Ek Kay print under S$5,000.
Unfortunately, truly collectible artworks are still few and far between. And one has to be in the know or have a good eye to spot them. Many galleries carry works that are attractive but have low collectible value.
According to Ms Hewitson, carrying collectible art is not the mission of the fair: "I don't see us as being in that market. We are a different beast. We see ourselves as grooming first-time collectors. We invest heavily in marketing, putting out ads on radio stations, taxis and buses, because we want to draw an audience who are not traditional art fair-goers."
At Artredot gallery, a regular participant of the fair, new works by Terence Teo, Ling Yang Chang and other popular artists grace the walls, alongside a mid-sized work by the renowned Lim Tze Peng priced at S$12,000.
Assistant manager Daryl Lee says: "That new cap allows us to bring works by more renowned artists to first-time buyers. In the past, we brought Lim's works but they were in black-and-white because the coloured ones are more expensive."
Other galleries of interest include Utterly Art with Yeo Tze Yang's work and Goshen Art Gallery with Ben Cruz's works. Both are recent winners of the UOB Painting of the Year competition.
Other artists worth checking out include Jacky Tsai at Eyestorm Gallery, Isabelle Menin at LUMAS, Iqi Qoror at Art Front Collective and Takahiro Hirabayashi at Gallery Kogure.
- The Affordable Art Fair Singapore runs from now till Sunday. Tickets at S$18 (general admission) at the door