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Yoshitomo Nara's Punch Me Harder (220 x 197cm, acrylic on paper) will feature at Whitestone Gallery as part of Art Stage Singapore.

Robert Zhao’s Deer Park (84 x 121cm, archival pigment print, edition 5+1 AP) will be featured at Mizuma Gallery at Art Stage.

Mr Rudolf expects strong turnout from regional collectors.

Tintin Wulia's work Untold Movements is a large installation of black cloth equipped with speakers that project stories of people trapped within human-drawn borders.

12 Days of art frenzy

Singapore Art Week begins on Jan 11, anchored by top-shelf art fair Art Stage and supported by nearly 100 events. BT Lifestyle picks the highlights.
Jan 6, 2017 5:50 AM

MYTH or fact?: Singapore art collectors have enough disposable income to purchase works from the world's hottest artists. But they're too shy and self-conscious to make their collections known.

According to Art Stage Singapore founder and fair director Lorenzo Rudolf, this is fact. Which is why when the seventh edition of the art fair opens next week, a new light will be shone on Singapore-based collectors. A 1,000 sq m-space called Collectors' Stage will be devoted to works from six private collections, namely that of Hady Ang, Jim Amberson, Kenneth Tan, couple Michael Tay and Talenia Phua Gajardo (MT Collection), couple Michelangelo and Lourdes Samson, and one final collector who, well, wishes to stay anonymous.

The works on display are by Oscar-winning artist-filmmaker Steve McQueen, American neo-conceptualist pioneer Jenny Holzer, Indonesian abstractionist Handiwirman Saputra, Filipino auction star Ronald Ventura, and many others.

According to Mr Rudolf, who's always been one to speak candidly: "There are quite a number of wealthy collectors and art buyers here. But the strange thing is that many of them don't buy art in Singapore. Instead you meet them in Hong Kong, New York, Paris or London. Many of them buy art at international auctions. And, as a consequence, the local art market is lacking their support ... And we really have to think about the reason why they don't want to be seen (buying art) in Singapore."

Market voices on:

If the lavish open house parties thrown by Jakarta-based collectors to show fellow art-lovers their collections are any indication, then Singapore-based collectors would seem far less flashy by comparison. The collectors showcase at Art Stage is hence an attempt to coax more collectors to come out of their shells.

Smaller fair, bigger buzz?

When Art Stage opens for business next week (vernissage on Wednesday, public opening on Thursday), it will features 132 exhibitors from 27 countries - a drop from the 173 galleries from 33 countries that took part in the fair last year.

Meanwhile, outside of the fair, there are almost 100 satellite art events taking place across the island over a period of 12 days also known as the Singapore Art Week. Its events include two satellite art fairs, countless gallery openings and half a dozen art tours (see page 25).

Mr Rudolf says the general art market has affected Art Stage.

He adds: "I think for these upcoming years worldwide, we will not see the hype of the art market that we saw previously. What happened in the last 10 to 15 years was not normal. We are somehow going back to a state of normalcy. But good art, quality art with reasonable prices, will always be sold. I also think that in the last couple of years, all over the world, there were a lot of new enthusiastic buyers of art, which bodes well for us."

Despite a smaller fair, Mr Rudolf is optimistic about the turnout for collectors. He notes: "We've done a lot of engagements to bring more collectors from South-east Asia to Art Stage Singapore 2017. We are going to have an unprecedented number of collectors coming from Indonesia this year, following the expansion of the Art Stage brand with Art Stage Jakarta in August 2016."

In-depth discourse

Besides the Collectors Stage, the other highlight of the fair is the South-east Asia Forum which comprises an exhibition and a series of lectures that delves into global issues that impact the art world and the South-east Asian region. Top speakers for the eight talks and discussions include the famously opinionated banker-turned-collector Alain Servais, as well as Professor Franz Schultheis of the University of St Gallen who investigates the relation between art and capital.

The accompanying art exhibition also features some strong works by South-east Asian artists such as Heman Chong, Svay Sareth, Ivan Lam and Norberto Roldan focusing on the theme of power, capitalism, borders and migration.

Indonesia's Tintin Wulia has a large forest-like installation of 32 pieces of black cloth, each 4m long, hanging from the ceiling. Each cloth is equipped with speakers that project voices of 15 narrators speaking in different languages. They tell the stories of people trapped within human-drawn borders, such as a political exile yearning for return, an immigrant missing her homeland even though it holds little promise, and the artist herself caught in a customs nightmare in Frankfurt airport because of visa problems.

Ms Wulia explains: "I'm responding to the idea that citizenship is arbitrary - where you're born is the luck of the draw. And yet, citizenship plays a big role of our lives over which we have little control. At a time when technology strives to eliminate borders and connect people from all parts of the world, these kinds of borders and limitations seem almost barbaric to some."

Also responding to similar themes is Singapore's Kent Chan. The 32-year-old artist is showing a two-channel video in which he interviews foreign workers on a moving lorry, asking them about their lives in Singapore. On another wall, Chan is showing excerpts of his short novel about the migrant worker experience. Chan says: "The issues of migrant workers is extremely ubiquitous, especially in a city like Singapore where all the new buildings are being built by these workers. And yet not enough is being said about their contributions and not enough is being done to document that contribution."

  • Art Stage Singapore runs from Jan 12 to 15, with a vernissage for VIPs on Jan 11, at the Marina Bay Sands' Sands Expo & Convention Centre