Mixed reaction to 100th edition

Mixed reaction to 100th edition
Mrs Christina Thorsen (right) and her daughter Kayla show a painting they bought for $3,000.

SINGAPORE - The Affordable Art Fair wrapped up its fifth edition at the F1 Pit Building on Sunday, exceeding its visitorship and sales targets.

With 13,300 visitors and $3.7 million in sales over four days, starting Thursday, the fair organisers crossed their target of 13,000 visitors and $3 million in sales.

While the numbers are encouraging, art lovers and gallerists had mixed feelings about it.

In the closing hours of the fair on Sunday evening, there were no signs of frenzied buying, nor did the fair look as packed as it did in its previous editions. Unlike in the past, Friday night turned out to be one of the quietest nights at the fair.

Gallerists said that in previous editions, they barely had time to take a break from their booths on most days. It was quite different this time. Many of them had time to talk and several of them made the same observation - lots of people, not a lot of buyers.

Singaporean Aruna Shahani, a budding artist who has attended all previous editions of the fair, said she had expected to see more participation by overseas art galleries, this being the global 100th edition of the fair. She said that while it was good to see several arts activities that engaged children, which may inspire them to pursue a future in the arts, she expected to see much more.

Dr Shahani felt that while there was a bit of "sameness" among the art on show, with some artists' works seen in more than one booth, "overall it felt great that our country was chosen to be the venue for the 100th edition of a global event where people can buy art at affordable prices".

Collector turned gallerist Hua Tye Swee, 51, who was selling artworks at the Goldmann SAGG booth, said: "The energy of the fair was not consistent across all days. Particularly on Friday, there was a significant dip. We hardly had a crowd and felt the closing time should have been 10pm and not 8pm, as the office crowd just did not have a chance to show up."

He added: "Two editions of this fair seem right, as new collectors are building up but I think the challenge will be in November, when we will have two major art fairs in the same month."

In an earlier Life! story, several collectors had complained of art fair fatigue, which is likely to be most pronounced during the October-November period.

In October, the photography and video fair, Milan Image Art Fair, is to be held at Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre. In November, the second edition of Affordable Art Fair returns to the F1 Pit Building and in the same month, the Singapore Art Fair will be launched at Suntec City, focusing on art from the Middle East, North Africa, and South and South-east Asia.

Gallerist Howard Yu, 42, of DaTang Fine Arts, who was participating in the Affordable Art Fair for the first time and had a booth on the third floor, said Friday was "rather quiet" and echoed Mr Hua's sentiments that the fair closed too early on Friday night. Even though DaTang Fine Arts sold 10 artworks priced between $800 and $9,000, he had expected "to do a lot better, given that this was a landmark edition of the fair".

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