Fifth edition of premier fair Art Stage Singapore promises new curated showcases
Not just an art fair, but a "coming together" of art, artists, events and a broader community of people interested in the arts.
That has long been the aim of Art Stage Singapore director Lorenzo Rudolf.
Five years on, the fair is indeed seeing that happen.
It has grown in the quality and range of the works shown and, beyond that, has anchored the Singapore Art Week, an islandwide celebration of the arts, for the last three years.
Opening on Jan 22 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, the flagship art fair of South-east Asia has stayed focused when it comes to scale.
The number of galleries has not changed much. This year, there are 153 galleries from 29 countries, largely from the Asia-Pacific region.
Thirty-four are Singapore galleries. Among the new exhibitors are two established galleries from the United States, Paul Kasmin and Marc Strauss.
The big shift is the slow yet steady growth of curated platforms and exhibitions that are given space alongside the commercial booths of the fair.
On the move to introduce these and to build on them over the years, Mr Rudolf, 55, says: "To organise an art fair in South-east Asia is not comparable with doing one in Europe or the US.
Here, we are still in the midst of young and emerging art scenes and markets, often with weak or very particular local infrastructures, which need to be brought to the attention of the international art world.
Each requires special introduction, explanation, promotion and support."
Mr Rudolf, a Swiss national, directed the once-obscure Art Basel from 1991 to 2000 and turned it into what some now call "the Olympics of the art world".
He adds that the best way to promote the art here is "to present it in context".
"We sink in significant investments into the development of these (curated) platforms, such as the South-east Asia one, which is more than 1,000 sq m and features 32 artists from eight countries."
Some of the artworks presented in such platforms are not for sale, though these artists may have other works sold by galleries elsewhere in the fair.
For the first time, there were eight such curated platforms at last year's edition of the fair, winning bouquets from some fairgoers.
Singapore-based art collector Vishrut Jain, 40, says: "The platforms are particularly useful as they are more open spaces in a crammed fair.
"The works are more challenging and thought-provoking and it is easier to get into a debate with a fellow collector without feeling that particular collectors' pressure of 'What if I tell him I like it and he buys it before me?'"
There is one main platform and five special exhibitions at this year's fair, including the introduction of a Russia showcase and a Video Stage.
The special exhibition on Russia is curated by Olga Sviblova, director of the Multimedia Museum, Moscow, and curator of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2009. It will present contemporary art from Russia.
For Video Stage, the main selection is curated by Paul Greenaway from Australia and focuses on works from that country.
Additional selections are curated by Chi-Wen Huang (Taiwan) and Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore).
Such platforms also allow for large- scale artworks that do not fit in a gallery booth space.
Singapore-based curator Iola Lenzi says: "The competition from Hong Kong as well as the blurring of boundaries between commercial and non-profit art institutions in South-east Asia have made Art Stage create an experience beyond the purely mercantile."
Singapore works to look out for include Suzann Victor's red pendulous installation of chandeliers titled Contours Of A Rich Manoeuvre, which will be displayed at the fair.
Other highlights include an installation by Turner Prize-winning duo Gilbert & George; a 3.5m-tall Standing Woman sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero; and an installation of 8,000 brass bells titled Mystic Abode by leading Indian artist Paresh Maity.
The growing vigour of the South-east Asian art can be seen in the increasing number of galleries from the region.
This year, there are eight galleries from the Philippines and 10 from Malaysia, the most at the fair from these countries.
Malaysia also has a special exhibition of 16 Malaysian artists, including prominent names such as Ahmad Zakii Anwar.
Each will create a portrait painting of at least 2m by 2m. Titled Being Human - Figuratism Of Sixteen Malaysian Painters, this showcase looks at figurative painting in Malaysian art.
Singapore artists have not been neglected.
Promising names to look out for this year include multi-disciplinary artist and 2013 Young Artist Award recipient Zaki Razak; Chong Weixin, who has a master's in printmaking from London's College of Art; and painter Hilmi Johandi.
Their works are being presented in the fair's South-east Asia Platform exhibition, Eagles Fly, Sheep Flock, curated by Khim Ong.
Curated showcases aside, Art Stage is a place where artworks change hands for thousands of dollars.
Singapore artists have made a mark in previous editions of the fair.
Last year, Jane Lee's painting installation 50 Faces sold for US$66,000 (S$88,000) to a Singapore buyer, making her one of the top-selling Singapore artists at the fair.
In 2012, the fair scored its biggest sale, that of a 2001 artwork Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting, 871-1), a 50cm by 72cm oil on Alu Dibond done in 2001.
This is part of the coveted Abstrakte Bilder series by German contemporary great Gerhard Richter.
It sold to a Singapore buyer for €1.2 million (S$1.9 million).
The fair has also helped to bring together those interested in the Asian and global contemporary art scenes.
Prominent Indonesia art collector Oei Hong Djien, 75, who will be visiting Art Stage for the fifth year in a row, says: "This is a fair I have followed since its inception.
I think each year, it has improved, introduced something new and offered us a very important window to look at what is happening with South-east Asian art scenes.
"For me, it is also an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones."
Collectors' Talk: Michael Ringier
Media baron and prominent Swiss art collector Ringier is chief of the Ringier publishing empire, which includes German art magazine Monopol.
Where: Level 4, Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, 10 Bayfront Avenue
When: Jan 22, 3 to 4pm
Admission: Free, but registration is required. E-mail events@artstage singapore.com
Platform Projects Singapore Conversation: What Is An Artist? Sarah Thornton In Conversation With Arts Writer Alexandra A. Seno Thornton, a London-based sociologist, is the author of Seven Days In The Art World, a witty series of non-fiction narratives on the art market.
Hong Kong-based Seno writes for several international publications.Where: Level 4, Marina Bay Sands Convention CentreWhen: Jan 22, 5.30 to 6.30pm
Admission: Free, register by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Why Cities Need Museums: Jorge Perez In Conversation With Lorenzo Rudolf Mr Perez, one of America's leading collectors, talks about how he helped create the Perez Art Museum Miami.
Where: Level 4, Marina Bay Sands Convention CentreWhen: Jan 24, 3.30 to 4.30pm
Admission: Free, register by e-mailing email@example.com
ART STAGE SINGAPORE
Where: Marina Bay Sands Expo and
Convention Centre, Level B2, Halls D, E and F
When: Wednesday, Vernissage (by invite only), 3 to 9pm; Jan 22 & 23, noon to 7pm; Jan 24, 11am to 7pm; Jan 25, 11am to 6pm
Admission: Tickets from $10 (concession group ticket) to $64 (four-day pass) from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)
Who's who: noted artists to catch
Who: One of India's most decorated and commercially successful contemporary artists, Maity, 51, received the Padma Shri, one of the country's top civilian honours, last year. His art is in prestigious collections, including the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.
Known for his vibrant palette which evokes everyday scenes and people encountered in India, he has had more than 100 solo and group exhibitions around the world.
What:See the range of his oeuvre at Art Stage Singapore as Gallery Sumukha presents some of his early works, including those made while he was still in art school.
The standout piece is a new installation brought in by Singapore's Linda Gallery.
Titled Mystic Abode, it is made of 8,000 brass bells and weighs 2,500kg. The inspiration for it came during a trip to Switzerland in 1996.
Maity tells Life! in a telephone interview from New Delhi: "In the silence, I started listening to the sound of bells differently. Bells have always been part of my life.
They are part of our rituals. At a deeper level, the sound of bells has a meditative quality to it."
It took him more than six months to finish what is one of his largest installations to date.
Where: Art Stage Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Level B2, Halls D, E and F. Mystic Abode will be exhibited on Level 1 outside the fair.
Maity's other works can be seen at Gallery Sumukha, C-9.
Who: The Japanese master, 57, noted worldwide for his sublime waterfall and cliff images, has been among the top-selling artists at Art Stage Singapore.
In 2013, his work Waterfall, using natural pigments on Japanese mulberry paper, was bought by a local collector for US$450,000 (S$601,000).
Senju was the first Asian artist to receive an Honorable Mention Award at the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995.
His work is in prominent museum collections, including that of The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
In Singapore, he has done notable large-scale public works at the OUB Centre and Tower 2 of One Raffles Place.
What: Sundaram Tagore Gallery presents three recent waterfall paintings at Art Stage Singapore as well as the artist's solo exhibition, Day Falls/Night Falls, at its gallery in Gillman Barracks from Saturday to March 8.
For this presentation, Senju has included two waterfalls that are painted with fluorescent pigments, a medium he first explored in 2007.
These paintings - including an immense byobu (a multi-panel folding screen) - are black and white in daylight. When viewed under ultraviolet light, they are in electric blue.
Where: Sundaram Tagore's booth at Art Stage Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Level B2, Halls D, E and F.
Day Falls/Night Falls is at Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 5 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks, 01-05, open: 11am to 7pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 11am to 6pm (Sunday).
Admission is free.
The artist will speak about his art practice at Art Stage Singapore on Jan 23 from 12.30 to 1.30pm.
Who: Singapore's only female artist to have shown at the prestigious Venice Biennale (2001), Victor, 55, is known for her skilful, sensitive use of material as visceral metaphors for ideas and discourses.
Her oeuvre includes performance, installation and sculpture, often presented in technically challenging forms, and examines social-cultural norms.
She also ran the seminal, cutting-edge arts company, 5th Passage Artists, in the 1990s.
What:Imprint: New Works By Suzann Victor, from Sunday to Feb 21, features paper and print works made during her residency last year at home-grown arts centre STPI, which specialises in print and paper-making.
Her installation of 12 swinging chandeliers, Contours Of A Rich Manoeuvre, will also be presented by Gajah Gallery at Art Stage Singapore.
It was first commissioned in 2006 for the reopening of the National Museum of Singapore, where it still hangs.
Another work in the same series will be installed at the fair.
Where: STPI, 41 Robertson Quay, 10am to 7pm (Tuesday to Friday), 9am to 6pm (Saturday), closed on Sunday, by appointment on Monday.
Admission is free.
There will be a free panel discussion between Victor, STPI's chief printer Eitaro Ogawa and the Singapore Art Museum's director Susie Lingham at STPI on Sunday at 2.30pm.
This article was first published on Jan 15, 2015.
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