Art Stage to have Asian focus

SINGAPORE - Buoyed by the success this year of its Indonesian Pavilion showcasing the country's art, international art fair Art Stage Singapore plans to return next year with more country pavilions.

In its upcoming January edition, the premier fair here is introducing country- and region-specific platforms, which will include those from South-east Asia, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

But unlike with the Indonesian Pavilion - which represented the artists directly and was a hit with buyers but received flak for bypassing the galleries - this time, Art Stage is working with curators and gallerists to show the art.

In an interview with Life! on Monday, fair director Lorenzo Rudolf said: "We have listened to the feedback. We have fixed things and we now want to focus on the next edition by using this platform to position the entire region.

"The idea is really to look at Asia as a whole and at South-east Asia in particular. We have not finalised the number of South-east Asian galleries and countries, but it will be a key focus of the fair."

A full list of exhibition curators, participating galleries and artists, who will make up these country platforms, is expected soon.

The curated country platforms will occupy about 20 per cent - roughly 1,800 sq m - of the exhibition space at the Marina Bay Sands Convention & Exhibition Centre where the previous three editions of the annual fair had been held.

The presentation of these platforms, said Mr Rudolf, will be "in a museum style format" with a mix of new commissions, installations and mixed-media contemporary art works. The focus will be on fresh names and art works and emerging artists from the region. The intent is also to go beyond "a classical art fair format" of galleries displaying the best contemporary art works.

The new platforms, he said, will be able to showcase the dynamic and emerging art scenes in the region, one which will help visitors get a deeper understanding of contemporary art practices from the Asia-Pacific region. This, he said, was a way to start "an important dialogue through art between the West and Asia".

The Swiss national felt this will open doors for emerging artists and will also offer art collectors a chance to see something new when they travel to Art Stage Singapore next year.

"Let's face it. There are a lot of art fairs now and we have to look at ways of presenting things differently. Singapore offers us a great platform to introduce something like this," he said.

Industry insiders said the shift to a more Asian-centric focus is a reaction to the high points of the third edition this year.

The fair's unique offerings - including its Indonesian Pavilion of contemporary Indonesian art - won its spurs among gallerists, artists, curators and art lovers around the globe.

It welcomed a record 40,500 people over five days in January, up from 32,000 last year, and participating galleries reported strong sales.

Top-sellers included an untitled fibreglass sculpture by well-known British sculptor Anish Kapoor, sold for ¤600,000 by Galleria Continua, Beijing, and a bronze Fernando Botero sculpture titled Femme Nue Allongee, sold for US$680,000 by Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore.

While the fair featured artworks from all over the world, it was Asian art that got seasoned art buyers interested.

Gallerist Benjamin Hampe, 32, whose Singapore-based Chan Hampe Galleries has participated in the fair, said: "I think it is the right move to offer a curated platform for galleries. In an international art fair circuit, this is a good way to introduce artworks from the region."

However, art collector Colin Lim, 48, feels that with increasing globalisation happening in contemporary art, it matters less where the art is from.

"Ultimately, I do not think it matters what sort of platforms, pavilions and sections are presented. What is most important and is most memorable about an art fair is the quality of the artworks on show."

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Art Stage Singapore 2014

Where: Marina Bay Sands Convention & Exhibition Centre
When: Jan 16 to 19, 2014

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