Collectors throng Affordable Art Fair

There were early visitors and brisk sales at the private viewing of the popular Affordable Art Fair Wednesday night.

Art collectors and art lovers who thronged the F1 Pit Building were busy snapping up paintings and sculptures and getting the best picks before the fair opens for general viewing Thursday.

There were several red dots seen at various galleries, signalling brisk sales within the first three hours of the preview.

Local gallery Jada Art sold 10 of 30 works by South-east Asian artists within an hour of the VIP preview opening at 6pm.

Gallerist Valerie Cheah, 46, who is taking part in the fair for the second time, called it "a fantastic start".

She saw a mix of new and old collectors buying paintings priced between $2,000 and $8,000.

Another local gallery, Galerie Sogan & Art, sold two of 12 works it is showing this year. Gallerist Vera Wijaya, 37, who has taken part in three previous editions, called it "the most crowded fair opening night with amazing energy".

International galleries had similar success. Ms Kathryn Bell, 47, gallery director of London-based Fine Art Consultancy, is taking part for the first time but said she would be back.

She sold three works by British sculptor Vanessa Pooley within an hour of opening. She said the fair is "really vibrant" and added: "People have been coming in numbers and asking very intelligent questions including whether Pooley is influenced by the works of Henry Moore. It is a well-informed art audience here."

The private viewing drew more than 3,500 invited guests. It was a packed house with barely any walking room at some points. Last year, the preview evening drew more than 3,000 visitors.

Such was the relaxed vibe of the fair that even on the packed opening, one mother had brought along her two-month-old baby boy.

Businesswoman Padma Rani, in her 30s, said the fair has "beautiful energy" and planned to return over the weekend.

This is the fourth edition of the fair, which has 101 galleries spread over 5,000 sq m, up from 78 galleries and 3,000 sq m in 2011.

Works of art are priced from $100 to $10,000, with the bulk of them below $7,500.

Among them are prints by famous names such as Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and British pop artist Damien Hirst, as well as paintings by young local artists such as Jolene Lai and Jeremy Sharma.

Art lovers who cannot make it to the fair this time will no longer have to wait a year to catch the next instalment.

The popular event, which has grown in size, attendance and sales every year since its launch here in 2010, will add another fair next year from May 22 to 25, making it a biannual event in Singapore.

In just four years, the fair that began in London in 1999 has established itself firmly as an event on the Singapore calendar, anticipated by members of the arts industry and the public.

Last year, it drew 16,000 visitors and chalked up more than $4 million in sales. This marked an 18 per cent increase in visitorship and 25 per cent increase in sales from 2011. In 2011, the fair drew 13,500 visitors and had $3.05 million in sales.

If the opening night was any indication, this edition should easily top last year's sales and visitorship target.

Singapore artist Daryl Goh, 25, said this year definitely has more buzz: "This is a very good lead up to Art Stage in January. It shows the visual scene is growing well and this is beneficial to all of us - artists, galleries and collectors."

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