SINGAPORE - In the increasingly packed calendar of art fairs here, the Singapore Art Fair hopes to stand out from the crowd when it debuts in November with its focus on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South and South-east Asia.
The modern and contemporary art fair will be held from Nov 27 to 30 at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is organised by new company Orchilys, a joint venture between Cedralys, the organiser of the five-year-old Beirut Art Fair, and MP Singapore, an exhibitions and conventions specialist.
Mr Jason Ng, 42, executive director of MP Singapore, says: "As the art market in Singapore matures, there is a greater desire for new experiences, and art from the Middle East, North Africa and South and South-east Asia is an unmet gap in the scene here."
Ms Laure d'Hauteville, 47, founder and fair director of the Beirut Art Fair and Singapore Art Fair, says it is timely for a fair that spotlights art from these emerging regions because "people from these places are starting to look at one another, to understand one another's heritage".
She says: "In the Middle East, people are interested in the Asian art scene, especially art from South-east Asia. At the Beirut Art Fair, response to South-east Asian art has been very good."
Gallerist Richard Koh, 49, concurs. He has eponymous galleries in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore specialising in South-east Asian art, and has taken part in the annual Beirut Art Fair since it began in 2010.
Mr Koh, who is the artistic director for South and South-east Asian art at the Singapore Art Fair, says: "I have, surprisingly, sold more works at the Beirut Art Fair than at other fairs in Asia. The collectors there are very receptive to South-east Asian works."
Ms d'Hauteville hopes the Singapore Art Fair will give collectors from the Middle East opportunities to gain deeper insight into South-east Asian art on home ground and for collectors here, who are increasingly curious about art from the Middle East, to similarly benefit from the exchange.
She says: "Collectors in Asia are growing in their understanding of art from the Middle East and we see more galleries and exhibitions showing such art."
Examples she cites include the gallery Sana Fine Arts in Blair Road, which focuses on contemporary Middle Eastern art, and the recent exhibition Terms And Conditions at the Singapore Art Museum, which offered a survey of art from the Arab world.
The fair is also refusing to be a cookie-cutter version of established art fairs which favour art market darlings. It is training its focus on talented, emerging artists who are not yet widely known, so that visitors will be able to discover new artists and fresh works at the fair.
The 4,000 sq m fair will feature 60 galleries and 20 smaller booths dedicated to solo shows. About 300 sq m of exhibition space will also be dedicated to a pavilion showing art from the Middle East and North Africa. The pavilion will be curated by esteemed curator Catherine David, a former artistic director of the prestigious international art exhibition Documenta.
Ms David, 59, says the pavilion will give visitors a view of the cultural complexities that artists from the region negotiate in their works. She adds that she is not interested in big names, but rather art that is interesting and innovative.
Works shown in the pavilion will not be for sale. Ms d'Hauteville says: "We want to have a space that purely educates people on art from the Middle East and North Africa, and for visitors to follow these artists and their evolution in art."
The fair will also have a smaller platform that presents Lebanese contemporary art, curated by Beirut-based art collector Janine Maamari. Works at this platform are also not for sale.
The art fair has gone down "very well" with exhibitors, says Mr Pascal Odille, 46, artistic director of art from the Middle East and North Africa for the fair. He declines to give exact figures but says applications from galleries continue to stream in.
As for the price of works sold at the fair, he says: "It will be possible for both young and mature collectors to find something good within their budgets." The admission price to the fair has not been fixed.
Ms d'Hauteville acknowledges that the art fair scene in Singapore is heating up. There are believed to be at least six fairs this year, including the recently concluded premier contemporary art fair Art Stage Singapore and two upcoming editions of the Affordable Art Fair. However, she believes the unique proposition of the Singapore Art Fair will help it shine.
She says: "We don't want Singapore to be just a stopover for art collectors. We hope that the Singapore Art Fair will turn Singapore into a final destination for people to discover art."
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