CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ART FAIRS ART MARKET
From 12 to 15 January, the Marina Bay Sands Convention and Exhibtion Center hosted the second annual Art Stage Singapore, organised by Art Basel and Art Basel Miami founder Lorenzo Rudolf. The fair, which saw around 31,000 visitors, included 133 galleries representing 19 countries and over 600 artists.
Surprisingly little ink has been spilled over the commercial results of the fair, with much of the coverage focusing on the event’s organisation and creative direction instead of trends or sales results. Lorenzo Rudolf, in particular, has been working hard in recent weeks to build Singapore’s public relations profile, billing the city as a hub for contemporary art in Asia. In the wake of Art Basel’s parent company, MCH Swiss Exhibition Group, acquiring the Hong Kong International Art Fair (reactions to which were collected by Art Radar back in June 2011), Art Stage Singapore looked to distinguish itself as a more local, artist-driven event. As Rudolf states,
In contrast to other art fairs in Asia, Art Stage Singapore is not a copy of a Western show, but Asia’s necessary top event with its own strong (Asian) identity. We have the clear target to support and to defend the interests of Asian artists and galleries by elevating them to a level of international importance. Therefore, the heart of the fair will be the best and most exciting of Asia’s artistic creativity. And in contrast to other art fairs in Asia, Art Stage also puts the art in a context – the main criteria for the fair are not trends and easy sell-ability. On the one hand, we showcase the art in an Asian context, on the other hand, we showcase the art in an artistic context, by supporting many very impressive special projects and presentations.
As the reports have trickled out (and trickled they did), many commentators have noted that there was a predominance of South and Southeast Asian art at the 2012 edition of the fair.
There’s a palpable Asian (if not Southeast Asian) feel to the whole proceedings. The Indonesian galleries are out in full force, the Chinese galleries are presenting some unusual work, and the Singapore presence is rather impressive: a prominent space is given to the local showcase “Island Allegories” (featuring Zhao Renhui, Betty Susiarjo and Ng Joon Kiat), Richard Koh Fine Art’s mini-room of Vertical Submarine’s cheeky text-based works is classy, ditto 2902 Gallery’s Zhao Renhui solo.
Mayo Martin, journalist for TODAY
I sense a more distinct Asian, in particular Southeast Asian, identity. The themes are relevant to the region and it feels less like a generic kind of fair.
Singapore-based critic and curator Iola Lenzi
Much of the media coverage of the event has centered on Singapore’s bid to become an art mecca for the greater Asian region. The Faster Times recently reported on the Singaporean government’s efforts to build the physical and institutional infrastructure necessary to sustain a contemporary art hub. In a similar vein, The Wall Street Journal discussed Gillman Barracks, a colonial military compound-cum-gallery space slated to open on 13 May 2012.
With all this talk of branding and regional posturing, Art Radar was surprised by the lack of on-the-ground reporting to be found on Art Stage Singapore itself. What was published, at least in the online world, was mixed. While the fair started out strong with an invitation-only viewing that saw the sale of work by many Singapore artists, some journalists noted lagging sales as the event went on.
LuxArtAsia noted, with little optimism, that despite many comments on the higher quality of the works in 2012, collectors just were not buying. They considered several possible explanations for such weak sales including the success that various auctions held towards beginning of the fair saw, poor timing (with the Chinese New Year holiday period on the horizon and the Taiwanese presidential elections wrapping up on 14 January) and a recent collectors’ trip to Jogya in Indonesia that may have been the cause of some tight purse strings. Apparently some Chinese galleries are even considering a petition to refund the steep rental fee.
We are definitely feeling the insecurity in the art market as collectors have been holding back on major sales. We have seen some big and important sales but they have not been enough.
Filipino artists were reported to have a strong turnout at the fair, and art works from this country also appear to have sold well.
The biggest sale of the weekend was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Series 871-1). The painting was bought by a local buyer from Galerie Michael Schultz for 1.2 million euros (SGD2 million). Art Stage Singapore reported on other sales highlights for 2012 in a recent press release:
- Haunch of Venison sold a number of Gonkar Gyatso works including the Dissected Buddha (2011) for USD200,000 (SDG260,000), as well as an undisclosed piece for USD400,000 (SDG518,000).
- Gajah Gallery sold a painting by I Nyoman Masriadi for USD350,000 (SDG453,000).
- Linda Gallery sold a work by Indonesian artist Srihardi Soedarsono for USD232,000 (SDG300,000).
- De Sarthe Gallery sold a few sculptures by Bernar Venet for USD100,000 (SDG130,000).
- Galerie Perrotin sold MR’s Desktop of My Mind (2011) for USD240,000 (SDG311,000).
- Galerie EIGEN + ART sold Nervositat by Martin Eder for USD86,000 (SDG112,000).
- ESLITE Gallery sold a Wong Hoy Cheong work for USD88,500 (SDG115,000).
[Editor’s note | 31 January 2012: The number of paintings by I Nyoman Masriadi sold by the Gajah Gallery at Art Stage Singapore has been corrected in response to information given to Art Radar by a gallery representative.]
We will leave with a walk through of the highlights of the fair in a video by VernissageTV.
Were you at Art Stage Singapore in 2012? If so, leave us a comment below. We would love to publish the first-hand opinions of those on the ground.
- India Art Fair’s Collectors’ Circle educates new buyers – December 2011 – a look into how the upcoming India Art Fair plans to attract new buyers
- ART HK versus Art Stage Singapore: ART HK dealers debate Asia’s top fair – June 2011 – how dealers make sense of the two competing shows
- Art Basel takeover of ART HK: What did dealers at ART HK 11 say? – June 2011 – the gamut of opinions on how the new ownership may change ART HK
- Art Stage Singapore’s East-West balance praised – January 2011 – How did Art Stage Singapore manage their participants in their inaugural year?
- Galleries say debut Art Stage Singapore brings diversity ART HK lacks – January 2011 – Art Stage Singapore’s demographic focus and how it differs from ART HK
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