Art Stage Singapore 2014 builds bridges in Asia? – media round up

The fourth iteration of Singapore’s flagship art fair ended on a record sales high, but did the new Platform format prove a hit? 

The recently concluded Art Stage Singapore 2014, held from 16-19 January, upped its numbers in terms of visitors, participants and sales from previous editions. The introduction of a new format with eight regional, curated platforms also drew positive reviews. Art Radar collates the reactions.

Tunnel by Mark Justiniani, presented by The Drawing Room at the Southeast Asia platform. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

Mark Justiniani, ‘Tunnel’, 2013, reflective media, light fixtures and objects encased in black iron structure. Presented by The Drawing Room at the Southeast Asia platform. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

The 2014 edition of Art Stage Singapore saw better numbers in terms of sales and attendees, leading to optimistic responses from most galleries and collectors. There were 158 exhibitors, the majority of these from the Asia-Pacific region. Of the total footfall of 45,700 visitors to Art Stage Singapore 2014, a record high, the fair preview and vernissage alone saw 14,600 visitors.

Collectors and visitors alike lauded the quality and diversity of the artwork and curating. Art dealer Alexander Sharov of 11.12 Art Gallery told ARTINFO that “the fair is more interesting than last year. There are a lot of ideas and high-level art works.

Singapore newspaper TODAY’s art columnist Mayo Martin agreed, conceding that the “fourth time’s a charm” for Art Stage, with far less hiccups than in previous editions.

Mayo Martin tweet

“We Are Asia”: Testing the format

Art Stage Singapore’s Founder and Director Lorenzo Rudolf, who is also the former Director of Art Basel and creator of Art Basel Miami Beach, this year introduced a brand new format consisting of eight curated sections representing India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Central Asia, Korea and Southeast Asia.

The aim was to keep the focus on Asian art, which continues to be the fair’s main selling point, as well as to bridge the various segmented areas of Asia and allow for dialogue and exchange. Rudolf told Muse that Art Stage is the only fair in the world that follows the classic fair format while at the same time incorporating “new formats to adapt to Asian and Southeast Asian realities.”

FX Harsono, 'Raining Bed', presented by ARNDT Gallery. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

FX Harsono, ‘Raining Bed’, presented by ARNDT Gallery. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

The idea was met with enthusiasm from galleries prior to the fair’s opening, with Matthias Arndt, the owner of Arndt Gallery, saying:

With the new Platform component, the upcoming edition of Art Stage Singapore also proves its ambition of reinventing the traditional format of an art fair.

Mami Kataoka, curator of the Japanese platform, told the Wall Street Journal that, while fairs were not the ideal place to view art, “adding a curated section encourages viewers to see work with more meaning.

The curated platforms enabled a preservation of the regional status while also allowing smaller galleries and emerging artists, who would not otherwise have dedicated booths, to showcase their work and have access to a wide collector base.

Having an integrated Southeast Asian platform, for instance, allowed artists from countries like Myanmar to display their work to an international audience. Art Radar contributor Nathalie Johnston wrote in Myanmar Times that:

A mere two years ago, it was a rare thing to see Myanmar artists featured at one of Asia’s curated art fairs. […] Now the scene has changed. Myanmar is opening up to exchange and artists are getting long-delayed recognition. […] Whatever Art Stage Singapore may accomplish in terms of sales, the exposure of the artists is sure to offer them inspiration and new artistic ideas, and the validation of finally being placed alongside their contemporaries in the Southeast and greater Asia Pacific region.

Artcentron noted that the platforms,

… provided the necessary contextualization and understanding of artistic development in Asia and the growing art market for collectors, artists and art professionals at the fair.

Filipino art collectors Kim and Lito Camacho were also quoted in Artcentron, saying that the fluid nature of the platforms was more museum-like than the typical booth layout of art fairs, allowing emerging and established artists to vie for attention side by side.

Tatsuo Miyajima, 'C.F Lifestructurism - no. 15', 2008, LED, IC, electric wire, 41.5 x 61.3 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

Tatsuo Miyajima, ‘C.F Lifestructurism – no. 15’, 2008, LED, IC, electric wire, 41.5 x 61.3 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.

The new format attracted several first-time attendee galleries to the fair, such as London’s Lisson Gallery, which presented works by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima at the Japanese platform. Lisson Gallery’s Director Greg Hilty told ARTINFO:

One of the issues for galleries showing in a new territory is recognition. So it’s always helpful to work with the right partner. […] The space is great, the curator is great, and the platform is a clever idea, one with interesting results.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Lorenzo Rudolf has indicated a desire to build upon the platform strategy for the fair’s 2015 edition, perhaps appointing emerging or international curators.

Artist Sarah Choo with curator Louis Ho. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Artist Sarah Choo with curator Louis Ho. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Singapore in context

This year, art from Singapore was absorbed into the Southeast Asia platform, the largest of the eight platforms. Rudolf said that this was in order to show Singapore in context, as it is a part of Southeast Asia. Nine artists represented Singapore.

TODAY’s Mayo Martin approved of this approach, writing:

The Singapore presence is subtly felt throughout the space. The home-grown artists are everywhere. Walk into a gallery and – boom – another one. […] And it all feels like they belong here, jostling for attention with the rest. No institutional spoon-feeding and babysitting, they’re slugging it out with the best.

Positioning collectors as VIPs

Art Stage Singapore this year made several efforts to lure a high-end collector audience, positioning them as VIPs, and offering several special programmes and a dedicated VIP lounge.

Art Stage guided tour. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Art Stage guided tour. Image courtesy Art Stage Singapore 2014.

Before the fair opened to the public, a VIP preview evening was held on 15 January 2014. The strategy seemed to have paid off, with Deepika Shetty of The Straits Times noting that,

Singapore’s premier fair for international contemporary art kicked off on Wednesday night with unusually buoyant sales for homegrown artists.

Manager of Taipei-based Lin & Lin Gallery was quoted in Bloomberg Luxury as saying that the opening night was off “to a very strong start” and that more of an effort had been made to bring in VIPs. The gallery sold a Zao Wou-Ki painting for USD1.2 million to a Singaporean collector.

Fred Scholle of Galerie du Monde Hong Kong told ARTINFO that he was pleased with the presence of “the right quality of collectors”, selling four paintings by Chinese artist Zhu Yiyong on the opening day.

Rahmat of Galerie Apik Indonesia added:

We are quite surprised to see that collectors are now more eager to ask for overall information of the artists displayed, including their plan for the future. We think that in the future collectors will be keener to collect artists who are focused, determined and resilient in achieving their artistic ambition.

Chan Hampe Galleries sold all nine works in its solo show by Ruben Pang for SGD50,000 within the first hour of the VIP preview.

Ruben pang tweet

According to a definitive sales report by Nicholas Forrest for ARTINFO:

Indonesian artists have proven particularly popular with investors and collectors, as have works by contemporary Japanese, Chinese, and Singaporean artists. In terms of price and medium, large-scale painting and photographs in the region of SGD20,000 to SGD60,000 have captured the attention of visitors to the fair.

How Art Stage fared compared to other fairs

ARTINFO’s final sales round up quoted various gallerists comparing their experience at Art Stage with fairs such as Art Basel. Mr Hidenori Ota of Ota Fine Arts Japan/Singapore was optimistic about the market:

This year at Art Stage we welcomed visitors from all over Asia – from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Indonesia, Malaysia – all were there. It was a similar crowd to that of Art Basel in Hong Kong, and it is evidence that there is circulation in the market.

In a similar vein, Michele Vitucci of Munich-based Micheko Galerie said:

We have been visiting Art Stage since its first edition and it has developed into a world class art fair at the speed of light! We consider it better and more courageous than any of the Art Basel fairs. The art of the future will come predominantly from Asia and Art Stage has positioned itself as the art fair to be.

Martin Clist of London’s Rossi & Rossi was, however, slightly more measured in his opinion, saying:

Our impression of the fair is that it still has a lot of work to do to rival Art Basel Hong Kong – there are too many make-weight galleries included – but if the pending sales come off we shall be happy.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: art fairs, round up, curatorial practice, events in Singapore, connecting Asia to itself

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