In light of plunging stock markets, Southeast Asia’s flagship art fair aimed not just to sell but also to educate and inspire.
The ambitious sixth edition of Art Stage Singapore expanded its focus to include audiences as well as buyers.
Steady sales in spite of decreased attendance
Art Stage Singapore 2016 closed last weekend reporting a 20 percent drop in visitor numbers: only 40,500 visitors attended the country’s premier fair from 20 January to 24 January 2016, down from 51,000 last year. It is “the first time attendance to the fair has shrunk”, reports Straits Times. The decrease reflects unfavourable economic conditions as well as increased competition, with new rival fair Singapore Contemporary Art Show drawing a promising 16,000 visitors and the seventh edition of Art Apart Fair welcoming three times more walk-in visitors than previous years.
In spite of the drop in attendance, galleries at Art Stage reported solid sales results. Sakurado Fine Arts sold a total of USD1.2 million worth of works by Yayoi Kusama, while Sundaram Tagore pocketed USD175,000 for a Chun Kwang Young mixed media piece. Sundaram also sold two Steve McCurry prints for USD42,000 each as well as a mixed media painting by Jane Lee for USD33,000.
Jane Lee was not the only Singaporean artist to sell well. Ruben Pang sold all four of his oil and alkyd paintings at Chan Hampe Galleries for USD46,000 while Wyn-Lyn Tan sold an acrylic on plywood piece for USD17,000 with Fost Gallery. Works by the late Singaporean painter Chua Ek Kay also sold out at Singapore-based STPI Gallery. STPI Director Ms. Rita Targui remarked, quoted by the press release:
Sales this year were healthy […] I felt a sense of camaraderie amongst galleries this year as well. We introduced our clients to a number of galleries and vice versa. There was a collaborative spirit.
Maturing interest for local and regional art
The entire fair had a prominent focus on regional art, with 38 percent of the 173 galleries present hailing from Southeast Asia. According to CNN, some of the most eye-catching highlights of the five-day fair include Thai artist Anon Pairot’s plastic cockroaches and Indonesian artist Yudi Sulistyo’s container ship. Kittisak Thapkoa, another Thai artist, had a sell-out show at Bangkok-based Number1 Gallery, while Indonesian gallery ROH projects sold out works by Syagini Ratna Wulan.
The encouraging results reflect a rising and maturing interest for Southeast Asian art, as well as a greater willingness by galleries to present quality work by lesser-known artists from the region. Art advisor Jimmy Chua said, quoted by Straits Times:
There were fewer big-name galleries at Art Stage this year, but the quality of art surprised me. I saw new, interesting works by lesser-known artists.
“Game-changing” Southeast Asia Forum
Underscoring the focus on Southeast Asia, Art Stage 2016’s inaugural Southeast Asia Forum proved to be the fair’s biggest highlight. Entitled “Seismograph: Sensing the City – Art in the Urban Age”, the Forum comprised a ticketed selling exhibition spotlighting 19 socially-minded artists from the region, including Singapore’s Robert Zhao Renhui, Marvin Tang and Sherman Ong, as well as a series of public talks and interdisciplinary panel discussions dealing with rapid urbanisation. The fair’s website states:
[…] the Southeast Asia Forum […] emphasise[s] the balance between art, commerce and content within larger society by taking a more focused and deeper view into broad global issues that also affect our immediate region and lives.
Panelists and speakers included renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and celebrity auctioneer Simon de Pury, whose presences drew large crowds. Commenting on the extremely well-received Forum, Art Stage Founder Lorenzo Rudolf said, quoted in the fair press release:
We are committed to always present new and game-changing content that provokes discussions and debates […] The content that we present has shown us to be not only an innovative fair, but also a resilient one. It is an important aspect that will distinguish us from others and which strengthens our position in these uncertain times.
Beyond selling: More than a market platform
In an art world increasingly dictated by the market, Art Stage’s unique focus on education, research and intellectual exchange is refreshing and encouraging. It is unusual for art fairs to address non-commercial issues with such a high level of intention and commitment, and the fair’s new programme reflects a rising confidence in art that goes beyond its market value. Nadia Ng, the Forum’s Project Manager, said, quoted by BlouinArtinfo:
[…] the objective of this forum is really to remind us of this role the artists play, and how artists sense the pulse of society, things that are often invisible.
With its new focus on content as well as commerce, Art Stage 2016 impressed audience members and art world practitioners alike. Lu Xun, Founder and Director of Sifang Art Museum and a Forum speaker, said, quoted by the press release:
The fair had a great vibe and I especially enjoyed the curated section. […] I also sat in a couple of the talks and thought that they were very thought provoking. Kudos to a superb selection of panelists rarely seen in a commercial art fair.
Related Topics: Singaporean artists, Thai artists, Indonesian artists, Japanese artists, Korean artists, art fairs, lectures and talks, art and the community, connecting Asia to itself, events in Singapore
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- Art Stage Singapore 2016 launches new Southeast Asia Forum – November 2015 – Southeast Asia’s ‘flagship’ Art Stage Singapore introduces new programme focused on Southeast Asia and urbanisation
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