Art Stage Singapore made its success debut at Marina Bay Sands last week. While attendees praised the fair’s diverse yet strongly Asian audience, initial sales have been reported as mixed. Art Radar was there, taking photos, attending lectures and exhibitions and talking with galleries, artists and art professionals. Today we bring you just a taste of what we collected.

Focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, this first-time fair showcased works from over 120 galleries from 26 countries. In the lead up to its inauguration, there was lot of scepticism in the media and among art professionals as to whether the fair would be able to keep pace with the already established ART HK, the Hong Kong International Art Fair.

At the event’s opening press conference, Art Stage fair director Lorenzo Rudolf (Director of Art Basel from 1991 to 2000, Inventor of Art Basel Miami Beach and Co-Founder of ShContemporary, Shanghai) attempted to reassure the skeptics:

“As opposed to be[ing] in competition [with Art HK], one should see Art Stage Singapore as a complementary art fair. What is most important is that the fair has a unique identity. It makes no sense to duplicate in Asia an Art Basel or Frieze, nor to bring a large delegation of Western galleries presenting big names and brands of mediocre quality, or galleries offering what they were not able to sell in the West. The most important factor of a good and interesting art fair is the quality of the presented works. Here, Art Stage Singapore is set as a platform to show [the] strength and quality of Asia-Pacific art with [the] same level of creativity as Western art and present it in its context.”

In general, it seemed confidence in the fair grew slowly from its opening day. Katherine Ryder, writing for the Wall Street Journal, reported last Thursday,

“Critics agreed [on the opening] night, however, that the art at the fair can hold its own…. And everyone speculated how successful Art Stage Singapore might become in the future. Ultimately, the success of Art Stage Singapore will be measured by its sales — and in this respect, [the opening night] was a mixed bag. The prestigious yet private de Sarthe Fine Art, which will open a gallery in Hong Kong this year, is participating in its first art fair in more than twenty years and has already sold five LaChapelle pieces, at prices ranging from USD50,000 to USD180,000. Other galleries that brought blockbuster pieces reported strong sales, such Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, from Paris, with its playful Takashi Murakami paintings; and Contrasts Gallery, from Shanghai, with its haunting Zhang Huan’s North.”

Shrine Empire Gallery from New Delhi, India, said to Art Radar,

“The fair is much better than expected for a first time art fair. It manages to have a colour [all] of its own. We are very excited to be bringing in our artists and introducing them to this fair’s audience.”

And a representative from Jakarta-based Nadi Gallery welcomed the strong Asian presence at the fair:

“We did [the] HK Art Fair last year and as comparison [Art Stage Singapore] does have [a] different platform in a sense that it is strongly Asian. There are some event organising details that could be improved, but overall I am very happy with the fair as it brings in real diversity. [The] pool of collectors we dealt with are somewhat the usual suspects but we do get new people coming in, still hesitating to buy but showing deep interest.”

The gallery comments above suggest an optimistic beginning for Art Stage Singapore but, of course, not everyone feels this way as article “Asian art rising”, published on Indonesian news website The Nation, reveals:

“For Chen Shen Po, director of the well-established Art Singapore fair, which in its 10th edition in October attracted more than 50 galleries and 12,000 visitors, the city-state’s art scene is still not mature enough to have another big show. ‘In order for Singapore to be developed into an arts hub in the region and internationally, it needs its own critical mass of local audience to sustain and grow the local art market,’ Chen says.”

The fair was stretched over five days, from 12-16 January, 2011, throughout which a number of artist, curator and collector talks were held. Speakers included David LaChapelle, Charles Merewether of ICA Singapore, Dr Oei Hong Djien (a prominent Indonesian collector) and the Rubell Family (prominent US collectors). A number of fringe exhibitions were also held across the city.

Click here to view a slideshow of images and collector quotes from Art Stage Singapore fringe exhibition “Collectors’ Stage: Asian Contemporary Art from Private Collections”, put together by the Wall Street Journal.

In an interview with, Singaporean-based art critic, art historian and curator Eugene Tan emphasised the need to have these kinds of events spread through the year,

“[Hong Kong] is currently the art marketplace in Asia, primarily through Art Hong Kong and also the auctions. But this means the activity there is very seasonal. Galleries don’t see the point of having an ongoing space when they [only] need to be in Hong Kong during these key times. [What] we want to build in Singapore is a sustainable marketplace – to have galleries here with activities and exhibitions all year round.”

We hope to bring you more on Art Stage Singapore in the coming weeks, including overviews of some of the important fringe events and talks we attended and a slideshow or two of the many images we have collected.


Related Topics: art fairs, Singapore venues, Asia expands, connecting Asia to itself

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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