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Conversation  |  Founder and Director of Art Stage Singapore

Lorenzo Rudolf

In Conversation
8 January 2013

Lorenzo Rudolf. Courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

Lorenzo Rudolf. Courtesy Art Stage Singapore.

A leading force in the international art world, Lorenzo Rudolf is the Founder and Director of Art Stage Singapore. Following a career in international public relations in Zurich, Lorenzo became Director of the world-renowned art fair, Art Basel from 1991–2000. Art Basel stages the world's premier art fair for modern and contemporary art in Basel, Switzerland with branches in Miami and Hong Kong.

After ten years developing fairs around the world including the Frankfurt Book Fair, the International Fine Arts Exposition in Palm Beach and ShContemporary in Shanghai, Lorenzo conceptualised and founded Art Stage Singapore in 2010. This has helped to drive Singapore's advance as the cultural hub of Southeast Asia. The third edition of Art Stage Singapore will take place from 24–27 January 2013.

Singapore is well established as a wealth management hub and destination for affluent people from Asia Pacific, China and the Arab world. But given the conservative and censorious government, it does not spring to mind when thinking of contemporary art. What convinced you that Singapore would work as a host of an international art fair?

Singapore is a young state with numerous on-going developments. The country has established itself as an open-minded, multi-cultural melting pot. Everyone would agree Singapore is now the centre of Southeast Asia. Moreover, Southeast Asian art scenes are growing fast, especially Indonesia, which is the biggest and strongest market. It is logical to host an international art fair in Singapore.

The focus of Art Stage Singapore has always been on the Asia Pacific region. Was this just a means of differentiating Art Stage Singapore from other fairs such as Art Hong Kong or did you feel that the region was underrepresented?

Most Asian art markets are still emerging which means internal structures are still being developed, some of these markets are more mature but some need external resources to take them to an international standard. It's a responsibility for Art Stage to show strong support to Southeast Asian artists and galleries and to provide them the best platform in this globalised art world.

For many Western audiences, 'contemporary Asian art' traditionally meant Chinese art. Is this changing? Are people becoming more aware of the diversity from the region?

China is only the tip of the iceberg, Asia has dozens of art scenes and is much bigger than Europe and the U.S. With some of the world's oldest cultures, the region has the strength to transform itself when the economic and social developments are favourable, as we have seen in the past two decades. China was the first Asian market that caught the attention of world-class collectors, then India, the next will be Indonesia. Local and regional artists no longer have to go to Europe and the U.S. to reach the international buyers as the market is more globalised and decentralised. Cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo are all centres of the best Asian art and are all offering different things.

Art Stage Singapore 2013 will present a new mixed model hosting both galleries and fair-supported artists from Indonesia. This represents a wonderful opportunity for younger artists and artists from less developed markets but potentially some challenges for the galleries who are paying to attend. What has been the reaction from galleries to direct artist participation?

Most of the art scenes in Southeast Asia are still emerging. Without a consistent level of market structure, you need to find new ways to create an internationally competitive platform for the region. We are trying to complement what some galleries are offering. Indonesian artists approached Art Stage directly for support and we worked out a way to market Indonesia, the next new trend in the global art world, in the fair and ultimately everyone from the scene will benefit.

The Indonesian focus will extend beyond direct artist participation. Can you tell us a bit about what else is planned and why Indonesia was selected for this opportunity?

Art Stage is the only international fair with a Southeast Asian focus, Indonesia is the biggest and strongest market from the region and on the cusp of breaking into the international scene. It's our mission to support local and regional scenes to go international. Depending on the market response we'll see if other Southeast Asian markets will be featured in future editions, after all, it's important to show what is relevant to the markets.

Art Stage Singapore 2013 will be accompanied by an interactive virtual fair, Art Stage _+. _What was the impetus in deciding to launch this? How do you anticipate that it will work in relation to the physical fair?

There are two reasons to launch Art Stage +, first it's a unique promotional tool; second it will help us reach other potential buyers especially as the internet has much higher usage in Asia than in Europe and America. I believe this platform will suit the emerging markets very well. Art Stage + will go live on 21 January, with its preview function, we believe this will help expand the market and boost the attendance as people will be compelled to come and see the actual works in the fair.

Are there any other new developments we can look forward to at Art Stage Singapore 2013?

Just take a look at what we are offering in 2013. We have invested bigger resources and more effort to make every part right. It's not just about new developments, but the depth of the content too. The year's education component is strongest ever. We will have a great talk series developed with the newly launched CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art), public guided tours of the Southeast Asian galleries and projects in collaboration with SOTA (School of the Arts) and a series of special programmes. Inside the Indonesian Pavilion, IVVA (Indonesian Visual Art Archive) is running an education centre about Indonesian contemporary art development.

Singapore is a world city and there is every possibility that Art Stage Singapore can be not just an Asian art fair but a focus for the world on Asia. Is this an aspiration for Art Stage Singapore or a forthcoming probability?

Art Stage has established itself as an international fair with a specific Asian identity, we are right for this position as collectors, museum professionals and art lovers are all very specific about what they look for. They go to New York and London to see the best Western art and they come to Singapore for the best Asian, especially Southeast Asian art. We create instead of replicating the need, only by doing that do you differentiate yourself.—[O]

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