Art Stage Singapore has just finished its third, and so far most successful edition, this past weekend. Held in the basement of Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre, this year saw some 130 gallery booths participating.
While ‘relaxed’ is how one collector described the atmosphere of the first couple of days, consensus was that this year was certainly more buzzy than the last, with a much higher attendance, and greater sales figures. Not a star-studded affair like Frieze or the Art Basel fairs, this was a fair for collector-watching with both international and Asian collectors visting.
A few galleries who fared well from the outset included Nadi Gallery (Jakarta) and Gajah Gallery (Singapore) who benefited from the Indonesian art zeitgeist with sales for Handiwirman Saputra and I Nyoman Masriadi works. Galleria Continua (Italy, China, France) sold one of its star pieces, an Anish Kapoor fiberglass disc and enjoyed strong interest in Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere’s wax sculpture and Pistoletto framed mirror works. Sundaram Tagore Gallery (NY, HK, Singapore) presented a selection that seemed well suited to the market, fusing traditional and contemporary styles with an East meets West philosophy that this part of the world is only too familiar with. Works by Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju, also showing at Whitestone Gallery (Tokyo) sold to an Asian collector in the first day of the fair.
Elsewhere, Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong) stood out with a special exhibition of Jannis Kounellis’ works, a mixed media presentation infused with the Arte Povera language. Manila’s Silverlens Gallery seduced visitors with an interactive walk-in installation by Asian art fair regular Geraldine Javier. Berlin’s Arndt gallery, which also opened at the Gillman Barracks earlier this year, had a strong showing of Asian artists, with Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota and a display of Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso’s works, several of which had sold in the first couple of days. The Indonesian star’s work was one of the features of the fair, with two large installations also bookending the front and back of the convention centre space as part of the new Indonesian Pavilion. Singapore Tyler Print Institute featured several works by Filipino auction favourite Ronald Ventura, including two large detailed tree pieces made of recyclable paper and rubbings of traditional Filipino carved wood pieces.
New in this year’s fair was a program of discussions with curators, artists and collectors featuring Uli Sigg, and Belgian artists Arne Quinze and Wim Delvoye, as well as the addition of Art Stage+, a virtual art fair allowing collectors previews of exhibiting works. Indonesian and Filipino art made a strong showing at this year’s fair, although fewer Indonesian galleries than originally announced exhibited. Gossip attributed this to fair director Lorenzo Rudolf’s decision to commercially represent artists’ works directly in an Indonesian pavilion for the first time. The pavilion had one western gallerist commenting that, “the dealer’s role has shrunk and the boundaries and rules are blurred. Auction houses are dealing, art fairs are representing artists and collectors are going straight to artists’ studios.” Despite criticism, Rudolf remained unapologetic, saying the fair also has a responsibility to support emerging artists from underrepresented countries. “The problem is not what we do, but the friction between artists and galleries”, he said. “With globalisation there is an increasing interest in South East Asian art. The artists realise this. They want to be in an important museum or collection, but then there are no galleries to support them, and they come to me. So I am in a situation where I have to think, what is my role? Only to sell square metres to galleries? Or is it maybe something else - to promote art scenes, art markets and build up markets? I have to make a decision.”
The controversial pavilion showcased the works of 36 Indonesian artists and art collectives, many created especially for the Singaporean fair, and casting a critical eye at the country’s political and cultural issues. Included in the project was an installation by 2003 Venice Biennale participant Heri Dono, The Extraterrestrial Troops, a humorous installation composed of glittering lit glass lamps, drawing heavily on traditional Javanese folk theatre. Indiguerillas’ Silent Procession of this Cheerful Trojan Horse (2012), a playful colourful fusion of Javanese and pop culture, was quickly snapped up by a collector.
Tucked away to the sides of the fair in the Project Stage section was a cluster of Australian galleries profiling single emerging artist shows. Sullivan + Strumpf showcased Melbourne-based sculptor’s Sam Jinks’ hyper-realist silicone figures, recalling the works of compatriot Ron Mueck. Paul Greenaway’s Gagprojects featured the works of Nasim Nasr in a multi media presentation while the young Melbourne gallery, Utopian Slumps, mounted a solo exhibition of lenticular paintings by Melbourne-born William McKinnon.
Although the fair was a mix of varied quality works, it still offered the opportunity of new discoveries from emerging artists, and with 75% of the galleries from Asia Pacific it stayed true to its declaration, ‘We Are Asia’. However, while the fair has been key to helping Singapore become a cultural hub in the region, it remains to be seen whether it will be able to maintain momentum and market interest, and continue developing a strong identity with mega brand Art Basel, of which Rudolf is former director, now set to become a bigger player in the region. - [O]
Diana d'Arenberg is a Hong Kong-based writer, art consultant and blogger on post-ism.com. She is a regular contributor to Asia Tatler and has also written for Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, South China Morning Post, Rossiskaya Gazeta, and High Magazine. She is also the former editor and co-founder of Framed, a Hong Kong art and culture magazine dedicated to profiling local and international artists, collectors and designers.