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The Stage's all abuzz
Publication Date : 29-01-2013
Healthy sales, happy faces. The Art Stage Singapore fair is well received and regarded
Beyond the glitz, glamour and controversy, Singapore's premier art fair, Art Stage Singapore, got its groove back in its third edition.
Drawing a record 40,500 visitors, up from 32,000 last year, the four-day contemporary art fair ended on all the right notes on Sunday.
The open layout, stronger works by Asian galleries and attention to curation reflected in the healthy sales and generally happy faces.
An hour after the closing, fair director Lorenzo Rudolf was seen walking the ground, thanking gallerists and listening to what they had to say. The picture was quite different from the last edition, when he left with a group of key collectors for a tour of Indonesia hours before the fair closed, to the chagrin of galleries.
Visibly tired but thrilled, MrRudolf, 53, told Life!: "Singapore is changing."
Referring to the many side events anchored around the fair, he said: "It is beautiful to see it happen in such a coordinated way. As fair organisers, we have learnt from the past. With the third edition, we are clearly on the right track towards building a clear Asian identity for the fair and with it, growing the South-east Asian art scene."
Indeed, his much talked-about Indonesian Pavilion, which galleries had feared would compete with them, turned out to be one of the highlights of the event. It was Asian artworks that had seasoned art buyers interested.
Several international art collectors, such as Swiss Uli Sigg, a prominent collector of Chinese contemporary art, Chinese-Indonesian Budi Tek, India's Lekha Poddar and France's Dominique and Sylvain Levy, were in town for the fair. Levy stayed till the last hours of the fair and said he was "impressed" by all the arts events built around the fair.
Calling the fair "outstanding", Paris-based Levy, 59, said: "I have been most impressed by the South-east Asian art I have seen. There is a clear shift in the artistic narrative. There is rising self-confidence, the artists are more focused on their own societies and this is reflected in the strong works they have presented."
This showed in the sales. Local gallery Gajah had success with Indonesian artist I. Nyoman Masriadi's paintings on opening night (see side story below).
Local artists, too, snagged the attention of collectors. The Singapore Tyler Print Institute, which will be taking Genevieve Chua's new work to Art Basel in June, sold three of her paper works priced between S$3,000 (US$2,400) and S$6,000. The remaining two are on reserve.
Art Seasons Gallery sold home- grown collective Phunk's 32 Stories, a reworking of 32 book covers, for S$12,000 and a sculpture by artist David Chan for S$13,000.
Even the Australian additions to the fair did well. Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf sold three pieces by artist Sam Jinks. The Australian artist's jaw-dropping sculptures of babies and human forms stopped people in their tracks. Two of the silicone, silk and human hair sculptures sold for A$60,000 (US$62,600) and A$40,000.
The fair is supported by the Economic Development Board, Singapore Tourism Board, National Heritage Board and the National Arts Council to make Singapore a top arts city and to focus on "softer" aspects of growth.
Lawyer Valerie Cheah, who is in her 40s, found this year's edition "very well organised and extremely well planned". Overall, she said, "the vibe and the standard of the art made it a very engaging fair".
Singaporean collector Reno Sio, 43, commended the organisers on the gallery selection: "The quality is better and there is lots to see, particularly from Southeast Asia."
The fair's ending on Sunday capped a frenzied 10 days of arts events in Singapore. Multiple gallery openings, museum exhibitions, auctions and the first hotel art fair drew an unprecedented number of collectors, artists, dealers and art lovers.
Former Yugoslavian-turned-Singaporean painter Milenko Prvacki, who moved here 21 years ago, recalled he had "not seen anything like this in Singapore before".
"We had one museum and two to three art galleries. I never thought I would live to see this in my time," said the 61-year-old senior fellow at the Lasalle College of the Arts.
Several visitors called the 10 days of art an "immersive" experience that was well planned and offered enough range in terms of art to see.
Said Venka Purushothaman, 48, provost at Lasalle College of the Arts: "This is the first time I have seen visual arts give performing arts a run for its money for its vibrancy and energy. More people are showing up for openings.
"It can be argued that not everyone at the openings is there for the art but the buzz adds to the excitement found in the art. In a city like ours, people have choices and if they make a choice to show up for art, it is a sign of genuine interest."
Additional reporting by Lisabel Ting and Eileen Tay
*US$1=1.2 Singapore dollars