Art Stage Singapore
2013.01.23 Wed - 2013.01.27 Sun
Opening Exhibitions
01/23/2013 15:00
Sands Expo & Convention Halls D, E, F (Basement 2), Singapore
+65 6224 4975
Opening Hours
The fair is open to the public from 24 - 27 January, 2013. Thursday 24 January 12 – 7pm Friday 25 January 12 – 7pm Saturday 26 January 11am – 7pm Sunday 27 January 11am – 6pm
Lorenzo Rudolf

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Art Stage Singapore 2013 Vernissage Report

“It’s a collection of collectors,” remarked one young artist at the vernissage of this year’s Art Stage Singapore last night, “I’m going to make an art work about it.” It was indeed a buzzing evening around the single floor of the fair, stashed in the lower basement of the Convention Centre; a smart, reasonably international crowd perused art works — and each other — among the some 130 gallery booths (a number almost precisely matching the 2012 edition). Noticeable was the absence of several big names that had been present last year, including 10 Chancery Lane, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Lehmann Maupin, Tang Contemporary, Victoria Miro and Marlborough Gallery. Though the tally of solely local galleries was slightly down for 2013, that of those who count Singapore among their multiple locations was up significantly from 12 to 23.

And was it a large collection of collectors? While Tina Keng (founder of the eponymous Taipei and Beijing gallery) reported a satisfying number of new collectors, Audrey Yao, of Yao Workshop, attested to good sales to existing clients. The latter explained also that after having created something of an “anti-fair” booth last year with minimal, edgy works, she has deigned this year to offer something a little less niche in tandem with the fair’s attendees (and its still somewhat “flashy” identity). Nonetheless, the Singaporean native plans this year to move her London-based gallery back home, where she believes platforms like the fair are contributing to an improved environment for contemporary art.

Regional chatter never seemed far from the lips of visitors and participants alike. For non-Asian galleries, and as an alternative to Hong Kong, Singapore represents a far easier place to go than Shanghai; one went so far as to call it, laughingly, “The Geneva of Asia.” For a Beijing-based gallery like Boers-Li, however, the fair represents a significant — and slightly unsure — step into the “Asia Room” (according to Waling Boers, who opted not to attend Art Stage again this year). Walking round the stands, the presence of local galleries and artists is not strongly felt. A mere two booths showcasing Singaporean artists’ work (the “Singapore Platform”) is positioned awkwardly at the mouth of an expansive Indonesian Pavilion; there, distinctively styled installations by individual artists better convey a sense of their identity than does “New Black City,” a perplexing walk-in work by three Singaporean artists composed mainly of black cones and panels, with small white sculptures appearing in places. A young local art student admitted he wasn’t sure what made Singaporean artists stand out against the more definite styles of those hailing from the Philippines and Indonesia. Indeed, there were noises that Art Stage may not be doing the best job at ingratiating itself locally. One gallerist reported a client wanting to boycott the fair, while some local art spaces apparently feel looked down upon. Certainly, the fact that Art Stage approached Indonesian artists directly for the Pavilion — and is selling their works directly too — will not have pleased their galleries.

Beyond such clashes, however, the consensus is that this year’s fair has been well organized, with production improved on the last. The layout of the booths is engaging and clean, with some interesting floor plans in play. Though the Special Project installations are not especially edgy, their placement is well-balanced with the booths, and the quality of lighting is high. There are impressive booths by C-Space (Beijing), Catherine Asquith gallery (Melbourne), Yao Workshop (London), Carroll/Fletcher (London), Espace (Shanghai), Art Front (Tokyo) and Edouard Malingue (Hong Kong).

On-site this afternoon, gallerists commented on a very quiet second day. Sales seem to be quite slow, though Haunch of Venison is happy with more “energetic” buying than last year (having sold out their works by Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso, and gleaned significant interest in “The Lovers” — a kitsch work composed of amorously entwined scooters by Patricia Piccinini). Tina Keng is also pleased with improved sales on 2012 — though mentioned wryly that the works have not yet been paid for. All are no doubt glad there is no VIP trip to Indonesia of the kind that whisked away collectors on the final day of the fair last year, leaving gallerists irate in their booths.

And after dark, for all the fair proclaiming “Art is chic” on banners along the streets of Singapore, the night life has not been aflame. The official VIP after-party, which promised “All-night arty surprises” (the mind boggles), yielded nothing of the sort, with VIPs sloping quickly away to their beds. One Emmanuel Perrotin left soon after your correspondent discovered him loitering on the night club steps, while others hadn’t bothered to attend in the first place. Perhaps the neon-lit VIP lounge at the exhibition centre, with its champagne and chocolate fondue, had already satisfied social appetites. The opening party this evening chez SAM (Singapore Art Museum) proved more attractive, with tasty local eats and a slick collectors’ show (“The Weight of History”) drawing a lively crowd to Bras Basah Road.

Thus is the third edition of Art Stage Singapore officially underway. With Hong Kong looming to the North and necessary weight still coming from Indonesia, it seems Singapore has yet to establish a strong identity for itself in terms of its own artists and cultural structures. Although local support for contemporary art is developing through museums and initiatives like the Gillman Barracks gallery enclave, this year’s Art Stage is still one upon which non-locals star. The ease of attendance for foreign visitors to Singapore and an Asian inflection against Art Hong Kong’s aggressively international stance (plus Art Stage’s relatively comfortable scale and affordability for participating galleries), lie in its favor however. While sales totals this year have yet to be seen, there is reason to watch Art Stage Singapore as a gauge of the region’s high-cultural commerce.