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Art Stage Singapore: To give up or persevere

Carla Bianpoen
Carla Bianpoen

The Jakarta Post

Singapore | Thu, February 8, 2018 | 09:49 am
Art Stage Singapore: To give up or persevere

Pink Men vs Pink Buddha by Manit Sriwanichpoom (The Straits Times/Dios Vincoy)

For some time, rumors of Singapore Art Stage’s impending move from Singapore to another city or country have been floating around, intensifying by the year. 

At the fair’s 8th edition in Singapore, which ran from Jan. 26 to 28, questions were rife about the rumors. 

“If a boat leaks, surely one won’t sit there till it sinks.” That was how the event’s founder, Lorenzo Rudolf, described his situation at a press conference on Jan. 25. 

The steady decline in gallery participation added force to the rumors. With 84 exhibitors, this edition was the smallest since its opening in 2011. Last year, 131 galleries took part compared to 170 in 2016, denoting a steady decline.

This year’s focus on Thailand saw 10 participating Thai galleries. Among them were Numthong Gallery, Tang Gallery and Number 1 Gallery, SAC Gallery. 

Besides well-known artists like Kamin Lerchaiprasert with his Zen bowls installation The Timeless Present Moment; Natee Utarit’s new painting Untitled Poems of Theodore Rousseau; Krue-On, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s new prints, there were also emerging artists. 

One of them was the young Muslim Thai artist Thidarat Chantachua of SAC Gallery Bangkok whose blend of embroidery with oil paint denotes an unusual talent.  

Rudolf praised the Thai market and said the infrastructure was growing with new private art museums, galleries and private companies investing in art.

He said there was no art scene in Singapore. “The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand are booming, only Singapore is stagnant.” 

He also said there was, regretfully, no art production in Singapore and noted that the city could have improved the situation by, for instance, attracting regional, non-Singaporean artists to set up affordable studios in Gillman Barracks.

“If the market doesn’t grow, then I will have to reflect on what I do. I sure won’t be sitting here until the end.”

Super T Who Lost His Cape by Heri DonoSuper T Who Lost His Cape by Heri Dono (JP/Carla Bianpoen)

While this year’s gallery participation at Art Stage Singapore shrank by nearly 40 percent and many bemoaned the commercial decline, positive responses from some galleries restored some hope of a rebound. 

Indonesian Gallery Sri Sasanti, one of only three participating Indonesian galleries, said sales were even better than last year. The other two galleries were Roh Projects and d’Gallery.

Sri Sasanti brought 10 works by Heri Dono and sold five. Linda Gallery, which has branches in Singapore and Jakarta, also confirmed better sales than last year. This time the Linda Gallery brought new works by Indonesian artist Ivan Sagito and works by Chinese artist Fang Lijun. 

Jasdeep Sandu of Gajah Gallery, which has branches in Singapore and Yogyakarta, also reported stronger sales than last year. “We believe the smaller number of galleries has helped and perhaps indicates the size for the arts stage to move ahead,” Sandu said.

It was interesting to see that in spite of just a few Indonesian galleries at the fair, the works of Indonesian artists abounded. A case in point was the selling of the Tiroche DeLeon collection where co-founder Serge had an amazing insight into the works of Entang Wiharso, Agus Suwage, Heri Dono and Gatot Pujiarto.

For the first time, the work of Indonesian fashion designer Auguste Soesastro of Kraton appeared at the Art Stage along with Singaporean, Malaysian and Myanmar designers as part of a Fashion Council presentation. 

Backed by Singapore government agencies including the Economic Development Board and the Singapore Tourism Board, the Art Stage was launched in 2011. Five years later, in August 2016, Art Stage Singapore spread its wings to Jakarta. With the current development, it will be interesting to follow its path.

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