Art Stage Singapore 2018: A Review
A cross-section look of the landmark art fair
The eight edition of Art Stage Singapore took place from 25 to 28 January 2018, with the theme ‘Intersections’. The fair presented many masterpieces, from an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s works to celebrated artist Fernando Botero’s immediately recognisable works such as ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘Donna Seduta Che Guarda Fianco, Ed 2/6’. It also sought to impress by displaying spectacular statues by Amedeo Modigliani (‘Tete de Cariatide’) and Manolo Valdes (‘Blue Butterflies’ and ‘Infanta Margarita’) in the public areas of the fair, inspiring a sense of awe in the visitor. The Tiroche DeLeon collection was received particularly well, with Manit Sriwanichpoom’s ‘Pink Men vs. Pink Buddha’ being a crowd favourite.
Indeed, the country of focus for this edition was Thailand, though this was not immediately obvious to fair-goers, and could have been a more curated effort. Richard Koh Fine Art did have a stellar display of Natee Utarit’s works with ‘Untitled Poems of Theodore Rousseau’. These were not just a sight to behold due to their impressive scale, but also a comprehensive introduction to the artist and his significance in the Thai art scene.
Several booths at the fair were dedicated to promoting Southeast Asian Art, as befitted Art Stage Singapore’s remit to be the flagship fair for art from the region. They included Sundaram Tagore Gallery, as well as Gajah Gallery and art agency Art Agenda, S.E.A.. Sundaram Tagore noted, “Art Stage has exerted a prodigious influence on Singapore’s contemporary artistic life and that the Sundaram Tagore Gallery is proud to have been associated with the fair since its inception.”
Art Agenda S.E.A. had a noticeably well-curated booth, giving both buyers and visitors rich and thematic introductions to the influence of Chinese art and aesthetics in the work of local giants such as Chua Ek Kay, as well as lesser known fields of modern Indonesian abstraction with artists such as Mochtar Apin and Ahmad Sadali. “Secondary market dealers with category and area specialism like Art Agenda, S.E.A never go out of fashion, especially in the context of a sprawling diverse fair,” commented founder Wang Zineng. “Our success is predicated on how collecting taste continues to evolve, and how we curate and generate connections between what may not be immediately obvious.”
Mazel Galerie, which hails from Brussels and established a presence in Singapore last year, took part in the fair for the first time, and was positive about their participation. Gallery director Kevin Troyano said, “The experience has been great. The fair was smaller than previous years’ but I could feel the excitement and curiosity from the crowd — including students who one day might become collectors. It is very important that the younger generations develop a keen eye and appreciation for art.” He added, “I did not see many Singapore-based galleries at the fair and I believe it’s important for us to be present. It is great exposure not only for us galleries, but for the artists we represent. We were very happy to introduce Singapore to up-and-coming star artist Fidia Falaschetti (a crowd favourite), who did extremely well in Miami just a few months ago.”
There was participation by other art galleries from the West, such as Ashok Jain Gallery from New York and Omer Tiroche Gallery from London. At the same time, the fair had a strong showing of East Asian galleries, such as Gallery Kogure from Japan and New Museum from Korea, proving the fair’s visibility beyond the region. Works by well-known Asian artists could also be appreciated at the fair, such as at Opera Gallery, which had a stunning display of works by Anish Kapoor and Ran Hwang.
In essence, however, Art Stage Singapore 2018 looked outside of art, such as with the inclusion of pieces by Hong Kong jeweller Dickson Yewn, The Artling’s Collectible Design Showcase and ‘A Modern Play’ by self-styled fashion curator Mira Sianipar. These all contributed to the impression that there were fewer conventional galleries this year, and diluted the focus on art that one would expect from Art Stage.
A notable feature of the fair that did complement this edition’s seemingly multidisciplinary interests would be the Asian Art Award supported by Warehouse Terrada. The showing of Chikako Yamashiro’s winning short film ‘Mud Man’ expounding the native Okinawan’s delicate sentiments towards her hometown was particularly commendable; the screening room, segregated from the bustle of the fair, allowed visitors to engage more deeply with the work.
Art Stage Singapore 2018 saw a few live events, from the Southeast Asia Forum talks by Fernando Botero Jr., Ole Scheeren and William Lim to the riveting painting performance by artist Miwa Komatsu, presented by Whitestone Gallery. The series was successful in drawing a wide audience though it could have been made more accessible if it were on the same floor as the main section of the fair. On two occasions, during the vernissage and on Saturday afternoon, Komatsu enthralled visitors by transforming a primed canvas and her spectrum of oil paints into texturally vivid planes of emotion. Her displayed idiosyncrasies whilst painting and the auditory landscapes motivating her movement were mesmerising.
The fair also kept to their commitment to educate the Singaporean audience about art. For one, UOB returned as a main partner of the fair with the UOB Art Space, and presented a display of UOB Painting of Year awardees from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, demonstrating the bank’s continual support of the arts regionally.
Despite being a smaller fair, Art Stage Singapore reported “stronger sales results in all price categories” in its post-fair press release, with some of the artworks purchased through ADITUS, a platform for crypto-affluents.
All in all, Art Stage Singapore could have exerted a greater collateral impact on Singapore Art Week, for which it is touted as the anchor event, as well as to the general local public, but it was still an interesting meeting point that brought art enthusiasts together.