Singapore Art Week (SAW) concluded a successful 12-day run in January, bookended by two of the largest and most prestigious art fairs the country has to offer – Art Stage Singapore and Singapore Contemporary. Art Stage, the anchor event of the festival, started in 2011, igniting public interest in visual arts and leading to the inception of SAW. Singapore Contemporary, while only in its second edition, presented an impressive show with 88 regional and international exhibitors, up 30 per cent from last year
We Are Asia was the tagline of Art Stage Singapore’s seventh edition this year. The flagship art fair of South-east Asia aimed to focus interest of the international art world on the region as a significant and cohesive art market. Of the fair’s 126 exhibitors, 80 per cent were from Asia-Pacific and a third of the total were South-east Asian. The second South-east Asia Forum, Net Present Value: Art, Capital, Futures, addressed capitalism through a series of lectures as well as an exhibition. The relationship of art and commerce was also explored in the artworks, such as Ivan Lam’s Vending Art – an interactive exhibit in the form of a vending machine, where fair-goers could purchase business card-sized original art pieces from various artists.
For the first time in Singapore, Art Stage, in collaboration with online art gallery The Artling, presented Collector’s Stage: Expose – a unique exhibition of privately owned art pieces on loan from six top Singapore-based collectors. Curator Enin Supriyanto explains the significance of displaying the rarely publicly shown art collections. “They have supported emerging talent, commissioned new works and have waited patiently to acquire pieces that would complement their collection. Their role as collectors can be seen as crucial to the development of contemporary art in this region."
Singapore Contemporary, on the other hand, had set its sights on more foreign territory. The fair, which occupied 6,000sqm of Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, included highlights such as Photo17, the largest curation of photographic art, and Latin American Voices, which featured vibrant artwork from over 25 artists from Peru, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and Chile.
“We are very excited to present a ‘world of art’ to Singapore and our new sectors reflect the current movements in the contemporary art market," says show director Douwe Cramer. “Photography, for example, is becoming more and more popular and sought-after by collectors, with photo-centred art fairs popping up across many Asian cities. And Latin American art may be still new to Asia, but in other parts of the world, collectors are snapping up paintings, sculpturesand photography from the region. Christie’s November Latin American Art sale broke seven sales records!"
Controversy still follows photography as an art medium. Holding Singapore’s first dedicated photo exhibition might seem to offer a definitive yes, but Photo17’s curator Patricia Levasseur de la Motte was more implicit, sectioning the exhibition into four categories that also overlap: documentary, fine art, conceptual and mixed media. Did they all qualify? The question was left open to visitors’ own interpretations. Art, as it were, is truly in the eye of the beholder.