Art Stage Singapore opens with strong sales, thumbs up from gallerists and collectors

Visitors looking at the are pieces at the the fifth edition of Art Stage Singapore, during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Visitors looking at the are pieces at the the fifth edition of Art Stage Singapore, during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
T.O.P of Korean boy band Big Bang viewing art works at Art Stage Singapore during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
T.O.P of Korean boy band Big Bang viewing art works at Art Stage Singapore during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
T.O.P of Korean boy band Big Bang viewing art works at Art Stage Singapore during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
T.O.P of Korean boy band Big Bang viewing art works at Art Stage Singapore during a private viewing at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Jan 21, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Some key sales for home-grown and regional artists were sealed at the by-invite-only preview of Art Stage Singapore on Wednesday, which drew 7,000 guests.

Singapore painter Jane Lee had a second strong showing in a row at the annual contemporary art fair with gallerist Sundaram Tagore, who has a base here as well as in New York and Hong Kong. Lee's untitled mixed media work sold to a Singapore collector for US$38,000 (S$49,400) within an hour of the vernissage.

Singapore's Gajah Gallery had sold three artworks by press time, including a painting by leading Indonesian artist Yunizar for S$70,000. Another Singapore gallery, Art Plural, had an excellent run with five of Chinese artist Nan Qi's ink works selling for between S$12,000 to S$60,000.

The ticketed fair at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre opens to the public on Thursday and runs till Sunday. More than 150 galleries from 29 countries are represented in this fifth edition of the fair. It is part of Singapore Art Week, of which The Straits Times is official media partner.

Ms Stephanie Fong of Singapore's Fost Gallery said of the fair: "The energy this year is absolutely fantastic. I think this is the best edition of Art Stage." The gallery sold an untitled engraved drawing on vinyl by Pakistani artist Adeel uz Zafar to a local collector for US$22,000 (S$28,600).

Three paintings by Indian master Satish Gujral were sold by Indian gallery Sanchit Art, with the highest priced acrylic on canvas selling for S$75,000.

Another Singapore gallery, Yavuz Gallery, sold six works mostly by Thai artists. The highest priced of these, a 2014 mixed media work by Thai artist Uttaporn Nimmilaikaew, sold for S$45,000.

Aside from prominent collectors, visitors to the fair included K-pop sensation T.O.P from the group Big Bang. He caused quite a flutter on the fair grounds when he arrived with his posse of security guards.

At one point, long queues formed to meet well-known British contemporary art duo Gilbert & George, represented by the gallery Arndt of Berlin and Singapore. The chatty and affable artists gave the fair the thumbs up, calling it "wonderful" and lauding the "spacious layout".

Fair director Lorenzo Rudolf, a Swiss national who directed the once-obscure Art Basel from 1991 to 2000 and turned it into what some now call "the Olympics of the art world", said: "Singapore is really the centre supporting South-east Asia."

This year, there are 34 Singapore galleries at the fair. The growing vigour of South-east Asian art can be also be seen in the increasing number of galleries from the region. There are eight galleries from the Philippines and 10 from Malaysia, the most at the fair from these countries.

Among the new exhibitors are two established galleries from the United States, Paul Kasmin and Marc Strauss. Aside from commercial booths, the fair has also strengthened its curatorial platforms. There is one main platform and five special exhibitions at this year's fair, including the introduction of a Russia showcase and a Video Stage.

The special exhibition on Russian contemporary art is curated by Olga Sviblova, director of the Multimedia Museum, Moscow, and curator of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2009.

For Video Stage, the main selection is curated by Paul Greenaway from Australia and focuses on works from that country. Additional selections are curated by Chi-Wen Huang (Taiwan) and Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore).

Singapore-based art collector Navaz Dastur, who enjoyed this edition of Art Stage, said of the fair: "We now have our own stamp. This is a fair of quality. We are no longer flying on the Hong Kong art fair. We have our own identity and it shows."

deepikas@sph.com.sg