Milan fair comes to Singapore, focuses on photography

The first international edition of a renowned Italian contemporary art fair will open in Singapore next week.

The three-day Milan Image Art and Design Fair (MIA&D) takes place from Friday at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. While focusing on photography, it caters to art and design lovers too, with 120 artists from 50 international art galleries showing their work.

Well-known names exhibiting at the fair include Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky, 59, known for his large-format photo- graphs of industrial landscapes, and American photojournalist Steve McCurry, 64, best known for shooting the famed "Afghan Girl" cover for National Geographic magazine in 1985.

On the fair's strong photography element, its organisation director, Ms Lorenza Castelli, says: "The language of photography is more straightforward compared to art. It's easier for new collectors to approach this medium. This is what we've seen in Milan."

"With our mobile devices, everyone's linked to photography in some way," she adds. "People understand it."

Cities such as Miami and Dubai had also been considered for the first outpost of the original Milan fair conceived by Italian collector Fabio Castelli in 2011. But Singapore was deemed the "right fit", says Ms Castelli, who is Fabio's daughter.

"The Singapore Government is investing a lot in culture, so I think it will be well received here," she says.

The inaugural international edition is held under the patronage of Expo Milano 2015, the Embassy of Italy in Singapore and the Italian Institute of Culture. It is also held in conjunction with the fourth Singapore International Photography Festival, which runs until Nov 30 at venues such as the ArtScience Museum and art space Deck in Prinsep Street.

A new section introduced in the international fair is the Design section, which will have collectible furniture and objects from various galleries. For example, a limited-edition teak wood desk by French designer Sam Baron and a limited-edition rocker by Singapore- Italian studio Lanzavecchia +Wai are on show.

Works are priced between $5,000 and $50,000.

There will be talks and workshops. The Singapore International Photography Festival director Gwen Lee will give a talk titled Collecting Photography, while intellectual property and art lawyer Cristina Manasse, together with WongPartnership partner Lam Chung Nian, will give a workshop on legal issues concerning images and related rights.

A curated section called Mekong Platform - Water/Life Line will showcase photography and video art from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. In it, seven artists, who live near the 4,350km Mekong River, explore in their works how the river influences their daily lives.

"It's interesting to look at what these artists are creating," says Ms Castelli. "But there aren't many galleries which represent them, so they struggle much more than others. Coming to Asia, we wanted to support artists here."

While the fair is targeting high-end collectors, she says, it welcomes visitors who just want to experience the fair.

"It's nice to see European and Asian artists 'dining' together," she adds.

Collector-turned-gallerist Hua Tye Swee, 51, who is exhibiting artists such as Chinese street artist Zhang Da Li and Singapore photographer Zinkie Aw at the fair, says the event gives good exposure to participants.

Mr Hua, 51, founder of art outfit Goldmann Inc, says: "The fair comes with a good brand image, given its success in Milan. It's quite rare to have an art photography exhibition here, so it's a good chance to show local and international visitors what Singapore can offer."

natashaz@sph.com.sg