See a chilli chessboard sculpture at next month's Art Apart fair

Kumari Nahappan's chilli chessboard artwork, Moves On Spice.
Kumari Nahappan's chilli chessboard artwork, Moves On Spice.PHOTO: ART APART FAIR

Singapore's home-grown hotel art fair Art Apart continues to go strong in a crowded art fair scene despite the tough times faced by other players. A month ago, the Singapore Art Fair announced the "postponement" of its 2015 edition, less than a year after its first outing.

The sixth edition of Art Apart will run from July 17 to 19 at Parkroyal on Pickering hotel.

Founder and director of Art Apart Rosalind Lim says what has kept it going is its clear focus as a boutique fair.

  • Book it

  • ART APART FAIR

    Where: Parkroyal on Pickering, 14th floor, 3 Upper Pickering Street

    When: July 17 to 19, daily 11.30am to 9pm

    Admission: $10, buy tickets at the hotel

    Info: artapartfair.com/ticket/

The size of the fair has been pretty much the same since its launch in 2013 and it has targeted about 3,000 visitors each time.

Ms Lim, 64, is constantly tweaking the programming and making new additions to keep it fresh.

She says: "While a fair has to sell art, I also look to create something new and exciting for each edition. Whether it is a country focus or getting artists such as Justin Loke and Joshua Yang of art collective Vertical Submarine to curate a roomful of art, the idea is to look at new ways of engaging with the audience."

Known for their tongue-in-cheek installations, Loke and Yang worked with Art Apart in January last year.

This year, the country focus is on the Philippines and there will be more than 1,500 artworks by 150 artists from 15 countries. As in the past, the hotel's rooms, lobbies and corridors will be transformed with the mounting of paintings, sculptures and installations presented by 18 galleries from around the world.

Another highlight will be a sneak video peek of a private collection that can be viewed in the collector's own home in the fair's October edition. Singapore-based Brazilian architect and collector Ernesto Bedmar will be selling part of his art collection at the next outing. He has been collecting art for more than 30 years, almost as long as he has lived here.

Mr Bedmar, who is in his 50s, says: "In this time, my collection has grown. I have enjoyed the presence of many of these works around me. I am certain the next person who will own my artworks will also be as emotionally aroused as I was when I bought these."

Asked why he decided to open up his black-and-white bungalow in Mount Pleasant Road to visitors in October, he says it was Lim's commitment to the arts that impressed him.

The duo were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. He then visited the fifth edition of the fair in January this year and liked what he saw.

He adds: "I feel the collaboration with Rosalind and Art Apart is appropriate because I love and appreciate art, but do not know how to sell it. I need someone who understands art to do it for me."

The fair sells mostly works by lesser- known names and brings in a few pieces by high-profile artists with prices mostly below $20,000, including the popular "chilli-padi" sculptures by Singapore's Kumari Nahappan.

Next month's edition will have works by more than 30 Filipino artists including auction favourite Ronald Ventura and painter Randy Solon.

Ms Lim says that after the previous country focus on South Korea and Russia, shining the spotlight on South-east Asian art is only fitting, given "the global attention on art from our region".

Returning gallerists include Dr Pwee Keng Hong, whose Utterly Art gallery has long promoted art from the region. It was among the first to introduce Filipino art to Singapore and has been positioning it here through a mix of gallery shows and participation in art fairs.

He says: "The techniques of Filipino artists are unrivalled in South-east Asia. We have introduced several artists so that art lovers can see the diversity and quality of Filipino art."

The concept of the hotel art fair has its roots in 1990s New York. The organiser books an entire floor of rooms in a hotel for a period of time and leases them out to galleries. Art for sale is displayed on walls and beds, and even in toilets. What has made the concept work is the cost savings for travelling gallerists, some of whom stay in the rooms where their art is displayed.

At next month's event here, Nahappan presents smaller pieces of works from a new series titled Moves On Spice, which is inspired by the various chillies and peppers she has created in the last decade. The creator of the giant chilli pepper sculpture outside the National Museum of Singapore is showing pieces that can fit easily into compact apartments.

She has taken part in three editions of the fair, including the inaugural Art Apart Fair in London last October.

From past experience, she has found that collectors at the fair look for works that are engaging and intimate.

"I'm presenting smaller works, among which is a chessboard piece which will be placed in the hotel's presidential suite," she says.

"It is these settings that set the fair apart from others. I find there is a certain intimacy which makes it appealing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Chilli chessboard in presidential suite'. Print Edition | Subscribe