Singapore Art Fair 'postpones' 2015 edition; Art Plural in Armenian Street closes gallery space

Visitors at the Singapore Art Fair at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in 2014. A year after its first outing, the fair has "postponed" its 2015 edition. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Visitors at the Singapore Art Fair at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in 2014. A year after its first outing, the fair has "postponed" its 2015 edition. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

A year after its first outing, the boutique Singapore Art Fair has "postponed" its 2015 edition.

In yet another sign of a slowing art market, Singapore's largest private gallery Art Plural at Armenian Street is vacating the space after four years.

In an email response Ms Laure d'Hauteville, founder and fair director of the Beirut Art Fair which is behind the Singapore Art Fair, told Life! they are "taking a break" because the organisers are "fully stretched" with their Beirut edition in September this year.

Mr Frederic de Senarclens of Art Plural Gallery would only say that they have closed their physical space to "work on interesting projects that will be unveiled in due time".

Last month, the visual arts industry was reeling when six galleries decided not to renew their leases in the island's only dedicated visual arts cluster Gillman Barracks.

Insiders say this is a setback to Singapore's aspirations to become an arts hub. Last year saw nearly 10 art fairs held, with gallerists expressing reservations about an over-saturated art market and collectors complaining of "fair fatigue".

Gallerist Benjamin Hampe feels the surge in art fairs and pop-up events have lowered the bar for serious and quality art and that at a deeper level they reflect the lack of long-term commitment to artists, galleries and collectors.

Says Mr Hampe: "I feel Singapore has become an opportunity for overseas operators to make profits and nothing more. It is a flaw in our current arts landscape and one that will change only with collective organisation among the visual arts community in Singapore."

Gallerist Richard Koh ,who runs the eponymous Richard Koh Galleries and was initially associated with the Singapore Art Fair, said he was "surprised" to hear the fair would not be returning this year, after announcing its 2015 dates right after last year's edition in November at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. It drew more than 10,000 visitors and won praise for its manageable scale, the mid-range pricing of its works as well as for including curated platforms in a commercial fair setting.

Cedralys, the organiser of the five-year-old Beirut Art Fair, and MP Singapore, a local exhibitions and conventions organiser, are the partners behind the Singapore Art Fair.

Gallerist Ms Valerie Cheah of Jada Fine Art says the year-end timing of the Singapore Art Fair was unfortunate. "(It) was held in the same month as the popular and well-received Affordable Art Fair and barely two months before the more established Art Stage Singapore. On top of it, it was held during the start of the school holidays when many are away on year-end long vacations."

deepikas@sph.com.sg