Singapore Art Week returns with almost 100 events

With almost 100 events, Singapore Art Week aims to please art connoisseurs and newcomers alike

ST 20150115 LJWEEK15A2PI 979581m

Singapore's annual blockbuster week of art is back and on a charm offensive.

Bigger and bolder, the third edition of Art Week, which launches on Saturday, is determined to make art for all - the connoisseur, curious and newcomer - and it features an expanded programme of almost 100 shows and events. The list is so long that it defies the length of a week and now runs over two weekends.

The nine-day extravaganza anchored by annual art fair Art Stage Singapore, now in its fifth year, goes beyond the visual arts to include activities such as a family-friendly carnival, neighbourhood walking tours and music parties.

The buzz is embraced by art industry insiders and art enthusiasts, although some wonder if there is a surfeit of events and if there should be more rigorous selection of what makes the event's calendar.

Art Week is driven by the National Arts Council in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board.

They initiated the event in 2013 to ride on the momentum of the rising visual arts scene, including the growth of Art Stage Singapore and the launch of the art gallery cluster and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore in Gillman Barracks.

The agencies did not track overall attendance at previous editions of Art Week and there is no estimated figure for total visitors this year. But key Art Week events last year such as Art Stage Singapore drew 45,700 visitors - a record for the fair - while the inaugural Aliwal Urban Art Festival had 3,500 visitors.

On the wide appeal of Art Week activities this year, the arts council's deputy chief executive Paul Tan, 43, says: "Art can be appreciated by anyone and everyone, and a diversity of experiences, both accessible and serious, incorporating music and history, creates novel ways for audiences to experience art."

As for the growth of Art Week, he says this has "largely been, and will continue to be, organic as the visual arts community sees the value in being a part" of it.

He adds that along with developments led by the arts industry, the agencies also work with event organisers, arts groups and institutions to "add diversity and depth" to Art Week. This includes encouraging groups to hold complementary events and commissioning projects by home-grown artists and art groups.

A first-time participant is the Sculpture Society. Its sculpture carnival at the foothills of Fort Canning Park this weekend includes stalls showcasing 3-D arts such as 3-D printing.

The society's vice-president Chua Aik Boon, 39, says he has long wanted to bring back its "fun and accessible" carnival that was last held more than a decade ago. "However, the project would not have been possible without funding, so when the arts council approached me, I jumped at the opportunity."

The increase in Art Week events from about 70 to almost 100 this year is welcomed by Art Stage Singapore's founder and director Lorenzo Rudolf, 55.

"In 2011, at the first edition of Art Stage Singapore, we had to organise the side events ourselves to create a dynamic ambience surrounding the fair. Today, I am happy to see that Art Stage Singapore has made such an impact on the Singapore art scene that an entire Art Week has sprung up around it."

Similarly upbeat about a bustling Art Week is gallerist Matthias Arndt, 46, whose Berlin gallery, Arndt, has an outpost here and is showing at Art Stage Singapore. "In principle, the more activities about art and the arts during Art Week, the better the energy here."

Still, the bumper list of events can be "too much" for the average artsgoer, says Mr Daniel Komala, 52, chief executive of the regional auction house Larasati. It will be holding an auction at Goodwood Park Hotel on Jan 24.

But he adds: "For seasoned art collectors, the wide variety is something to look forward to. It means they are bound to bump into something new."

Much as the bonanza of events is a boon, Mr Rudolf says these should be "quality and relevant art activities that have strong synergy with one another". He adds: "To do this, there must be a selection process in place for a meaningful programming of Art Week."

Currently, there is no selection process for Art Week activities because its growth is intended to be organic. Any artist or arts group can submit a synopsis for a programme of reasonable quality to be included as part of the event.

To help the audience navigate the busy week, the Art Galleries Association Singapore is offering a curated tour of galleries with buses running between art gallery precincts such as Gillman Barracks and Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

Many exhibitions launched during Art Week also run on after Jan 25, when the marquee event ends, so artsgoers have ample time to check out the shows.

An element that is lacking, says Singapore artist collective vertical submarine, which is presenting an installation work at Golden Mile Tower in conjunction with Art Week, is critical discourse.

Comprising Joshua Yang, Justin Loke and Fiona Koh, the group says: "Conversations often deteriorate into base considerations such as how much a painting was sold for."

To get around it, the collective, represented by Loke, will hold a public discussion on the installation with Singapore architect Randy Chan and artist and art lecturer Ian Woo.

An arts enthusiast who is looking forward to being spoilt for choice during Art Week is Madam Tay Bee Chiang.

The 49-year-old, who runs a furnishings company and takes her three children aged seven to 13 to art shows, says: "I did not hear about Art Week last year, but with so many events happening over two weekends this year, we can easily pick one and go for it."

lijie@sph.com.sg

For the full list of events during Singapore Art Week, go to artweek.sg.