Clash of art fairs

Visitors at Art Stage Singapore on Jan 25, 2015.
Visitors at Art Stage Singapore on Jan 25, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

New show scheduled for the same period as Art Stage Singapore next year

A new art fair, the Singapore Contemporary Art Show, will go head to head with the established Art Stage Singapore in January next year.

Hong Kong company Asia Contemporary Art Buyer - it recently established its presence here as Singapore Contemporary Art Show - has announced details of the fair, which will be held at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre from Jan 21 to 24.

Those are the same dates that Art Stage Singapore, South-east Asia's leading flagship art fair, will run at Marina Bay Sands.

Asia Contemporary Art Buyer has held the Asia Contemporary Art Show twice yearly in Hong Kong since 2012 and also runs a regional arts website. The organisers of the new fair say it will be "an important addition to Singapore's vibrant and growing art scene".

Do they see a clash with Art Stage Singapore, which will run its sixth edition next year? No, they say, as they will be showcasing "the missing and much desired mid-tier art market with works ranging from $10,000 to $100,000".

Mr Douwe Cramer, director of the fair, tells Life: "Our fair will add diversity to Singapore's art market during an important period of the year and will complement other art events and projects held in the city at the same time.

"We aim to cultivate conversations with the makers of art and nurture discovery of artistic talent."

Some elements of the new fair are similar to Art Stage Singapore.

Like Art Stage, it is going big on artist dialogues. It will also have a curated platform titled China Encounters, which will offer a series of presentations by selected galleries from across China. Art Stage has had curated platforms with a country focus in the past.

Art Stage Singapore fair director Lorenzo Rudolf tells Life he is "perplexed" by the news.

"The local art market is small and unfortunately not really developing fast. As a consequence, several local galleries are suffering," he says.

"Some of them have already closed, others are exploring new business models. A new art fair - Singapore Art Fair - held last November has disappeared after just one edition. The supply is more than the existing demand."

He adds that bringing in another art fair around the same time as Art Stage Singapore shows that the organisers are trying to take advantage of the buzz created by Art Stage and tapping on collectors who fly in for that.

"I have nothing against competition, but sometimes, it is good to reflect on some basic economic rules."

The highly successful fifth edition of Art Stage Singapore in January this year attracted 51,000 visitors over five days and, according to the organisers, closed on stronger than ever sales.

Among those who attended was Singapore-based British collector Paul Cuthbert-Brown, who has lived in Asia for more than 20 years.

He, too, does not think having two art fairs in a week is a good idea.

"Last year, with the number of fairs, it felt like we had pretty much hit saturation point," he says.

"That said, I would like to know more about what the organisers of the new fair intend. Maybe they have an approach that can sufficiently differentiate two fairs running in the same week."

Last year, there were close to 10 art fairs held here.

Mr Matthias Arndt, who owns Arndt Gallery in Gillman Barracks, notes that every city with a major art fair eventually encounters the phenomenon of satellite fairs.

In some ways, he adds, this reflects the success of the existing fair and other operators wanting to ride on its coattails.

"I do not think it will have much impact as key players always stay focused on the main event.

"As a gallery, we are looking only at Art Stage because it is the leading art fair in the region and has established itself in Singapore and the broader South-east Asian region."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Clash of art fairs'. Print Edition | Subscribe