S'pore art scene bigger than one art fair

Visitors at Art Stage Singapore at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in January 2017.
Visitors at Art Stage Singapore at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in January 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

I wonder why Mr Jeffrey Say Seck Leong and Mr Lin Fangjie seem to hold Art Stage as the barometer of health of the art scene in Singapore (Learn lessons from Art Stage fair cancellation, Jan 28; and Singapore's visual arts reputation needs salvaging, Jan 28).

Why are we so quick to accept pronouncements of a commercial entity that is clearly uninvested in our future without critically examining the premise of those statements?

While I agree that Art Stage has been Singapore's anchor art event for a number of years, I fail to understand the obsession over a commercial art fair.

Surely the Singapore art scene is bigger than a single art fair.

Art purely for commerce's sake is not sustainable without a corresponding growth in artistic production.

We can have an art scene without an art fair, we cannot have an art scene without artists and art.

While our scene may not be considered ripe for cherry-picking by one commercial entity, it does not mean it is stagnating.

I see a very different picture, I observe increasing interest and curiosity in art.

I was personally involved in two talks held during Singapore Art Week 2019 and was heartened to see many new faces and young people in the audience.

Many foreign visitors who came last week have also said that the programmes collectively offered by our museums, galleries, and independent art spaces this year were infinitely more interesting than the spotlight on a single fair.

Just because visitorship and engagement cannot be translated into measurable sales, would it be reasonable to conclude that the scene is not growing?

What is the hurry? Why the fixation on Art Basel and Hong Kong?

Organic growth in an art scene begins with education and the transmission of knowledge, it does not rest with the proliferation of art fairs.

There is no shortcut here. Our expectations have to be more realistic.

Patricia Chen Meng Hui (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore art scene bigger than one art fair'. Print Edition | Subscribe