More than 30 art galleries in Singapore will take part in a three-day open house event starting tomorrow, with exhibitions, guided tours and workshops.
The inaugural Singapore Gallery Weekend, organised by the Art Galleries Association Singapore (Agas), features on-site and online events such as shows at Gillman Barracks and other parts of the island, paper-making activities at STPI - Creative Workshop & Gallery in Robertson Quay, and the Affordable Online Art Fair.
Agas' vice-president Rita Targui, the director of STPI Gallery, says Covid-19 was "instrumental" in bringing galleries closer. While the idea of a gallery weekend had been floating around for several years, they only decided to act on it now.
"For once in our lives, we are not running all over the globe participating in art fairs," she says. "(The pandemic) has helped us get much closer, more strategic, get discussions on the table and set a new direction for Agas. Bangkok has done (a gallery weekend), Malaysia has done it, so why can't we?"
The gallery weekend is spearheaded by Agas' new executive committee, which recently modified the association's constitution to make it more inclusive.
In the past two months, membership has gone up by 50 per cent. It now comes in three tiers - a core tier for groups that deal with the sale of art, including online galleries; an affiliate tier for professionals such as conservators, art handlers and consultants; and a roundtable tier where state agencies and institutions are invited to share their expertise.
Agas president Khairuddin Hori, who is also the director and partner at Chan + Hori Contemporary, adds that new galleries can now join immediately as affiliate members. "Before this, you would need to be a working gallery for a minimum of three years before you could be considered a member."
Asked if they had modelled the event on those in other countries, he says Gallery Weekend Berlin was a source of inspiration.
Mr Khairuddin recalls one presentation by artists at that event who had funded their programme by selling prints of their own works.
"It would be great if in future the SG Gallery Weekend could be as organic and ground-up as this - to be as independent as possible and not rely too much on grants. To not to have that crutch mentality. There's criticism that the arts scene is over-supported, that is why it is falling onto itself."
Other gallery weekend highlights include the Young Talent Programme Winners' Solo Exhibitions at Ion Art Gallery, an art podcast hosted by Chan + Hori Contemporary and weekend residency studio visits at Cuturi Gallery in Kampong Glam.
SINGAPORE GALLERY WEEKEND
WHERE Various physical locations, and online
WHEN Tomorrow to Sunday
Asked about collectors' behaviour amid the pandemic, Mr Khairuddin says they tend to ask for more discounts, and are also trading works or selling them to one another. He notes that Chan + Hori, which now has a pop-up space rather than a permanent gallery, has also reached out to new clients, including overseas ones.
Gallerist Audrey Yeo of Yeo Workshop, chair of the association's planning and development committee, says there are people - such as those who invested in tech stocks - who have still been able to buy art. "Of course we've been trying to be very sensitive - you don't know, in this pandemic situation, who has lost and who has gained," she adds.
Ms Targui says STPI has had deeper conversations with its clients. She adds: "It's not just the lower-priced works that are going, but works that collectors have been studying, that they are familiar with. These works sell, even if it is an online presentation."