5 things about Art Stage founder Lorenzo Rudolf

Mr Lorenzo Rudolf is married to Ms Maria Elena (both above), who is vice-president of Art Stage Singapore.
Mr Lorenzo Rudolf is married to Ms Maria Elena (both above), who is vice-president of Art Stage Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Art Stage Singapore, considered the country's main contemporary art fair, was cancelled on Wednesday, just nine days before its public opening. The news sent shockwaves through the art community and many are still puzzled about what caused the last-minute cancellation. Here are five things to know about the event's Swiss founder Lorenzo Rudolf, who is 60 this year.

1 HE IS A LAWYER BY TRAINING

Mr Rudolf read law at the University of Bern before moving into public relations.

2 HE HAD A HAND IN MANY INTERNATIONAL ART FAIRS

Mr Rudolf transformed Swiss art fair Art Basel from a quiet trade fair into a glamorous art event.

He helmed the fair from 1991 to 2000 and, at the end of his term, the event had a waiting list of around 700 galleries. The brand is still esteemed by dealers, artists and collectors of contemporary art.

There are now three signature Art Basel fairs - in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami Beach in the United States, with the last renowned for starting party season in Miami and attracting celebrities such as singer-producer Pharrell Williams and rapper Cardi B.

Mr Rudolf also launched contemporary art fair SH Contemporary in Shanghai in 2007, which became known as one of the region's most important art events. He left SH Contemporary in 2009, citing differences among the partners. The fair ended its run in 2013.

3 HE IS ALSO A BIG NAME IN THE BOOK WORLD

Mr Rudolf left Art Basel to run the Frankfurt Book Fair from 2000 to 2003. This is one of the book world's most important trade events, attracting thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

 
 
 
 

4 HE IS MARRIED TO AN ECUADOR-BORN SOCIOLOGIST

Ms Maria Elena, 61, who is vice-president at Art Stage Singapore, is usually in charge of VIP relations.

They have been together for 28 years and have three children.

5 HE HAS CANCELLED FAIRS BEFORE

In 2016, Mr Rudolf announced a sister art fair in Indonesia, Art Stage Jakarta, which held its first edition in August that year. But it was cancelled in May last year, after just two editions.

He cited concerns over unspecified security issues and added that the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia "may affect the national customs system, causing possible additional constraints".

Hints of trouble at Art Stage Singapore began to emerge in December 2017 when, at a press conference for the eighth edition, Mr Rudolf said his team had brought in more than 500 galleries to the Singapore fair since 2011, but many refused to return, citing poor sales and sales only to those already established as collectors.

"We have a market that's very, very weak and in eight years, it has not grown," he had said then.

A month later, at the opening of Art Stage Singapore 2018, he said that Singapore was losing ground to art markets in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. He blamed the high cost of living and doing business in Singapore, compared with its neighbours, and the lack of "art production" in the city.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline '5 things about Art Stage founder Lorenzo Rudolf'. Print Edition | Subscribe