Affordable Art Fair 2019 sees more visitors but dip in sales

Despite the dip in sales, this year's Affordable Art Fair Singapore saw more visitors and sold 200 more artworks.
Despite the dip in sales, this year's Affordable Art Fair Singapore saw more visitors and sold 200 more artworks.ST PHOTO: TOH WEN LI

SINGAPORE - The Affordable Art Fair Singapore drew to a close on Nov 24, with 13,000 visitors and $3.4 million in sales.

The fair had chalked up $3.7 million in sales in 2018. Despite the dip in sales, this year's edition saw more visitors and sold 200 more artworks.

The annual event, seen as a good place to discover young and new artists, ran at the F1 Pit Building from Nov 22 to 24 after a VIP evening on Nov 21.

There were more than 80 local and overseas galleries - about a quarter were newcomers - selling artworks with prices capped at $15,000, with many costing far less.

Highlights included the Young Talent Programme, which had seven artists competing for a chance at a winners' show at Ion Art gallery, and Spotlight, where 15 artists showed work at the fair for the first time.

Teacher Chia Cai Juan, 33, and her fiance were at the event on Nov 23 to hunt for art for their new home and had set their sights on some abstract works.

"To be honest, when I entered, I was a little overwhelmed - there were a lot of paintings in a compact space," says the first-time fairgoer, who was standing in a crowd watching Australian artist David Hinchliffe paint a scene showing pedestrians on a rainy day.

She adds that after taking time to look around, she learnt more about the artworks.

Entrepreneur Vikas Garg, 38, paid a four-figure sum each for two paintings on Nov 23 and plans to display them in his home and possibly his office.


He tells The Straits Times after hauling his wrapped artworks out of the lift: "The art fair has something for everyone - whether you're looking for something decorative or something that's really cerebral or different."

One of the works he bought was an acrylic and ink on paper painting by Jon Baker. "It's of a man who's walking down the street of a busy city who gets startled by his own reflection. You know how at the end of a long day, when you look at yourself in the mirror..."

White Space Art Asia, which focuses on South-east Asian and Chinese fine art, last week sold four paintings by Chinese artists priced around $8,000 to $10,000.

"Overall, the fair lives up to its premise," says gallery director Seah Yu Ying. "It mobilises a lot of first-time buyers. There will be a small percentage of this group who eventually grow into more serious collectors."

The Affordable Art Fair Singapore ran at the F1 Pit Building from Nov 22 to 24 after a VIP evening on Nov 21. ST PHOTO: TOH WEN LI

But he notes that the gallery's sales this year was "far below" those of the previous years, citing the slowing economy as a possible reason.

He adds: "There are now more young, often first-time buyers who (go for) a sub-$5,000 price range. In previous years, we found there were more mid-tier collectors who weren't intimated by five-figure sums.

"Our gallery tends to deal with artworks in that price range. That niche group who buys fine art doesn't necessarily turn up at this fair anymore."


Y Art Project, a new gallery that focuses on young Asian artists and is based in Singapore and Shanghai, sold at least one work by each of the six artists it was representing - including a sculpture by Singapore artist Ng Chai Soong ($1,700) and a painting by another Singapore artist, Patrick Bezalel Lee ($8,800).

Gallery founder Ying Ji, who intends to return to the fair in 2020, says while most of the people who bought artworks were middle-aged collectors from Singapore, there was also "a lot of interest" from young couples.

Fair director Alan Koh says: "I was proud to see so many families and friends enjoying an arty day out and getting closer to art.

"We also observed a new wave of buyers who are starting their collecting journeys with us, buying at lower, entry-level price points, as they get warmed up to art. We hope they will continue their journey with us into the new decade and beyond."

The Affordable Art Fair was founded in London two decades ago by gallery owner Will Ramsay, who wanted to make contemporary art accessible to all. The fair, which came to Singapore 10 years ago, is held in 10 cities around the world.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article referred to an artist called John Barker. It should be Jon Baker.