Art fair's eye on Singapore

Imagine having your face reflected back at you in surveillance footage as you enter the gallery exhibitions of Art Stage Singapore.

That is just one of several ideas Singaporean visual artist Urich Lau is considering for his upcoming project for January's edition of the annual art fair.

Art Stage Singapore has co-commissioned a new work by Lau for its entrance arch, even as fair organisers promise a renewed focus on local art through a new platform, Singapore Stage.

The fair returns for its ninth edition from Jan 25 to 27 next year at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The theme is I Am Art and programming focuses on personal encounters with contemporary art.

Art Stage Singapore saw its lowest roster of galleries in January this year - 84, compared with 170 in 2016 and over 120 in its 2011 debut.

The fair's founder, Swiss national Lorenzo Rudolf, has blamed declining sales on the small pool of regional collectors and on competition from other fairs such as Art Basel Hong Kong. Next year also sees the entry of a new art fair in Taipei in January, called Taipei Dangdai. It is led by former Art Basel Hong Kong director Magnus Renfrew.

  • BOOK IT / ART STAGE SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Level B2, 10 Bayfront Avenue

    WHEN: Jan 25 to 27 next year

    ADMISSION: To be confirmed. For details, go to www.artstage.com/singapore/site/home

Art Stage Singapore's chief operating officer Marcus Teo says the Singapore fair will focus on what it can uniquely offer. "If we position ourselves differently and showcase the best of the city, it's fine," he adds.

For the first three editions of Art Stage Singapore, from 2011 to 2013, the fair had an exclusive Singapore platform exhibiting the work of local artists, curated by local experts.

This focus was later overshadowed by general curatorial themes such as this year's South-east Asia forum, focusing on cross-disciplinary practices in art and design.

Singapore Stage aside, the 2019 edition offers a Main Stage of gallery exhibitors; a Collectors' Stage, highlighting choice pieces from collectors in the region; and a Project Stage, a platform for young emerging galleries.

Project Stage will next year include independent art spaces run by Singaporean artists. Singapore Stage will focus on new works and works created for Art Stage Singapore, such as Lau's entrance arch. Surveillance cameras are just one possible tool he might use.

The entrance arch is co-commissioned by Bang & Olufsen, known for its audio devices and consumer electronics, and the 43-year-old artist is interested in playing with audio feedback and microphones.

"The technology I use informs the concept," he says. "Carving tools and print-making were the technology artists used 500 years ago. Today, our technology is computers."

Lau is known for his video and new media work, including The End Of Art Report in the 2013 Singapore Biennale, when he had three television sets broadcasting the fake news that major local museums would be shutting down.

Next year marks his first commission for Art Stage Singapore, though he was represented by curatorial group Latent Spaces in the 2015 edition of the fair.

Singapore Stage also sees the return of a 13m-long mural by Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul, which was first presented at the 2012 fair.

Navinland Needs You: We Are Asia! was created for that fair and depicts the movers and shakers of the Asian art world.

Mr Teo of Art Stage Singapore says Singapore Stage will return in future fairs and include not just existing works, but new commissions as well.

He adds: "With this year's direction, we not only would like to present an introspection of the self, but also contribute back to the local art scene with a stronger focus on the Singaporean art narrative."

The full list of galleries participating in Art Stage Singapore 2019 will be announced in November. Confirmed exhibitors include local and regional names such as Intersections Gallery and Richard Koh Fine Art, Tokyo-founded Whitestone Gallery, Tang Contemporary (China, Hong Kong and Bangkok) and Marc Straus from New York.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline 'Art fair's eye on Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe