Next year’s Art Stage Singapore to focus on Thai artists

Thai artist Anon Pairot’s Weapons for the Citizen was one of the headturners of Art Stage Singapore 2017.
Thai artist Anon Pairot’s Weapons for the Citizen was one of the headturners of Art Stage Singapore 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Art Stage Singapore is projected to shrink by about a quarter in size next year, down to fewer than 100 galleries, due to a market that is "very, very weak", says fair organiser Lorenzo Rudolf.

Participation has been on a steady decline for the seven-year-old fair. This year, 131 galleries took part. The year before, there were 170.

"We have a market that's very, very weak and, in eight years, it has not grown," Mr Rudolf said at a press event at the ArtScience Museum on Thursday.

He estimated that "between 90 and 100 galleries" would be present at the fair next year. He said he could not give names as discussions were still underway.

He says 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.

Regional competition might also be a reason. Mr Rudolf started an offshoot of the Singapore fair in Jakarta last year and says business is brisk there.

The fair will run from Jan 26 to 28 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Asked about its long-term future, Mr Rudolf said: "Singapore still has a strong hand. It depends on how it plays it."

He added: "The biggest problem is Singapore itself. The local collectors don't buy here."

Art Stage Singapore started in 2011 as a flagship art fair for Southeast Asia, helmed by Swiss national Rudolf, who used to be director of Art Basel in the mid-1990s.

It spurred the development of an annual public arts festival, Singapore Art Week, which features art walks, light shows, public installations and events organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board.

Singapore Art Week runs from Jan 17 to 28 next year.

Art Stage is not the only art fair here facing sluggish demand. The Affordable Art Fair, which offers work priced between $100 and $15,000, started here in 2010 and did so well that it became a twice-yearly event in 2014.

From next year, it will return to being an annual affair because of declining sales. This is even though 75 per cent of its works are priced below $7,500.

Next year, Art Stage will feature a special focus on Thai artists. Ten galleries from Thailand will exhibit the works of art stars such as Natee Utarit and Kamin Lertchaiprasert.

There will be a showcase of regional designers and studios as part of the South-east Asia Forum, held during Art Stage as a discussion and outreach programme.

Featured designers include Singapore's Dazingfeelsgood, Hans Tan, Kevin Chiam and Tiffany Loy; Fabuless Studio from Thailand; and Gabby Lichauco from the Philippines. The inaugural design showcase is a collaboration with online art store The Artling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Fewer galleries at next year's Art Stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe