Fewer visitors, galleries at Art Stage

But some exhibitors report brisk sales at the seventh edition of the art fair

Visitors on the last day of Art Stage.
Visitors on the last day of Art Stage.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The seventh edition of Art Stage Singapore was smaller in scale with fewer exhibitors and visitors, but it was business as usual for the art galleries.

Visitor numbers fell by 18 per cent from 40,500 visitors last year to 33,200 visitors this year.

Similarly, the number of galleries dropped by some 20 per cent from 170 galleries last year to 131 this year.

The smaller scale of the fair was noticeable to returning fairgoers and some of them were disappointed by the fewer galleries.

Filipino art collector Maritess Pineda, 71, who had visited previous editions of the fair, said: "It used to be very active, but I've noticed it is smaller this year and this is not good. It means less choice for collectors."

Some also found the variety of works limited.

Mrs Ricky Gunawan, 65, an art collector from Indonesia, said: "There are fewer exhibits this year, so there's not much to see and fewer surprises to be found."

The smaller fair, however, did not stop healthcare professional Diana Lim, 40, from taking home a work by Malaysian artist Yim Yen Sum.

She said: "I do feel that the fair is smaller, but I found the works to be more interesting this time. They are contemporary and colourful, which suits my taste."

Yim's mixed-media work was sold through UOB Art Space, a section of the fair where UOB Bank showcased works by 15 winning artists from its UOB Painting of the Year competition.

The platform is a new initiative by the bank to promote its art prize winners. The works are priced by the artists and the bank does not take a sales commission.

Mr Gustaaf Reerink, 39, a Dutch foreign counsel based in Jakarta who flew in for the fair, also praised the event.

"There was a nice overview of art from all around South-east Asia and beyond," he said.

He bought a $3,000 screenprint of the Fabrica building project in Italy by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

Some galleries, in fact, did better than they had expected.

Indonesia's dgallerie, which showed graffiti pieces by French and Indonesian artists, sold nine works including a piece by well-known French graffiti artist Kongo that measures almost 2m by 3m for €55,000 (S$83,000).

Gallery manager Esti Nurjadin said: "I came to the fair thinking it'll be a marketing cost and it seemed like it would be because the fair felt quieter than last year, but I was surprised and happy with our sales."

Singapore's STPI gallery, similarly, posted strong sales, selling 12 works including a piece by well-known Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija for US$80,000 (S$114,000).

The gallery's director, Ms Rita Targui, said: "Despite the economy taking a downturn and the demand for South-east Asian art seeming to have plateaued, we did very well because of the support from our collectors based here. They zoomed in on the first and second days of the fair and kept coming back."

Not all galleries, however, enjoyed brisk sales.

Fantastic Art Gallery from Surabaya, Indonesia, did not make a sale at the fair. Its director Soebagio Widjaja, however, said he is keen to return next year because the fair is a platform for him to promote the gallery overseas and meet new collectors. This was the gallery's first time at an overseas art fair.

Other galleries, such as Challengeart Gallery from Xiamen, China, had hoped for more sales.

It sold 13 oil paintings priced about a few thousand dollars each by Chinese artist Yu Deming, but gallery manager Eileen Qiu felt fairgoers were mostly there to look at art rather than buy works.

She said in Mandarin: "We take part in art fairs in Taiwan and the fair organisers there, through their outreach efforts, manage to get collectors excited about buying works. We haven't seen this happen here."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'Fewer visitors, galleries at Art Stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe