Grace Fu commends 'strong spirit' of Singapore arts sector

Gallery owner, Jasdeep Sandhu of Gajah Gallery, speaking to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the opening of S.E.A. Focus on Jan 23, 2019. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu commended the strong spirit of Singapore's arts sector after the sudden cancellation of Art Stage Singapore.

Speaking at the launch of the new boutique art fair S.E.A. Focus on Wednesday (Jan 23), Ms Fu said: "The camaraderie and strong spirit of the arts sector was in full demonstration."

Art Stage Singapore, the country's major contemporary art fair, was supposed to have run from Friday to Sunday in what would have been its ninth edition.

However, organisers cancelled it last Wednesday, just nine days before its public opening, with the fair's founder Lorenzo Rudolf citing poor local sales and "unequal competition", referring to the new fair S.E.A Focus at Gillman Barracks.

Ms Fu said she was "disappointed and saddened by this decision made at such short notice", but found it "heartening to see many galleries and groups coming forward to support the affected exhibitors".

Since the event's cancellation, there has been a groundswell of support from the community, with private venues, galleries and corporate entities offering their spaces to the stranded galleries. Non-profit group Art Outreach organised The ARTery, a new pop-up showcase that will feature 14 of the affected galleries at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre from Thursday to Sunday.

The ARTery is supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Economic Development Board - agencies which backed S.E.A. Focus as well as Art Stage Singapore.

"That we can respond so well and so quickly to the situation that Art Stage created shows the network and depth of the Singapore visual arts ecosystem," Ms Fu added.

Turning to S.E.A. Focus, an initiative by STPI - Creative Workshop and Gallery, and one of the highlights of the annual Singapore Art Week, Ms Fu said the inaugural fair can help artists and galleries build capabilities as well as position Singapore globally.

"We believe the arts have the power to connect people across communities and nations. As artists, exhibitors and galleries collaborate across boundaries, we can raise awareness of our artistic heritage," she said.

This year's S.E.A. Focus, which has 26 participating Singapore and international galleries, is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday.

Businesswoman Rosalind Lee, 62, who spoke to The Straits Times minutes after the exhibition's preview began, said she had already bought three artworks by young Filipino artist Brisa Amir, from the Philippines-based gallery Artinformal.

The art collector, who plans to display these works at home, says she would return to future editions of S.E.A. Focus.

"I've been able to see more new and up-and-coming artists. This fair will get Singaporeans exposed to more art."

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