Hotel art fair goes to the mall

Art Apart is holding it at Isetan Wisma Atria this year to woo a diverse crowd, from art lovers to passers-by

Cezar Arro's Lee Kuan Yew "pour-trait" was commissioned for the Art Apart Fair (above), to be held at Isetan Wisma Atria.
Cezar Arro's Lee Kuan Yew "pour-trait" was commissioned for the Art Apart Fair (above), to be held at Isetan Wisma Atria. PHOTO: ART APART FAIR

Home-grown hotel art fair Art Apart, for its upcoming eighth edition, is leaving the swanky hotel rooms it is accustomed to and moving to Isetan Wisma Atria.

Art Apart founder and director Rosalind Lim serves up a bold new take on the fair which, since its start in 2013, has been held in hotels such as Parkroyal on Pickering and Conrad Centennial Hotel.

Holding it at Isetan Wisma Atria, in the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road, was "an opportunity and a strategy", she says. It will help the fair reel in a diverse crowd, from the serious art lover to the curious passer-by taking a breather from his shopping.

"The greatest advantage of being located in a mall is that it can create more awareness of art appreciation among shoppers. And, hopefully, shoppers will also find an art piece worth investing in," says Ms Lim, 65.

The fair has been given 6,000 sq ft of space, roughly the size of seven three-room Housing Board flats.

Cezar Arro's Lee Kuan Yew "pour-trait" (above) was commissioned for the Art Apart Fair, to be held at Isetan Wisma Atria. PHOTO: CEZAR ARRO

While past editions attracted crowds of about 3,500, the fair looks set to be livelier than ever, with new plans in place.

It will run over two months - from next Monday to Aug 28 - instead of the usual three days. The $10 admission fee has been scrapped and workshops and talks will be free too.

Even as the fair breaks out of its usual mould by moving away from hotel rooms, it has not strayed from its core objective, says Ms Lim. It will continue to provide a cosy, laidback ambience for visitors to enjoy art in, something that sets it apart from other players in the crowded art fair scene.

"Art pieces placed against white walls in white cubes like those in galleries and other fairs can be cold and intimidating to visitors.

The homey set-up closes the gap between art and people. In a 'home' setting, people can also see how art can be displayed - maybe on top of a cupboard, beside a coffee or dining table or hung on pillars or leaning against a wall."

The fair is also going beyond showcasing visual art alone: Lifestyle products such as artisanal furniture and art-inspired rugs will be on show and for sale. There will be workshops and talks fronted by experts from diverse fields such as Japanese florist Dan Takeda, wine expert William Seah and food writer Bryan Koh.

"Art is not confined to just visual art pieces," says Ms Lim. "It's multi- dimensional and embraces other artistic platforms, so we're excited to have the opportunity to share these diverse art forms and create a well-rounded appreciation of art."


  • WHERE: Isetan Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road, Level 2

    WHEN: Next Monday to Aug 28, 11am to 9pm daily, grand opening on July 11, 6 to 9pm

    ADMISSION: Free. For workshops and talks, which are limited to 20 people each, interested participants should send e-mail to


The artworks in this edition will be focused on artists from North Asia and South-east Asia.

The fair will showcase the works of 97 artists from countries such as Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore as well as lithographs of pieces by greats such as French artist Henri Matisse.

Prices range from $280 for a limited-edition lithography print from Matisse or Austrian painter Egon Schiele to $35,000 for a large painting by a mid-career artist.

Ms Lim spent eight months starting last August shuttling around Asia, scouting artists for her fair, an experience she recounts with excitement.

She clambered onto motorbikes, threading narrow roads to get to artist studios in the most unexpected places: one in the middle of a padi field in Yogyakarta, some in scrap yards in Manila.

One of the artists who caught her eye was Cezar Arro from the Philippines and his "pour-traits" - so called because he weaves in the pouring of paint into his artworks. Lim has commissioned one of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Zhu Hong from Singapore is looking forward to being part of the fair, which he sees as "young and energised". "The fair is about art's versatility, with different artists and artworks joining together," says the 47-year-old, who works with a range of media including watercolour and oil to capture mood of scenes around the island.

The Art Apart Fair returns for its ninth edition in January next year. The venue will be announced at a later date.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline Hotel art fair goes to the mall. Subscribe