Art Stage Singapore shrank by nearly 40 per cent this year, but several galleries reported business as usual. The eighth edition of the art fair closed on Sunday at the Sands Expo And Convention Centre.
A total of 84 exhibitors participated this year, compared with 131 galleries last year and 170 in 2016. Organisers reported more than 26,500 visitors this year, compared with 33,200 last year, when the fair was a day longer.
About 2,300 more attended this year's VIP preview and vernissage on Jan 25, which is often when deals are made. However, daily visitorship to the three public days of the fair fell to 5,600 from around 6,500 last year.
Founder Lorenzo Rudolf dismissed rumours that this would be the last edition of Art Stage Singapore. "No one has said anything that there would not be a continuation and, by now, we are used to these rumours," he said. "But we surely have to analyse the situation and the marketplace, which is why we thought about the fair concept and included design."
For the first time, the art fair included designers among the exhibitors, including the quirky furniture of established French artistdesigner Hubert Le Gall, brought in by Mazel Galerie, as well as 3D-printed couture from two-year-old Baelf Design from Singapore.
Mazel Galerie's director Kevin Troyano Cuturi said pieces sold from every artist represented at the fair, including Le Gall, Belgian photographer Antoine Rose, French painter Lionel Sabatte and sculptors Quentin Garel and Fidia Falaschetti. Each sale was priced from $12,000 to $25,000.
He added that he would participate again in Art Stage Singapore, saying: "The experience has been great. The fair was smaller than previous years', but I could feel the excitement and curiosity from the crowd."
Baelf Design's creative director Jamela Law said she received 20 orders for jewellery (priced from $145), as well as a couture dress for Mr Rudolf's wife Elena. "The sales were surprisingly good," she said. "I would definitely love to do this again."
Gajah Gallery confirmed the sale of six works by Indonesian artists in the range of $25,000 to $145,000 each, including two bronze sculptures by Yunizar.
The gallery, which has branches in Singapore and Indonesia, has taken part in every edition of the fair. Gallery director Jasdeep Sandhu said art sales "have been a struggle" for the past two years, but Art Stage Singapore is an important player for regional galleries.
"It would be a waste to shut it down," he said. "We have to realise our capacity, we have a base of collectors that can support 80 galleries for now. That might grow, but it will take five years."
Indonesian gallery Srisasanti Syndicate sold five paintings by artist Heri Dono, ranging from $39,000 to $55,000 each. Gallery owner St Eddy Prakoso said: "I think this range is very sellable."
His gallery takes part in art fairs in Tokyo and the Philippines, and Art Stage Jakarta, also organised by Mr Rudolf's team.
Asked whether the Jakarta fair was competition for Singapore, Mr Rudolf said: "It is not competition from other art fairs but rather, competition from the art scenes in other cities."
Art Stage Singapore is an anchor event of Singapore Art Week, an island-wide visual arts extravaganza organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board.
During Singapore Art Week, many galleries, including 10 of the 12 housed in visual arts cluster Gillman Barracks, concentrated on new shows and festivals at their spaces.
Asked why his gallery had not opted for a booth in Art Stage Singapore this year, Mr Khairuddin Hori, curatorial director of Chan Hori Contemporary Art in Gillman Barracks, said: "Galleries like ours wouldn't participate anymore because if collectors are in town, they would come here."
He added that stronger curation might entice him to take part in the fair, "when it's curated with real rigour to complement the commercial side".
Mr Rudolf declined to comment on this.