Affordable Art Fair focuses on new talent

This month's Affordable Art Fair brings in elements such as a wall of emerging artists, digital installations and a kids' corner

A wall featuring emerging artists, fresh video and digital installations, as well as a virtual-reality experience simulating the vision of people with cataracts - these are some of the new features at this year's Affordable Art Fair.

The fair, which was first held here in 2010, opens today at the F1 Pit Building and ends on Sunday.

It features 70 galleries, slightly smaller than last November's 80-gallery showing, with works priced between $100 and $15,000.

About 75 per cent of the artworks are priced at less than $7,500.

A new feature at the fair is the #Spotlight showcase, which highlights the works of artists who have never shown at the fair. It replaces the "Under $1,000" wall, which was a popular feature of previous editions.

The organisers received feedback from galleries and visitors who wanted to discover new talent, according to Ms Camilla Hewitson, 38, the fair's regional managing director for Asia.

"This is why we wanted to have the #Spotlight showcase - to highlight the works of artists who are new and emerging and who audiences might have never encountered before."


  • WHERE: F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard

    WHEN: Today, noon to 6pm (for the public) and 6 to 10pm (for Arty-licious Evening in association with Harper's Bazaar); tomorrow, 11am to 8pm, Sunday, 11am to 6pm

    ADMISSION: Tickets for general admission cost $18 at the door and $25 for the Arty-licious Evening. Tickets for students and senior citizens cost $10 and children under 16 enter for free weekend weekend

Other changes at the fair include a showcase of new media works.

For the first time, 5 per cent of the works that are available for sale at the fair will be digital art, such as videos or film projects.

As part of the public artworks dotted around the fair grounds, there will be a video and sound installation by British artist Chloe Manasseh titled Taking A Nap, Feet Planted, Against A Cool Wall.

Tonight, the installation will feature a live performance with musicians responding directly to the video work through improvised, unrehearsed sound.

The John Fawcett Foundation, a humanitarian organisation that does work in Indonesia, will also be launching its Catarart initiative, where visitors can try on a virtual-reality (VR) headset and experience what it is like to have cataracts.

The foundation assists needy people in Indonesia, especially those with impaired vision.

To raise funds, it is selling pieces created by artists wearing the headset. These works are priced from $800 to $1,500. Participating artists such as painter Ong Lee Heng will also be painting live wearing the VR goggles during the fair.

The Affordable Art Fair was founded in 1999 in London by Will Ramsay to make contemporary art accessible to everyone.

Since then, the fair has been launched in various cities, including Amsterdam and New York, with 14 events taking place in nine countries this year.

In Singapore, it began in 2010 as an annual fair and later become a biannual one in 2014.

But the fair will return to being an annual one starting from November next year because sales have been reported as declining.

Some new galleries have still chosen to take part for the exposure. Last year, an estimated 12,000 people visited the fair during its November edition.

First-time exhibitor Polaris Art Gallery, a new local gallery that has yet to secure a physical shop, will be showing paintings by artists from North Sulawesi in Indonesia at the latest fair.

Singaporean gallery owner Merilyn Umboh says she has always enjoyed the fair as a visitor in previous years.

"The Affordable Art Fair has an element of fun," she says. "It is the perfect platform to introduce our North Sulawesi artists - who are from a lesser-known part of Indonesia - to art lovers."

Creating art with visual disabilities

Have you ever wondered how a visual disability such as a cataract would affect your ability to see shapes or colours?

You can experience just that at this year's Affordable Art Fair, as part of a virtual-reality (VR) experience included for the first time to raise funds for charity.

The initiative, called Catarart, is being launched by The John Fawcett Foundation, which assists needy people in Indonesia, particularly in sight restoration and blindness prevention.

Using a virtual-reality app and a virtual-reality headset, visitors can get a first-hand feel of what it is like living with visual disability.

They can also try their hand at creating artworks for a small donation to the foundation.

Artworks by artists using this process, such as painters Ong Lee Heng and Rachel Poonsiriwong, are also for sale and are priced between $800 and $1,500.

Kids get their day too

Children can have some hands-on fun at the Affordable Art Fair this year in two workshops.

Local art school Art Wonderland is running a series of activities at the Children's Art Studio, located in Room C on Level 3, for kids 4 to 12 years.

Garden Of Tomorrow is a thought-provoking installation that reflects on the significance of green spaces.

Children can walk through spaces that resemble a rainforest and a garden. In the garden section, they can create their own insects and add to the artwork.

Meanwhile, Explorers At Work, a 75-minute workshop, incorporates a learning tour around the fair and a session where children create mixed media artworks using materials such as clay, aluminium foil, sequins and coffee powder.

The workshop costs $15, including art materials. Each session accommodates a maximum of seven children and will be run on fair days. Register and pay directly at the Children's Art Studio.

Wall of fame for emerging artists

Check out new talent at the #Spotlight showcase, a wall featuring the works of emerging artists from here and abroad.

New names include Fiona Koh, a recent Laselle College Of The Arts graduate who is presenting acrylic paintings on porcelain plates priced at $1,050; and American wire sculptor David Zalben, whose twisted wire work, Bubble Girl, is priced at $750.

This special area, which is in Room B on Level 2, replaces the "Under $1,000" wall that was a popular feature of past fairs.

While there is no fixed price range here - all the artworks are priced at less than $15,000, which is the limit at the fair - they represent various styles and media, such as paintings on cotton and porcelain to photography and sculptures.

Interactive, live shows

The artist behind the well-known graffiti wall near restaurant Piedra Negra in Haji Lane has created a wall mural at the Affordable Art Fair.

Visitors can check out Time Travellers, a work by Singapore-based Colombian-Belgian artist Didier "Jaba" Mathieu. This work is at the Creative Hub located in Room D on Level 3.

The mural depicts a colourful medley of futuristic comic book-style characters.

Also scattered throughout the fair are various video and sound installations.

A highlight is Taking A Nap, Feet Planted, Against A Cool Wall by British artist Chloe Manasseh.

The video and multimedia wall installation will incorporate a 30-minute live performance, with musicians responding directly to the video work through improvised, unrehearsed sound.

The next show will take place tonight at 7pm.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline Affordable Art Fair focuses on new talent. Subscribe