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Revitalise and reposition Art Stage Singapore

I refer to the article, Fewer Galleries At Next Year's Art Stage (Life, Dec 2).

Since 2011, Art Stage Singapore has been one of the most important events in the local arts calendar. It is the anchor event around which Singapore Art Week is organised and it has contributed to the vibrancy of the art scene here.

However, over the years, and especially in the last few years, it is apparent that Art Stage Singapore has been losing its momentum.

The number of participating galleries has gradually dwindled and it is alarming that the number for next year's edition will be reduced by almost a quarter - to between 90 and 100. Audience numbers have similarly plummeted. Significantly, sales have cooled off considerably.

I was in Hong Kong to attend this year's Art Basel Hong Kong and things could not be more different. There were about 241 participating galleries, including some top international galleries.

Long queues of fairgoers snaked around the convention centre where the show was held. The well-curated fringe activities and programming added an intellectual edge to a commercial fair.

One could argue that Hong Kong has the advantage of proximity to the lucrative China market as well as the presence of top auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's, coupled with the fact that works of art are not subject to taxes there - unlike in Singapore.

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But there may be other factors. Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, organiser of the fair, cites the weak Singapore market and the lack of local collectors as reasons for the lacklustre showing of Art Stage Singapore.

Is there substantiation for these claims? If so, is it viable for Art Stage to continue in its present form or can the relevant agencies overseeing the art fair reposition it in response to local conditions and demands?

If Singapore's aspiration to be a major regional player in the visual arts is to be realised, then we seriously need to revitalise and re-energise Art Stage Singapore if we are not to lose any more ground to Art Basel Hong Kong or Art Stage Jakarta, as Mr Rudolf had hinted.

Jeffrey Say Seck Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Revitalise and reposition Art Stage Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe