Parliament: NAC had 'no inkling' Art Stage Singapore would be cancelled, says Grace Fu

Visitors at Art Stage 2018.
Visitors at Art Stage 2018.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - The National Arts Council (NAC) "had no inkling" that contemporary art fair Art Stage Singapore would abruptly cancel its latest edition, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 13).

"I would say that the reason why MCCY and NAC were particularly disappointed with this cancellation is that actually we've had occasions where we presented Singapore Art Week to the community together with Art Stage, and even in the few media meetings that we had, there was no inkling about plans to cancel the show," she said.

She was replying to a question by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera about the cancellation, announced just eight days before the event's preview opening, which left participating art galleries stranded. The contemporary art fair was the showpiece event of the annual public arts festival, Singapore Art Week.

Ms Fu added that Art Stage Singapore is a commercial organisation and as the NAC did not have a direct financial interest in the show, "we do not have sight of its financial numbers".

On whether the Government would consider an early warning system where commercial organisers would have to provide updates on their finances, Ms Fu said: "Obviously, like all commercial entities, financial situations are not something that you will openly display or openly demonstrate to the public.

"It will not be appropriate for us to be demanding financial, commercial organisations to show us their financial situation."

Art Stage Singapore, the company behind the fair, has been placed under provisional liquidation, said restructuring consultancy Acres Advisory on Tuesday.

 
 
 
 

The fair was backed by the NAC, Economic Development Board and Singapore Tourism Board. Its director Lorenzo Rudolf, a Swiss national, was credited with having turned the Swiss art fair Art Basel into a vibrant, internationally renowned fair in the 1990s.

While the cancellation came as a shock, Ms Fu noted that the reaction of the arts community proved the scene's resilience. With the support of the NAC, non-profit group Arts Outreach contacted 36 galleries affected by the cancellation and 14 later took part in ARTery, a pop-up event at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Ms Fu added: "It is important for us to always remember that the art marketplace is not one where the regulator itself can decide its viability and its growth.

"We require all the parties in the visual arts landscape to play their part and we really call on the arts community to come in and support Singapore Art Week and any subsequent events that we may have in Singapore."