Affordable Art Fair gets fresh

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 5, 2014

The popular Affordable Art Fair returns this year with two editions instead of one, but fair director Camilla Hewitson promises visitors "it will not be more of the same".

The fair, to be held again at the F1 Pit Building, has finalised 47 out of 75 gallery names so far for its May outing.

Revealing the line-up for the first time to Life!, Ms Hewitson says the focus will be on showing fresh artworks to avoid repetition when the fair returns in November.

Among the artists that the fair is showing for the first time in May are: Singapore pioneer artist Goh Beng Kwan represented by local gallery Art Forum, emerging home-grown artist Don Low by Singapore's Goldmann Inc, emerging Thai artist Chitmanee Chongwitookit by Bangkok's La Lanta Fine Art and emerging China artist Yang Peng by Singapore's Y2Arts.

Prominent Japanese gallery Nikei Fine Art, which has a branch here and specialises in Japanese art, is among those participating in the fair for the first time. The gallery will be showing lithographs as well as mixed media on canvas works by noted Japanese artists Ryo Yoshikawa and Toko Shinoda.

Of the 47 galleries confirmed so far, 20 are from Singapore and includes those which have introduced affordable art from here as well as South-east Asia. Singapore's Utterly Art, Gallery of Gnani Arts and Redsea Gallery are among the returning galleries.

While the fair's focus is on South-east Asia, there are also galleries from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, France and five galleries from Britain in the May edition.

As before, all offerings will be priced between $100 and $10,000, and three-quarters of the works on show will cost less than $7,500.

The response from galleries eager to participate in the fair has been encouraging.

Ms Hewitson, 35, says she is "really happy with the response" for the May edition. Over 100 galleries have sent in their applications, of which 60 per cent are new galleries.

In November last year, there were about 50 per cent new galleries and 50 per cent returning galleries. For the fair in May, it is about 60 per cent new and 40 per cent returning.

Ms Hewitson adds: "In terms of final selection, we will likely have a similar split in terms of returning galleries versus new ones."

What the organisers are looking for are new artists and fresh works that have not been exhibited before at the fair.

Returning galleries are allowed to repeat only one artist they had shown at the November edition to encourage diversity as well as present fresh art.

The May edition in Singapore also marks the 100th fair for the global Affordable Art Fair, which originated in London in 1999. It is now in 14 cities worldwide, including New York, Milan and Hong Kong.

In Singapore, the organisers have, since its debut here in 2010, broken perceived barriers about art, injected excitement into the market and reminded fairgoers that art buying can be, and is meant to be, fun.

Mr Ken Chang, 42, founder and director of Y2Arts, says he is returning to the fair as the team "brings a great crowd to the fair and does a good job in promoting it". As a gallerist, he finds it an excellent platform for introducing works by new and upcoming artists and establishing relationships with new art-lovers.

Madam Keli Fong, 46, of Tembusu Art Gallery points out that this is the only fair where the entry point for buying art is $100.

The Singapore gallerist calls it "a very good platform for new art collectors" as they have plenty of options in terms of selecting and buying their first piece of original artwork.

The fair has grown in size, attendance and sales every year since 2010.

Last November, it wrapped up its fourth edition with record sales and visitorship. About 17,800 visitors went through the fair grounds and sales hit a new high of $4.9 million. With a much larger fair last year spread over two levels of the F1 Pit Building, organisers were targeting 17,000 visitors and over $4 million in sales.

Ms Hewitson says she is confident the market can sustain two editions of the fair annually, even with more art fairs being held this year, including the recently concluded premier fair Art Stage and the new Singapore Art Fair in November.

"There is greater maturity, greater interest in art. This shows in the number of people who show up for these events," she says.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 5, 2014

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