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Art Fair Politics in Southeast Asia

Art Fair Politics in Southeast Asia
January 18, 2019 Art World Forum
In Articles
Art World Forum-Art-Fairs-Southeast Asia

Taipei Dangdai, S.E.A. Focus and Art Stage 2019

With only days to go until the start of Singapore Art Week, the region faces a range of emotions. With a significant predicted growth in wealth in Asia, it comes as no surprise that fresh initiatives are launching.

With significant attention being drawn in by the new art fair in Taiwan, Taipei Dangdai (18 – 20 Jan), welcoming 80 galleries including David Zwirner, Gagosian and Hauser and Wirth, coupled with multi-year sponsorship support by UBS, expectations are high. With an intentional focus on the region, its art, artists and galleries, the aim is not to create another Art Basel but rather to provide collectors with diversity and encourage growth in confidence when collecting Contemporary Art in Asia.

Launching with a similar intention, STPI introduces S.E.A Focus (23 – 27 Jan), a boutique fair welcoming a small cluster of galleries keen on fostering a stronger appreciation for art and increasing a demand for Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian art through collaboration.

Despite the positivity and aspiration to develop the region’s art markets, Singapore’s signature art fair, Art Stage, has cancelled its 9th annual edition at the eleventh hour. With a drastic drop in interest from international, regional and local galleries and sales over the years, a cancellation announcement was sent on Wednesday 16th January, days before the fair launch.

With former Art World Forum speakers scheduled to participate in the fair’s edition, Guillaume Levy-Lambert of Art Porters Gallery shares with the Straits Times “In some way it’s better than the fair happening with few visitors and even less sales. We are more concerned that it’s embarrassing for Singapore. We want to do everything we can to help stranded galleries – we’ll see if we can fit in (artworks from) foreign galleries at our arts space.”

Sparked by motivation to assist exhibitors who have been deeply affected by the cancellation, a Facebook group titled ‘Art Stage SOS’ has initiated discussions for alternative venue arrangements. With suggestions being made by auction houses, galleries, hotels and private home owners, the reaction and proactive attitude is inspiring.

Even the reputable Singapore Freeport has opened its available showrooms to exhibitors for pop-up shows.

Publicly announcing that the reasons for cancelling were commercial, the President of Art Stage, Lorenzo Rudolf, declared “due to the very difficult market situation in Singapore, as well as an unequal competitive situation on site, I ultimately have no other choice than to cancel the fair on short notice.”

With speculation suggesting that the cancellation was due to professional differences amongst management and staff, galleries are now looking to recoup their investments.

Having attended last year’s Art Stage edition, the consensus was that 2018 signalled the fair’s finale. Accusing the local art scene for its ill-equipped resources and inability to correlate with a fair of its stature, it came as a surprise to hear of the fair’s return.

Calculating that booths ranged from $11,750 to $67,500 at the renowned Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre (averaging $26,250 for a 35 sqm booth this year), the various government bodies and the local art market players are deploying available resources to handle the situation.

In a collective effort to strengthen the region’s awareness and contribution to a prosperous art market Magnus Renfrew, Co-Founder of Art Dangdai, quoted in his interview with The Art Newspaper, “No single collecting constituency in the [Southeast Asian] region is big enough to sustain a major international art fair, but together [it is possible].”