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Asia centre Stage

Asian and Singapore artists will feature strongly in art fair Art Stage next year
The Straits Times - December 8, 2011
By: Deepika Shetty
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Asia centre Stage Thai-Indian artist Navin Rawanchaikul explores ideas of identity and the globalisation of cultures through many of his works such as Mission Navinland, 2011. -- PHOTO: YAVUZ FINE ART

Expect a stronger showing of Asian and Singapore artists at Art Stage next year.

The second edition of the top-end international contemporary art fair will be held next month and will feature 12 Singapore galleries. There will be about 130 galleries from around the world, of which 30 per cent are from the West.

At the first edition held in January this year, the show-stealers included Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami, whose acrylic triptych titled Snow, Moon, Flower (2001) sold for US$2.2 million (S$2.9 million). Another top seller was Taiwanese sculptor Li Chen, whose Soul Guardian series of four bronze sculptures fetched US$480,000.

Fair director Lorenzo Rudolf says this indicated that collectors flying in here are interested in Asian works. He adds he was impressed with proposals by local galleries who did not want their space to look like 'souks' at the fair.

Recent art fairs in Asia have seen thousands of people show up, with some of the key buying done on the preview night itself. With so many scrambling buyers, less can sometimes be more as it is then easier to see the art offerings that stand out.

In an exclusive interview with Life!, Mr Rudolf, 52, says: 'When people are at an art fair, they see a lot of things. What they remember are galleries which curate their booths well. Not those which fill it with a lot of work.

'Singapore has a lot to offer next year. This has been evident from the many excellent concepts we have received from galleries.'

Local highlights at the upcoming art fair are images by Singapore photographer Robert Zhao Renhui, new works by local art collective Vertical Submarine, paintings by David Chan and mixed-media works by art collective :phunk, all of which are being presented by local galleries.

Singapore galleries are also bringing in several key projects and works from elsewhere in the world including the famous World Hug Day by China's Gao Brothers. As part of this interactive performance, people are invited to hug a stranger in the name of art. Another key work is a 25m-long scroll by New York-based Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, which will be displayed in full.

Galleries from Singapore taking part for the first time include 2902 Gallery, which specialises in photography and whose booth will highlight only Zhao's work.

Says Mr Rudolf: 'Sometimes, showing work of only one artist can make the space stand out. What we are also seeing from Singapore galleries is their effort to deepen the South-east Asian identity. When collectors travel here, this is what they would like to see. If they have to see only art from the Western world, they can pick from so many other fairs.'

Gajah Gallery, for example, is presenting works by key Malaysian and Indonesian artists including Jumaldi Alfi.

What is also interesting, says Mr Rudolf, are galleries giving a bigger push to local art alongside South-east Asian art. For instance, the Singapore Tyler Print Institute will be showing print works by photographer Genevieve Chua and artist-curator Heman Chong together with works of Indonesian artist Handiwirman Saputra and Indian artist Shambhavi.

Richard Koh Fine Art will exhibit works by established Thai artist Natee Utarit alongside those of Malaysian artist Chang Yoong Chia, who was one of the last 15 nominees of this year's APB Foundation Signature Art Prize, as well as the award-winning local collective Vertical Submarine.

The collective will show a work titled Incendiary Texts II: Selected Anatomical Studies Or Thirty-Six Eastern Vulgarities And One Incendiary Oath... In Roman Letters. It features 36 beautifully illustrated swear words with strong anatomical references.

In a statement, the collective, comprising artists Joshua Yang, Justin Loke and Fiona Koh, says: 'The objective of this project aims to preserve marginalised words, language, dialects and phrases which suffer similar fate to certain ideas one is prohibited from speaking and thinking.'

Key local gallery additions this year include Vue Privee, Yavuz Fine Art, Herdon Contemporary and Ikkan Art Gallery, started by Ikkan Sanada, formerly a New York-based Japanese dealer who moved to Singapore this year.

Vue Privee is bringing in the renowned World Hug Day, by Chinese artists Gao Brothers.

Mr Can Yavuz, founder and gallery director of Yavuz Fine Art, is focusing on Thai contemporary art and has picked works by Navin Rawanchaikul, who represented Thailand at the 54th Venice Biennale this year, and Manit Sriwanichpoom, who is known as the father of the Pink Man. This involves works in different media of a fat man dressed in a lurid pink suit, often with a shopping trolley or mobile phone.

Says Mr Yavuz, 39: 'Navin and Manit have had a major impact on this region's art history over the last decade. Navin questions the system and seeks to put art in touch with the lives of everyday people, while Manit's works in the iconic Pink Man series ponders the role and nature of faith in Thailand today. These can show collectors some of the issues the best of South-east Asian art engage with.'

Art dealer Andrew Herdon, who recently re- located to Singapore from London, is going big on Asia too. He has picked works by South Korean artist Chan-Hyo Bae and Filipino Pio Abad, who is the son of the late artist Pacita Abad.

Bae's photographs from his Existing In Costume series feature scenes of traditional fairy tales and self-portraits in period costumes that comment on his experience assimilating into British culture. As a Korean in Britain, he looks at the British aristocratic environment through his large format colour photographs.

Abad's work, titled Natural Love, comments on the obsession with surveillance by featuring a CCTV camera covered with seashells.

Says Mr Herdon, 34: 'I selected works which tied in best with my theme, which is an exploration of the human condition and these works fit in well.'

Upping the Asian stakes at the fair is Mr Ikkan Sanada, who is bringing in one of the fair highlights,Tiravanija's 25m scroll. The untitled three- part print, which chronicles the last 20 years of the artist's life, took three years to complete. It uses a combination of techniques including screen-print, offset lithography and inkjet production over copies of his passports from 1988 to 2008.

Mr Sanada, 60, says he could have easily picked artworks by popular pop artists such as Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst, but he was keen on establishing a link with Asia.

'I visited the fair last year and felt its Asia- centric approach set it apart and gave it a distinct identity. I considered several works before deciding on 10 works including this piece by Tiravanija. He has Thai roots, is very well-known in the West. Art Stage gives me the perfect platform to re-introduce his work to the East,' he says.


Where: Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre Basement 2, Halls D, E and F

When: Jan 12 to 15 next year, 2 to 9pm (Jan 12 and 13), noon to 9pm (Jan 14) and noon to 6pm (Jan 15)

Admission: $60 (season pass for all four days), $30 (day pass), $10 (concession)

Info: Go to or e-mail



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