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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Relax, it's just art

The Affordable Art Fair is back with a bigger set-up and more art-related activities
The Straits Times - November 10, 2011
By: Deepika Shetty
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Relax, it's just art Many galleries and artists enjoyed the informal vibe of The Affordable Art Fair in Singapore last year and have returned. -- PHOTO: AFFORDABLE ART FAIR

An art fair that aims to make art-buying accessible to the masses is returning to Singapore after its successful debut last year.

The Affordable Art Fair, which opens at the F1 Pit Building in Marina Bay South next Friday, will have 79 galleries, up from 50 last year.

Besides getting bigger, it will also offer a wider range of art and art-related activities.

Meeting Life! in London last month, Mr Will Ramsay, the 42-year-old founder of the fair, said: 'Our idea is really to create new collectors who might be more comfortable at a more relaxed fair than go to the more established ones.'

Last year, the family-friendly event blew away the stuffiness associated with art fairs. About 9,500 visitors, mostly dressed in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, helped the first Asian edition of the annual fair chalk up $1.75 million in sales.

The organisers successfully broke perceived barriers about art, injecting excitement into the market by reminding visitors that art-buying is meant to be fun. Apart from the art, there were also music, talks and art classes for children.

Given its success last year, the fair is hoping to draw 12,000 visitors this year with events such as print-making demonstrations, talks by art experts and workshops on modern art movements for children.

For a distinctly Singaporean flavour, the Recent Graduate Exhibition will showcase works by selected young Singaporean artists. Locally based print- makers will also exhibit their works made exclusively for the event.

Though the organisers have sold just 233 tickets priced at $10 via Sistic so far, they are confident that people will show up at the door once the fair opens. Ms Camilla Hewitson, Singapore fair director for The Affordable Art Fair, said that last year, 149 tickets were bought online at around the same time.

Galleries have also shown more interest in the fair. She said that this year, there were 120 galleries vying for 79 spaces. The booth rental fee ranges from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the size.

Ms Hewitson, who is in her 30s, said: 'Some galleries were turned away because we simply did not have enough space for all of them. In some cases, the proposal was not as strong as others who were allocated stands.'

The organisers also want to keep the focus on Asia. Among the exhibiting galleries, 37 are from Singapore, 25 from Asia and 17 from the rest of the world.

For those looking for instantly recognisable names, there will be limitededition prints by controversial British artist Damien Hirst and new works by Filipino artist Leeroy New, who will also be creating a winding sculpture specially for the fair.

Three-quarters of the offerings will cost less than $7,500, with a maximum price ceiling of $10,000 and there will be works starting from as little as $60.

A committee reviews gallery applications and images of the artworks to ensure they match the levels of the other Affordable Art Fairs around the world.

The fair, which originated in London in 1999, is now in nine major cities worldwide, including New York, Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, Sydney and Singapore. Next year, the fair will make its debut in India.

When Life! visited the London fair last month, the vibe at the Battersea Park venue was even more relaxed than that in Singapore, though the buying seemed a bit more subdued.

The fair drew about 18,000 visitors, with many fairgoers walking their dogs and mothers appreciating art while managing their babies in strollers.

For the past 15 years, the fairs have sold more than $250 million worth of art and attracted more than 700,000 visitors.

Several Western gallerists who will be exhibiting in Singapore for the second time said the Asian market felt more vibrant than the European one.

London-based Bicha Gallery, which took part in last year's Singapore edition, sold more than 30 works and chalked up sales of about $60,000.

One buyer here bought more than 10 works by British artist Claire Malet, who creates vessels using recycled materials and metals which are finished with hand tools and often lined in 24-carat gold leaf.

Mr Antonio Capelao, director of the gallery, called the market sentiment in Singapore 'buoyant'.

'It was a new market. We did not know how it would go. But it was so different from that in Europe. The response we got was fantastic,' he said.

Mr Yann Bombard, 43, who runs Galerie Envie D'Art in Paris, said he got the feeling that people in Singapore were waiting for a fair like The Affordable Art Fair.

He said: 'The European market is saturated with fairs. I did not go to Singapore with any particular expectations except to get a feel of the Asian market.

'You have something very interesting going on in the Affordable spirit. Things have slowed down a bit in Europe, but in Asia, I see a lot of energy.'

Local gallery Utterly Art, which was among the top-performing galleries at the fair last year, signed up for the second edition.

Last year, the gallery sold more than 40 works. This year, it will be presenting about 150 works by more than 20 artists from Singapore and the region.

Said Dr Pwee Keng Hock, 47, managing partner of Utterly Art: 'We were encouraged by the excellent publicity given to the fair last year, our sales and the continuous stream of people who visited.

'The fair fits directly with the demographic of our artists and also the ethos of our gallery. We offer quality works by emerging and established artists at prices considered value for money.'

Artist Ketna Patel, 43, who took part in the fair last year, said: 'I loved the friendly, informal energy last year. The whole space felt like a cross between a freshly opened bakery and a non-stop three-day party.

'It made for a very conducive space where all sorts of people could meet. I met children, school teachers, housewives and taxi drivers who felt relaxed enough to approach us, ask questions and even criticise my work.'


Where: F1 Pit Building, Marina Bay South (next to Singapore Flyer)

When: Next Friday to Sunday; 11am to 6pm (Friday), 11am to 8pm (Saturday), 11am to 6pm (Sunday)

Admission: $10 for adults, $7 for students and senior citizens from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to or at the door.

Info: Call 6736-1430 or go to



In the city for a picnic