40,500 People Attended Art Stage This Year, Up From 35,000 In 2012
This past weekend, art lovers, dealers, and collectors from throughout Asia and around the world flocked to Art Stage Singapore, the first international art fair of 2013. Despite a strong Southeast Asian flavor, this year’s edition, held at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Center, presented contemporary art in a dynamic intercultural context, with a Project Stage for emerging Asian art and a dedicated Singapore Platform to represent domestic arts venues. In all, around 130 galleries from 26 countries took part in Art Stage, attracting better attendance and sales than last year’s edition. According to the Wall Street Journal, 40,500 people attended the fair, up from 35,000 in 2012.
After Singapore, China-based galleries represented the second largest group in the gallery section, with over a dozen venues, among them ShanghArt, taking part. Home to approximately 91,200 US dollar millionaires, dealers are banking on the huge potential domestic market in Singapore. Though foreign art buyers, mostly visiting businessmen, still account for the majority of art sales at Art Stage, organizers have said that the number of domestic buyers increased by 10 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Among the highlights of this year’s event were the “Appearance of Crosses” series by Chinese contemporary artist Ding Yi, sold by ShanghArt for S$560,000 (US$452,269) and a set of pastel drawings by Hangzhou-based artist Sun Xun, which went for S$60,000 ($48,434). Guests were also drawn to Zhang Huan’s “Berlin Buddha,” as well as pieces by Chen Chieh-jen, Damien Hirst, Miró, and Chagall.
Developed by the former director of Art Basel and SH Contemporary, with strong support by Singaporean governmental agencies like the Singapore Economic Board, the National Tourism Board and the National Art Council, Art Stage is Singapore’s strongest attempt at consolidating its position as a major regional and international art hub, and providing a platform for contemporary Asian art. While nearby Hong Kong has largely succeeded in taking a leading role on the global arts stage, becoming the world’s third biggest art market after the US and UK, Singapore is clearly following a more regional approach. Art Stage founder Lorenzo Rudolf has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to compete with events like Art Basel (or its Hong Kong edition, set to take place this May), but sees Art Stage Singapore as complementing other major fairs.
Another key objective of Art Stage Singapore, which sets it apart from other regional fairs, is to encourage young and emerging Asian collectors to branch out. This aspect of the fair has become particularly important as it pertains to Chinese collectors. With gallery infrastructure still in its developmental stage in mainland China and many still seeing art collecting as an investment opportunity rather than something to do out of enjoyment, this year the fair provided special educational trips for young collectors from China (as well as Australia, South Korea, Spain, and the Middle East).
In editions to come, Art Stage Singapore will predominantly remain a platform for Asian art, and is aimed at strengthening regional art structures, improving the competitiveness of East and Southeast Asian galleries in the global art market, and drawing attention to emerging Asian artists. Lorenzo Rudolf has also stressed that the major goal of the fair is to bring together a cross-section of Southeast Asian art under one roof to bring in collectors who might otherwise avoid such a culturally and economically fragmented region. Currently, 75 percent of participating galleries are from Asia, and the fair remains attractive for emerging galleries, as its participation fee is estimated to be around 50 percent cheaper than comparable international events.