Mapping the market
Art Stage Singapore is drawing up links in the region and beyond
“A MODERN society is an open society which is not afraid to discuss anything,” says Lorenzo Rudolf, the founder and president of Art Stage Singapore. It does not shy away from everyday political incorrectness and potential controversy. It is not afraid to speak up, deconstruct, and reconstruct.
Rudolf is convinced that contemporary art is, in its broadest definition, a reflection of our reality. And it is this mirror that you will see at the upcoming Art Stage Singapore in January.
“Contemporary art is a global language. It is not just an aesthetic adornment. It is more an attitude than a form. The form is merely the consequence of production,” he adds about one of Singapore’s most prominent art fairs, which is now in its sixth year.
As a relatively young player where contemporary art is concerned, South-East Asia is just warming up.
Nevertheless, the Swiss-born Rudolf, who currently divides his time between Switzerland and Singapore, points out that interest from other parts of the world has never been this strong.
There is a fast-growing curiosity surrounding the work from this region, as well as the community behind these works.
The future is looking up.
“We have noticed a certain momentum in the last three to four years. Collectors all over the world are starting to integrate South-East Asian art in their collectioons. Therefore, our responsibility is to further promote art from this region and explain what it means,” shares Rudolf.
The fair is part of the Singapore Art Week, which is an initiative by the National Arts Council in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Economic Development Board.
The upcoming edition, which runs from Jan 21 to 24 at Marina Bay Sands, will feature over 140 galleries from more than 30 countries, of which some 110 are from Asia.
Almost half the participating galleries are new to the fair.
Malaysian galleries present at next year’s fair are Core Design Gallery, G13 Gallery, Richard Koh Fine Art and Wei-Ling Gallery, up a few notches from its first edition where only one Malaysian gallery was on the list.
There is a reason for the far-reaching collaborative efforts for this art fair – Rudolf believes that we should be talking about “South-East Asian art” as a whole, instead of breaking it down into “Malaysian” art versus “Singaporean” art and so on.
He is also adamant that the Art Stage Singapore, despite its name, should not be considered a “Singaporean event”.
“It is really an event for the whole of South-East Asia,” he says.
“We are merely using Singapore as a base, a place where the entire region comes together,” he stresses.
Painting Art Stage as an intersection of sorts, where art is exchanged and ideas converge, he comments that the fair’s role goes beyond selling space and selling art.
“We want to provide a platform where people can gather and start dialogues. Particularly in a region like South-East Asia, where modern society is young and contemporary art is younger, it is important that there exists such a space,” he says.
To that end, Art Stage Singapore will introduce its inaugural South-East Asia Forum in the upcoming fair.
Titled Seismograph: Sensing the City – Art In The Urban Age, it is testament to the importance placed upon the role of the artist in the building of urban living spaces.
In the same way the architects and planners build and shape cities, so are visceral ideals, memories and concepts manifested through art.
“A contemporary artist is part of urban space. He is everywhere. So we have to give the artist a chance to position himself as a seismograph of contemporary society,” says Rudolf.
In surveying the role of artists in the evolution of modern societies across the region, ten projects will be presented at the art fair.
Among the artists featured are Aliansyah Caniago from Indonesia, Norberto Roldan from the Philippines and Sherman Ong from Singapore.
“It is not the role of an artist to give us the answers of our lives and our future,” explains Rudolf.
“But the artist is part of this development and part of our society. And perhaps he has a high sensitivity that will lead him to ask questions which will then give us a reason to reflect on new directions.”
Rudolf is speaking from a position of authority, having spent 10 years (1991-2000) as director of the long-standing Art Basel, founded in 1970. He also initiated Art Basel Miami Beach in the US, which launched in 2002.
For a couple of years, between Art Basel and Art Stage Singapore, he ran the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.
One does not make ripples without being bold and taking risks. Indeed, you could hardly accuse Art Stage Singapore of playing it safe.
In past years, the fair has been known to show works that would raise quite a number of eyebrows here in Malaysia.
For instance, Marvin Chan’s work Desecration of The Temple, which was dominated by the figure of a crucified woman who is surrounded by butchered carcasses. It was one of the more disturbing pieces at last year’s Art Stage Singapore. It was displayed in Singapore, but was absent from its homecoming KL show (Fklub’s Being Human). Perhaps not so much in art circles, but definitely with those who see in themselves an overwhelming sense of duty to dictate censorship.
But Rudolf says that works such as these are not presented at the fair with the purpose to shock or stir up controversy.
“My goal is not to show whatever you cannot show here in Malaysia,” he states.
But he has a firm stance on giving artists the freedom to express themselves.
He considers it a necessary step to encourage discussion and development.
“If the artist has to say something, even it it happens to be controversial, I think we should give him the chance to do so. We don’t necessarily have to agree with him, that is an entirely different matter. But we should give him the opportunity to express himself,” Rudolf says.
Every discussion brings us a step forward, and every step opens up new possibilities.
“Besides, we are all individuals who are intelligent enough to make our own opinions,” he adds.
Now if only we could put this into practice everywhere.
Art Stage Singapore is on from Jan 21-24 at Marina Bay Sands, Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Level B2, Halls D, E & F, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore. Visit www.artstagesingapore.com for more information.
Written by: Rouwen Lin
Published by: Star 2, The Star
Publication date: 03 January 2016