Art Stage to Build Understanding of “Many Asias”

Asia covers a large geographical area, comprising many diverse regional art scenes and markets with little dialogue between them. Which is why Art Stage Singapore aims to present a selection of these “many Asias” through dedicated curated country platforms that will help educate collectors about the range of art in the region, says Lorenzo Rudolf, founder and director of Art Stage Singapore.

“An art fair shouldn’t just sell square meters, but should take on the responsibility to inform its clients. It should put the art into context and enable the regional and national scenes to get a better understanding of each other,” he told journalists at a press conference on November 13.

Running January 16 to 19, the fourth edition of Art Stage Singapore will present 100 galleries, about of which 80% are based in Asia-Pacific (including 29 Singapore-based galleries). Two-thirds also exhibited at last year’s fair, which Rudolf describes as a satisfying number of returnees. “You should have 60-80% of your participants stable every year, otherwise it’s deadly to have a fair which has the same names year in, year out,” he noted.

To further the understanding of Asian art, eight “platforms,” or curated sale exhibitions, will shine the spotlight on six countries (Australia, China, Japan, Korea, India, and Taiwan) and two regions, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, with the bulk of the space taken by the Southeast Asian region platform that includes Singapore. These platforms will take up 20% of the fair’s exhibition space, or about 2,000 square meters, and Rudolf is confident the curated format will appeal to collectors seeking to discover new markets. “I am quite sure there will be other fairs which follow us,” he said, adding “We are not doing it just to do something new, but because we think it’s important to build bridges.”

Each platform will be curated by an “expert” in the field, offering collectors a mix of established and emerging artists, though the focus will be on emerging artists, he added. Unlike the Indonesia pavilion of 2013, where artists were selling directly to the public with the fair taking a 50% cut on sales, which raised eyebrows when announced in 2013, this year, the artists on each platform will be represented by a gallery. Rudolf described last year’s Pavilion decision as an “experiment” and said that while there had been some sales, the fair had “hardly covered its costs.”

Art Stage decided this year Singapore should be included in the SEA platform, rather than have its own “ghetto,” because after three years of having small platforms dedicated to Singapore, it was felt Singapore art could be positioned more strongly as part of a Southeast Asian platform.

It would not be Art Stage without a little controversy. This year, it comes in the form of one of the platform’s curators. The well-known Taiwanese collector Rudy Tseng has been selected to curate the Taiwanese platform, but Rudolf defended the choice by saying Tseng had already curated several exhibitions, including the third edition of Dojima River Biennale in Osaka. “And to be frank, I don’t know many curators who are not somehow related to the market nowadays,” he pointed out.

In a statement, Tseng said that as a curator he’s driven by the wish to introduce good Taiwanese artist to other parts of the world. “Taiwan is known for its advancement in technology, which many artists are relying on. The complex colonial background of Taiwan has influenced artists drastically and becomes the major inspiration for their work,” he noted.

Other curators are Aaron Seeto (for Australia), Huang Du (China), Bose Krishnamachari (India), Mami Kataoka (Japan), Kim Sung Won (Korea), Rudy Tseng (Taiwan), and Charles Merewether (Central Asia), and for Southeast Asia’s platform the curators are Roger Nelson (Cambodia), Jim Supangkat (Indonesia), Simon Soon (Malaysia), Isabel Ching (Myanmar), Patrick Flores (Philippines), and Gridthiya Gaweewong (Thailand).

As first published on