As new contemporary art fairs continue to mushroom around the world, it may be hard sometimes to differentiate their offerings. In Asia, Art Basel in Hong Kong has now firmly established itself as a mammoth gathering of the international art who’s who in Asia, presenting an offering that straddles Asian and international art. The more modest Art Stage Singapore, now in its fourth year with about 100 galleries participating, has differentiated itself by anchoring firmly on Asian ground, with a particular focus on the often overlooked art of Southeast Asia.
“A lot of art fairs offer a very general presentation, with no reference to the market of location where they're held. They largely present Western art and Western galleries. Art Stage, on the other hand, has always had a very strong Southeast Asian focus. But they've never fallen into the category of being a regional fair because they uphold international standards of presentation and deftly mix Western and Asian galleries of importance. So the fair has a strong, individual identity and an intellectual component,” says Sundaram Tagore of Sundaram Tagore Gallery, which has participated in Art Stage since its inception.
“I think Lorenzo Rudolph has been very careful in selecting galleries with real substance and presenting a strong point of view. Because of this, the fair has grown stronger and more vibrant every year,” he adds.
This year’s edition is aiming to reflect what is happening “right now” in the Asia art scene, but is also offering collectors “a step in a totally new direction” by presenting dedicated curated country or regional platforms, or sales exhibitions, that will help educate collectors about the range of art in the region, says Lorenzo Rudolf, founder and director of Art Stage Singapore.
“Asia is still today very, very segmented; each art scene is mainly national. In other words, we have to build really strong bridges between all these art scenes, and bring them together and liaise with them. We have to do more than just sell some square meters to galleries, we really have to educate and inform. That’s why these new platforms aim to present art in context; to give people the possibility of having an overview and an insight into all these different scenes. And we have to create more dialogues and exchange among them,” he explains.
According to Rudolf, the gap between the commercial art world and the academic one has been widening too much. “Years ago, the academic side was the main driver of the art scene. Academics, museums, critics were making the artists. But the art world has now turned on its head; today it’s the market. But I think more and more people are realizing we need to bring back the two together. You can’t only define art with prices, sizes, and brands. Art is culture and needs content and context. That’s why we are working with all these leading Asian curators with our new platforms, we are bringing commercial and academics together, even if ultimately everything is commercial and is for sale. The curators all agreed Art Stage is one of the best ways to grow the art scenes in the Asia Pacific region,” says Rudolf, adding he sees the platforms as a “natural answer to the development of the market.”
Art Stage 2014 is presenting eight “platforms” - India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, along with Southeast Asia, and Australia & New Zealand – which occupy about 20% of the fair’s exhibition space, or about 2,000 square meters. Each platform has been curated by an “expert” in the field, offering collectors a mix of established and emerging artists. “As we’re doing those for the first time, we wanted platforms that would be a first introduction to a specific art scene. We didn’t want to go into a cutting edge direction. But in the future we want to play with the format. I could imagine choosing very young curators, or foreign curators showing their own vision of another art scene,” he says.
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.”
Art Stage Singapore 2014 runs Jan 16 to 19 at Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre.
As first published on BlouinArtinfo.com