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Examining what ART SG's debut in Singapore means for the global art community

With the much-awaited debut of Singaporean art expo, ART SG, post financial difficulties and a pandemic, STIR evaluates its significance in the Asian and global art scene.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Jan 10, 2023

While common perceptions of the art world are associated with extraordinary affluence, we also regularly witness the collapse of organisations, a direct result of bad management and a lack of funding. In these circumstances, it is rare to see an art fair pull through and hence, one would not have imagined the art show, ART SG, to make a comeback, given its dismal state, years ago, even before the pandemic. The art fair’s uncertainty can be attributed to recurrent failures brought on by the economy, a pandemic, and possibly poor luck.

As Singapore attempts at establishing its rising significance in an evolving art scene, STIR inspects the ART SG fair, its significance in the Asian art scene, and the novelty it brings to the art fore. The expansive exhibition features paintings, sculptures, photographs, and art installations from art galleries like the prestigious Gagosian, London's White Cube, and Hong Kong's Pearl Lam Galleries. Some of the featured galleries will also display works created using digital technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality, and NFTs. The art fair is organised by the Art Assembly—an organisation that runs a portfolio of fairs around Asia, including, Taipei Dangdai, Sydney Contemporary, India Art Fair, Photofairs Shanghai, and the Tokyo Gendai.

Baby, 2022, Oil on canvas, Alvin Ong | ART SG | STIRworld
Baby, 2022, Oil on canvas, Alvin Ong Image: Courtesy of the artist and Yavuz Gallery

Since its announcement in 2018—and the subsequent delays—ART SG has encountered its fair share of uncertainty and upheaval. Art Basel's parent company, MCH withdrew from a number of regional fairs including ART SG, towards the end of 2018. The fair was then postponed to November 2019, but with Art Stage Singapore’s abrupt postponement, ART SG too, announced its new date as October 2020. Then with the pandemic, it was naturally delayed for two more years and with no evidence of an exhibitor list, the show finally declared it would be postponed till January 2023.

Performance rehearsal still, UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles, 2022, Mandy El-Sayegh | ART SG | STIRworld
Performance rehearsal still, UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles, 2022, Mandy El-Sayegh Image: Josh S. Rose; Courtesy of Mandy El-Sayegh, Lehmann Maupin, and UTA Artist Space

Now, marking a fresh start in 2023, the art fair is bringing together exceptional artworks from Singapore and worldwide. In addition to the main GALLERIES sector, ART SG will also present FOCUS, a contextualised sector, featuring galleries that are presenting solo or duo artist programmes, and curated thematic presentations. Another sector FUTURES is dedicated to supporting young galleries that have been running for under six years, and REFRAME features galleries that present art engaged with, made or presented using digital technology. Along with selected cinema programming, educational opportunities, thought-provoking discussions, and large-scale site-specific art installations, the art event will also provide public art programmes.

PixCell-Reedbuck (Aurora), 2020, mixed media, Kohei Nawa | ART SG | STIRworld
PixCell-Reedbuck (Aurora), 2020, mixed media, Kohei Nawa Image: Nobutada Omote; Courtesy of SCAI THE BATHHOUSE

In the GALLERIES sector, David Zwirner art gallery will present a line-up of international artists from the gallery’s programme, including Oscar Murillo, Josh Smith, and Neo Rauch. SCAI the Bathhouse will present a curated exhibition, Notional Spheres, exploring strategies that artists deploy to reconfigure our perception of the world, featuring important Japanese artists such as Kohei Nawa, Mariko Mori, and Daisuke Ohba. A curated selection of new artworks featuring Imi Knoebel, Ibrahim Mahama, and Mona Hatoum among others, at White Cube, will also be presented.

I wish I had learned more trivia, 2022, Mirror finish stainless steel, metal, XU ZHEN® | ART SG | STIRworld
I wish I had learned more trivia, 2022, Mirror finish stainless steel, metal, XU ZHEN® Image: Courtesy of MadeIn Gallery

The contextualised sector titled FOCUS, will showcase artists with practices across different mediums, providing a foundation for insights and discussion of their works. Highlights include Kukje Gallery that will present an engaging solo showcase of new works by respected indigenous Australian artist, Daniel Boyd. Reality Mining at MadeIn, a two-person show by artists Ding Li and Xu Zhen. Galerie Urs Meile, who will showcase a dialogue investigating abstraction between three female artists from China: Ju Ting, Miao Miao, and Zhang Xuerui.

Pigeon Riddle in the Library, 2021, Acrylic on linen, Tom Howse | ART SG | STIRworld
Pigeon Riddle in the Library, 2021, Acrylic on linen, Tom Howse Image: © Tom Howse; Courtesy of Tom Howse and LINSEED

The FUTURES sector, dedicated to supporting young galleries, will present visitors with bold, and conceptually diverse works. Capsule Shanghai will present a curated three-person show featuring recent works by Leelee Chan, Mevlana Lipp, and Miranda Fengyuan Zhang. Tropical Futures Institute will exhibit a presentation featuring Visayas-based painter Kristoffer Ardeña and Filipina-Canadian artist and filmmaker Stephanie Comilang. Further, LINSEED will show a curation of new works by three emerging names: Sebastian Burger, Tom Howse, and Li Hei Di, all of whom are experimenting with imageries of nature, instinctive desires, and contemporary cultures.

Nanohana Heels, 2022, sculpture (leather, steel, aluminum),  Sputniko | ART SG | STIRworld
Nanohana Heels, 2022, sculpture (leather, steel, aluminum), Sputniko Image: Courtesy of Sputniko and Kate Vass Galerie

REFRAME will celebrate Singapore’s position at the forefront of technological innovation, by highlighting new experimentations in digital art and works on the blockchain. With REFRAME, the art fair aims to showcase a range of technology-driven work and explore facets related to collecting work in this medium—ranging from curation, presentation, conservation to provenance—through an associated programme of talks. Highlights in this section include displays by Bitforms gallery, Kate Vass Galerie, and Vanguard Gallery.

ART SG Director Shuyin Yang | ART SG | STIRworld
ART SG Director Shuyin Yang Image: Joyce Yung

"We believe the launch of ART SG will crystallise Singapore’s position as an exceptional cultural venue within the international art landscape. We look forward to welcoming collectors and galleries from Southeast Asia and around the world to Singapore, in January 2023. By bringing the international art world to a location closer to home, ART SG will not only invite the world’s leading collectors and art leaders to experience Singapore and all that the region has to offer but also encourage a new generation of emerging collectors to be inspired by the rich diversity of art immediately at our doorstep,” stated Shuyin Yang, fair director of ART SG, in a press note. As a specialist in Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, Yang started her career at Christie's offices in London, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and is leading ART SG with a strong understanding of how the art market functions, how elements like provenance, rarity, historical value, and industry trends influence the value of artworks, as well as what drives demand in a commercial art environment.

Secret Garden, 2022, Acrylic on Canvas, Wei Jia | ART SG | STIRworld
Secret Garden, 2022, Acrylic on Canvas, Wei Jia Image: Courtesy of Wei Jia and Michael Ku Gallery

The fair will also present public art programmes of large-scale installations, a curated film sector, as well as critical and thought-provoking talks. For this year’s edition, the film sector will be curated by Thai curator Gridthiya Gaweewong, the artistic director of the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok, who was recently appointed the artistic director of the Thailand Biennale 2023. The talks programme will be curated by Cosmin Costinas, former executive director of Para Site, and the upcoming director of the Biennale of Sydney in 2024.

Save Me, 2018, neon (magenta and clear red), Tracey Emin | ART SG | STIRworld
Save Me, 2018, neon (magenta and clear red), Tracey Emin Image: Courtesy of Tracey Emin and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

ART SG is scheduled to be on view from January 12-15, 2023.

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