Setting the Stage: What to See at Art Stage Singapore 2015

Now in its fifth year, the celebrated Asian art fair and its attendant events all around the city focus international attention to Singapore as a hub and an arena to discover art from all over Southeast Asia.
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Hema Upadhyay, Universe Revolves on (XV), 2008. Courtesy of Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai.
Held in the spectacular, ark-like Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre building, Art Stage Singapore (January 22-25, 2015) brings artists, collectors, dealers and art professionals from all around Southeast Asia and the world to this geographically small but economically powerful island nation. Coinciding with the fair, Singapore Art Week (January 17-25) brings almost 100 special events to the city at large, from special exhibitions and performances, to film screenings, art tours and talks. Now in its fifth year, the celebrated Asian art fair and its attendant events all around the city focus international attention to Singapore as a hub and an arena to discover art from all over Southeast Asia.
Art Stage Singapore differentiates itself from other international contemporary art fairs by emphasizing its regional roots and Asian identity, with 75 percent of participating galleries hailing from the Asia Pacific region. As Founder and Fair Director Lorenzo Rudolf notes, "Art Stage Singapore has an important role to play in helping to build the eco-system to support contemporary art from the region." As such, the fair views its role as more than a sales platform, but as an opportunity to highlight and increase understanding of Southeast Asian contemporary art, describing itself as "a temporary museum" offering special curated exhibitions and performances that feature Asian artists. This year includes an expansive curated exhibition of contemporary Southeast Asian art by emerging-to-mid-career artists, smaller special exhibitions of Malaysian, Korean and Russian art, large-scale works by Singaporean and Asian artists, and, new this year, a dedicated space for video works.
Timothy Hyunsoo Lee, 296.35, 2013. Courtesy of Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Madrid.
Park Seo-bo, Ecriture No. 080209, 2008. Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin, Paris/Hong Kong/New York.
Hiroshi Senju, Waterfall, 2012. Courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Hong Kong/New York/Singapore.
As with any art fair, the main actors at Art Stage Singapore are the gallery exhibitors. This year, highlights include ARNDT, Berlin/Singapore, celebrating their 20th anniversary (booth E13); Hema Upadhyay's mixed-media works at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai (booth A5); Timothy Hyunsoo Lee's large-scale drawings at Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Madrid (booth H2); Park Seo-bo minimal paintings at Galerie Perrotin, Paris/Hong Kong/New York (booth C11); and Hiroshi Senju's enormous yet exquisite paintings made of natural pigments on Japanese mulberry paper, presented by Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Hong Kong/New York/Singapore (booth A7).
Suzann Victor, Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre Series, 2006. Courtesy of Andreas Kepplinger.
Paresh Maity, Mystic Abode, 2014. Courtesy of Linda Gallery, Beijing/Jakarta/Singapore.​
Punctuating the fair, various large-scale installations loom throughout the exhibition hall and beyond, into the interior of the Marina Bay Sands Centre. Among them, look for Suzann Victor's series of swinging chandeliers just as you enter the fair's main aisle, a new work by Gilbert & George near the VIP lounge (keep an eye out for the artist duo, as it's reported that they'll be in attendance), and a sound installation by Zulkifle Mahmod on the mezzanine. On level one of the exhibition center, you'll encounter Mystic Abode (2014) by Paresh Maity: a house structure, about four meters tall, composed of over 8,000 brass bells.
Vincent Leong, Kenapamu, Malaysia?, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Silverlens, Manila/Singapore.
Nyein Chan Su, The Shambles, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Intersections, Singapore.​
Choy Ka Fai, De Groot Collection From Lan Fang chronicles (2009 - 2012), 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Yeo Workshop, Singapore.​
At one end of the fair's hall, a 1,000-square-meter space is given over to Southeast Asia Platform, a museum-quality exhibition of contemporary Southeast Asian art curated by emerging Singaporean curator Khim Ong. Entitled Eagles Fly, Sheep Flock - Biographical Imprints: Artistic Practices in Southeast Asia, the exhibition assembles the work of 32 emerging and mid-career artists from the region working in a diverse range of media and practices. While all of the works are for sale by the artists' respective galleries, this section of Art Stage Singapore not only offers a reprieve from the commercial fair atmosphere, but allows for a deeper, sustained look at emerging talents from the region. Many of the works invoke personal reflections on the political and social histories of Asia, highlights including a two-part installation by Thai artist Nipan Oranniwesna, photography by Malaysian artist Vincent Leong, performative "political painting" and video works by Nyein Chan Su of Myanmar, and poetry-inspired performance-lectures by Singaporean artist Choy Ka Fai (performed on Thursday at 4pm, Saturday at 5pm, and Sunday at 2pm).
Andre Masson, La Mort d'Holopherne, 1959. Courtesy of DIE GALERIE, Frankfurt, and MF - Toninelli Art Moderne, Monaco.
AES+F, A/Jegoria Sacra, Still #1-30, 2011. Courtesy of Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, and Triumph Gallery, Moscow.
Chae Won Kim, DEEP SIMPLICITY, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.
Throughout the fair, visitors will encounter various smaller special exhibitions, including a special presentation of the work of French cubist and surrealist André Masson, an exhibit of two videos from The Liminal Space Trilogy by Russian collective AES + F Group, and a curated exhibition of four young Korean artists, Che One Joon, Kang Suki Seokyeong, Chae Won Kim, and Jina Park. Along the hall at the front of the fair, a selection of figurative painting by 16 young Malaysian painters will be on display, and along one end of the exposition hall, you can spend some time with the new element of this year's fair, Video Stage, which will present a history of video art--from Nam June Paik video sculptures to Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's videos of Thai farmers contemplating works of the Western canon--curated by artist Paul Greenaway, gallerist Chi-Wen Huang and museum director Ute Meta Bauer.
Yang Fudong, production shot of The Fifth Night (II) Rehearsal, 2010. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: ShanghART Gallery.
And that's just a sample of what's on view at the fair itself. There's more that Singapore has to offer, beyond the walls of the Marina Bay Sands resort. The Singapore Art Week website outlines the myriad events in the city at large, from museum exhibitions to outdoor interactive art. Coinciding with Singapore Art Week, two sponsored art awards for Southeast Asian contemporary art promise to introduce new talent to the international art world, including the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation-sponsored Signature Art Prize exhibition at the Singapore Museum of Art, and the Prudential Eye Awards for Contemporary Asian Art, held at the ArtScience Museum near the fair. Displays of public art abound, from the Utopia Interactive Arts Festival along the Boat Quay Promenade on the downtown waterfront, to DRIVE, a public art festival on the grounds of the Gillman Barracks. The Gillman Barracks complex, Singapore's contemporary arts enclave, also hosts the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, which is currently showing a must-see exhibition by acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Yang Fudong. And Friday evening the Gillman Barracks is the site of Art After Dark, an outdoor party starting from 7pm and going till late, featuring live music performances, food and drink pop-ups--all free to the public.
See you in Singapore!
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