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Alice Mong, Executive Director, Asia Society Center Hong Kong, March 26, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

March 26, 2015

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Veronica Chow, Managing Editor of Bazaar Art Hong Kong...
Our contributor series explores the ideas of gallerists, artists, directors, curators for an insight into the development of the international art scene......

March 18, 2015

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Magnus Renfrew, Deputy Chairman, Asia and Director of Fine arts, Asia at Bonhams, March 11, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

March 11, 2015

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Interview with Do Ho Suh...
The Artling had the opportunity to speak to internationally-acclaimed artist Do Ho Suh while he was in Singapore working on his residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI). We found out more about his new body of work and his plans for the upcoming year.   You’ve just completed a second artist residency at STPI, can you tell us more about your approach to your works this time around? This is my second residency at STPI, I already had an exhibition in 2011. The idea of using thread for the drawing came when I did the first residency, literally the first visit. I had three weeks here, and for two weeks we were just exploring different things, and I actually didn’t know where my work was going to go. They [the STPI staff] suggested many different things. And the idea of using thread came up because I’ve used fabric in a lot of my other works. That’s how it started, and it worked really well. We have ended up actually doing a lot of thread drawings since then. The scale & the complexity of the image has increased this time though. The images got more complex, as well as the color, and it has evolved quite a bit in my mind. And the way they also saw the drawing has been changed, or advanced in a way. All of a sudden, I have tons of ideas for making thread drawings. It’s been quite successful in many ways for STPI and me, with the thread drawings. I’ve come several times for this residency. Sometimes I can stay longer, like three weeks, or sometimes it’s 3 days or 5 days. I try to accomplish as much as possible during my residency. We’ve been working day and night. Imagery-wise, I had an archive of images from my drawing that have been sitting in my sketchbook.  From how far back? From way, way back. It was kind of doodling, and never realized as a work of art. They turned into the thread drawings. The thread and the way the thread reacts to the water and the wet paper, creates a very peculiar quality of line and appearance. The drawings that I made in the sketchbooks over the years, they are very simple line drawings, and I realized they would work well with this particular technique.  But those thread drawings are often technical drawings for my larger scale installation work. Most of them are sort of accents on my thoughts or interest in very profound philosophical questions that I had at the moment.  Do Ho Suh, Myselves, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh What kind of philosophical questions?  Like for this piece – I was thinking about how we are all interconnected and also the idea of reincarnation and karma. I was thinking about people I would meet or I have met throughout my life. If you believe in reincarnation then the people that you know and that you meet in your present life, you knew them before. For different reasons, and they all reincarnate. Not always 100% but a lot of them are reincarnated in the same area. Hindus believe that you get to know roughly 3,000 people in your lifetime. I’m very intrigued by the fact that they came up with this number – how did they do that? If you read the Hindu literature or philosophy, they often come up with very specific numbers. But then, the strange thing was… I started to collect the signatures from family, relatives, friends, and also – I think it goes back maybe 20 years ago – I had guestbooks for my exhibitions. I asked the audience who visited my exhibition to sign it, so they were somehow connected to me through my work, even though I hadn’t met them.  I started to work with these signatures, and incidentally, there were 3,000 signatures. These are all coincidences, it wasn’t done on purpose. Sometimes these people in your life help you to get somewhere, but at the same time you can have a problem with them. Whether it’s good or bad, you feel connected to these people, and sometimes it’s kind of tangled in human relationships. That’s what life is all about. So I’m trying to visualize and think about the rather difficult questions, and that’s what my sketch is about.  I use the word ‘entangled,’ when you think about it, they are entangled threads. A web of relationships.  Yes, it’s a perfect way to express the idea of ‘inter-connectedness'… Exactly. A lot of accidents happen as you work on the thread, when it goes onto the paper as well. That works perfectly with this idea. I’ve been using a lot of linear elements in the drawings, lots of lines. For these drawings, the lines are either progressing and suggests a direction that goes up or is coming down. It’s a figure but it’s kind of botanical like a tree so it grows. That suggests a sort of progression of life. It also suggests the life before me, which is the heritage, the history, the culture and the knowledge that has been passed on to me from generation to generation which you cannot visualize. You can’t see it, and you always think you’re an independent person or being. But I try to show things that aren’t really visible. This is the human relationship I try to visualize with the lines.  My question has always been how can I make invisibility visible. That is an overarching interest of mine, I’m a visual artist so I have to make something visually.  Various other themes come in, that generates these images. At the STPI residency, I have made a few architectural pieces, but most of them are figurative.  A lot of your works created during your residency do seem far more figurative than the rest of your works, is there a reason for this change?  Yes. As you go and as you develop different techniques and vocabularies, you just try to make it differently. Unlike a painting… Well that’s what I like about drawing – if you paint on the canvas, you can always scrape off and go over it – but with drawing it’s only the one layer. And thread drawing is almost like that. You put a lot of effort into it, but once it’s on the paper, you can’t change it.  The sewing stage is quite different from when it’s transferred to the paper. When the thread is transferred to the paper, the thread comes together. It’s hard to prevent, and I know what’s going to happen to some degree.  Do you anticipate it and adjust your schematic drawings? Or do you want it to be by chance? Yes, I try to control the thickness of the line. But this sort of loop, you can’t control on the sewing machine. Once it’s transferred to paper, it also looks different as it’s darker when it’s soaked in the water. When it’s completely dry, it gets lighter. So you have several layers that you have to predict how the work changes.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it brings happy accidents. A lot of times it looks different from what you anticipated. So with the same image I try to do what I originally wanted to do, but sometimes the happy accidents can lead to some other directions.  We’ve been very productive. I’m very excited about the next exhibition, it’s going to be quite different. A lot of the new body of work, and the scale is much bigger and the images are going to be much more complex.  Detail view of Suh’s work in progress. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh What makes you work with fabric and thread in so many of your works? It came from the necessity, I have to say that I didn’t have any particular reason that I liked using fabric. It was more of a conceptual decision to use the fabric in order to create something three-dimensionally.  It was a conceptual decision to make transportable, translucent architectural space. That has a reference to clothing. Fabric works really well for so many reasons.  Thread I haven’t given that much thought, because I just automatically use it. Like I said, STPI people saw it and they are coming from a different angle, so they sort of separated fabric and the thread and suggested that I work on that. Sometimes you work on such a material for such a long time, you don’t really think about it and then realize that you use the material all the time.  Can we talk about your new paper works? This is the new body of works created at STPI. I have been wrapping space with fabric, and for several years I have also been doing wrapping of space with paper and actually rubbing it.  Those fabric and rubbing pieces are my personal spaces that I’ve lived in, either Korea, New York or London. But I’ve been to Singapore, and in particular STPI, many times already and stayed in the same apartment upstairs, so it’s familiar. Slowly I’ve started to see the space differently and it really became part of my life and part of my existence.  You spend so much time here and make works that are part of you. So I think my last visit I decided to do something like this in the STPI space, so these are the objects that are coming out of the wall in the studio and the objects that you may touch every day in order to get in and out of the space.  I’ve been doing this with my New York apartment and my Korean house, and it’s called the “Specimen Series”. It’s not the entire space, it’s just small elements. As the title explains, it’s a kind of scientific approach – like a pseudo-science as if I go out in the field and collect insects. And then you name it, and you collect insects and make a specimen. There’s a formula on the label, when and where it was collected and by whom.  This space is a shared space, it’s not just my own studio. There are so many artists that come and go, and everyday many times a day they touch these things – to flip a switch, to turn the lights on. There are probably many layers of history on the surface of these objects. I want to bring these invisible connections or memories that these daily objects possess.  How do you usually do the ‘rubbing’ of the objects? Is it while the paper is still molded onto the shape? Yes, these are just test samples. I’ve been using pencils and crayons for my other rubbings, but we’re trying to use the spices from local markets. You can almost smell it. The light switch is a light switch, it could be the same anywhere. It’s a gesture to bring a local element to the work. At the end of the residency, hopefully I can have this sort of collection of objects. And for me, it is a sort of gateway to visualize the space without being here. It’s almost the same as my desire to carry my spaces with me.  Do Ho Suh, Flowers, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh You’ve moved around a lot… Do you feel rooted to any particular place, after being in New York for so long but also growing up in Seoul? Yes, it’s interesting because it’s been 5 years since I moved to London from New York. I’d been living in New York for nearly 20 years. The move was not based on my career, it was for personal reasons. It was quite difficult, I’m still not completely comfortable. But having family and children makes everything so different. I feel like London is my home, but whenever I go back to New York, the minute I arrive in my neighborhood in New York City it’s so instant. You remember it? No, it’s not so much remembering… I don’t know how you feel about it, but when you go somewhere you have to pack and mentally prepare yourself to go to different places. I’ve been travelling to so many places throughout my life. Still, you have to shift your gear when you go somewhere else. For example, if I go to Paris, I have a little anxiety. Most of the time it’s a good thing, but you have to be mentally prepared for it. But New York, it doesn’t happen. Even Seoul, because it changes so fast, it feels quite foreign and it takes a few days to adjust. But in New York…. That’s the beauty of New York – no matter how much it changes the sense of it is the same, isn’t it? Yes! I don’t know what it is. The people are the same, they’re so neurotic. And you start to see the differences. There is a certain thing that New York offers you, they are a very welcoming city to strangers and guests.  Because of having my family in London, I feel London is sort of the traditional notion of home in my mind. Getting married and having a child, it coincided with my move to London. It’s a lot of change, but still I hardly go out beyond where we live. My studio is in the same building as my apartment. I was actually thinking about that the other night.  I was completely new to London, and my daughter was born. And by pushing her pram, we both started to explore and learn the neighborhood at the same time. So that might be an interesting idea for my next project as well. It has taken me much longer for me than I expected to get familiar with the surroundings.  I have experienced London in a different way than I did in New York. New York was right after grad school, where my career started and I was in my 30s. It was a different time and place. But London is for family, so I see the space in a different way. Also through the eyes of my children.  Have you created anything of your London home yet? Well I finally found a corner or part of my studio and apartment that I find interesting enough to turn into fabric architecture. It’s not the entire space, more a fragment of it. It’s kind of like an entrance area, it’s not like a lobby – I mean, it’s a small apartment – so it’s like an entrance area. I decided to call it ‘Hub’ – so you go in and you can go to the living room, the bathroom, the utility room or upstairs. It’s a small space, you feel isolated, but every wall is actually a door.  I’ve been interested in these spaces, like doors, staircases and things like that. It’s less obvious than the other elements that I have worked with before, but after living in the space for five years I start to see that. They’re slightly different configurations, even though the studio and the flat are in the same building. The entrance of the space, so that’s going to turn into the fabric of the piece.  For smaller projects, it started as a play or some kind of device that I used to play with my daughters: that might be something interesting to turn into a work of art. My life is slowly guiding to a new body of work.  Do you have any projects coming up? I constantly have exhibitions and projects, and I have a couple of museum exhibitions this year. I have a solo show in Cleveland coming up, and I have quite a large group show in Lyon, France. And then early next year I have another museum exhibition in Cincinnati. I may come back here [to STPI] in late June or July. I’m leaving tomorrow after two weeks here. I just saw some of the works that we’ve made during this residency in frames. They look really different in frames than before. I am very excited for the rest of the works.    ...

March 06, 2015

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Interview with Shuyin Yang...
The Artling interviewed Shuyin Yang, Associate Specialist in Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Southeast Asia Region, at Christie’s, ahead of the auction house’s upcoming ASIA+/First Open Auction during Hong Kong Art Week. Yang shares with us her thoughts on Asian Contemporary art and the direction she sees it going in the next few years.  Over the past 5 years, where have you seen the most sales growth within the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary art department?  Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art department has seen significant overall growth since 2010, but perhaps the most remarkable vibrancy can be noted within the Southeast Asian art region, particularly for modern art from Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, as well as the rise of contemporary Southeast Asian artists such as Ronald Ventura and I Nyoman Masriadi. Southeast Asia is still a growing market, compared to the relatively more mature Chinese art scene, therefore prices for top quality artworks have seen a favorable response due to regional collecting demand, leading to a rise in market interest and confidence. This cyclical effect combined with increasing awareness for emerging art markets has created global attention for the Southeast Asia sector. Within our most recent Hong Kong auctions in November 2014, we posted strong artist records for SEA 20th Century artists such as Le Pho, Jose Joya, Thawan Duchanee and Singapore pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng, whose rare 1951 portrait of a Chinese opera singer, ‘Making Up’ sold for HK$5,920,000 (US$ $766,964). Do you see artworks/artists from any particular region or country gaining popularity in the next few years within the genre of Asian Contemporary Art?  Instead of discussing specific regions or countries independently it would be more relevant to note that collecting taste and demand within Pan-Asian art has become increasingly discerning, and the works which are presently most sought after may not necessarily be ‘blockbuster’ works but rather compositions which display a crucial combination of quality; rarity; historical, social or academic relevance; and also demonstrate specific high points within the artist’s career. ‘Making Up’ by Cheong Soo Pieng is an example of an artwork which meets all these criteria, despite being an early small format canvas and atypical of his more broadly known Balinese series. Traditional ‘blue chip names’ such as Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun, Sanyu, Zeng Fanzhi and Yoshitomo Nara will continue to command prices at the top end of the market. We have also observed increasing interest in abstract art, ranging from the Sino-French masters such as Zao and Chu, to the Gutai group, Korean minimalists, for example Lee U-Fan, and Southeast Asian abstract expressionists such as Fernando Zobel and Jose Joya. Christie’s has seen such interest especially from young Asian collectors and have started the ASIA+/First Open auction in Hong Kong in part to cater to such demand. In addition, we’ve also observed increasing interest in Contemporary Chinese ink, which highlights abstract forms of traditional calligraphy and brush painting. Cheng Soo Pieng, Making Up, 1951, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015  What do you think is the role of an auction house in cultivating an emerging art market such as Southeast Asia? In order to generate enthusiasm and collecting interest within an emerging market, firstly, collectors must feel that they have a span of choices to select from; and secondly, understand how works from a specific region, such as Southeast Asia, fit together in regional art history and chronology, as well as within the larger international context. An auction house is well equipped to deliver these two aspects, as we handle a broad and diverse range of material, produce fully researched catalogues through the combined expertise of our specialists, and also take a global viewpoint when positioning artworks at auction. An auction catalogue is a fantastic resource for a new collector attempting to gain an immediate overview of a regional art scene, and the subsequent prices achieved are also a good barometer of the market climate at that given moment. At Christie’s, we also advocate art education and awareness by organizing open-to-public exhibition tours, lectures and seminars; for example the Christie’s Art Forum series which takes place in several international locations and features respected guest speakers from within the industry. What would you advise collectors who are still hesitant about diversifying into Southeast Asian art at the moment?​ Globally, Southeast Asia may appear to be a new or emergent market. However, if you study the social and cultural history of the region, you will realize that the proliferation of the art scene here is actually not a new phenomenon and has been in the making for several decades. The evolution of modern Southeast Asian art has been a carefully considered and sensitively expressed process by artists influenced by the socio-political fabric of their respective countries, and they have laid down established bodies of works which have reached a point of full artistic maturity. The only ‘new’ aspect within this region is the rise of the commercial market in tandem with the strengthened Southeast Asian economies, and perhaps also the increasing number of art-focused museums and institutions. Given that the foundation is firm and artworks are of high quality, collecting modern Southeast Asian art is relatively low risk taken against a long-term view of what consists stable art holdings. Speaking of contemporary artworks, while this is still an ‘in-progress’ category as the artists are living and variations can happen, collectors are at a distinct advantage due to the amount of available information, whether it is background material on the artists, price research, accessibility of primary galleries, art fairs, and auction houses, so they can be fully equipped to make sound acquisitions that augment their collecting vision. What is the most exciting part of your job?​ Definitely the vast range of artworks I handle: modern and contemporary art across the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam; as well as Pan-Asian and Western masterpieces. Interacting with artworks from warehouse to auction, researching their histories and stories, experiencing the emotional process of the artist during creation, and occasionally stumbling across rare treasures hidden for decades in someone’s attic (again – Cheong Soo Pieng’s ‘Making Up’, which is why I am so fond of this work!) which are then celebrated in a record-breaking auction sale, all make this an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job. Biography Shuying Yang is a specialist in the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art department, with a focus on the Southeast Asian region. She joined Christie’s London in 2009 as an Associate Specialist Trainee, working in Post-War and Contemporary Art, Old Master and British Paintings, Chinese Works of Art and South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art. In late 2010, Shuyin was seconded to Christie’s Asia and currently works on consigning and selling for the biannual Hong Kong auctions. She is especially interested in contemporary and emerging art, photography and new media. Shuyin holds a Masters in Art History and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  Upcoming Events Christie’s ASIA+/First Open auction 15 March 2015 (Sunday), 3pm James Christie Room, 22/F Alexandra House, Central, Hong Kong From works on paper by established artists to sculptures, installations and works in new media, ASIA+/First Open presents in-depth dialogues between different artists, which demonstrates a comprehensive view on how different art movements inspired artists and shows the diverse narratives brought together by Christie’s global specialist teams.    ...

February 26, 2015

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Calvin Hui, Fair Director, Gallerist, Feb. 12, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

February 12, 2015

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William Lim, Art Collector, Architect, Artist, Feb. 4, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

February 04, 2015

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Interview with Trickie Lopa...
The third edition of Art Fair Philippines opens later this week, with 33galleries showing both regional and international works. The Artling caught upwith one of Art Fair Philippines’ founders, Trickie Lopa, to see what we canexpect from this year’s fair.  How has the fairdeveloped since it was founded in 2013 and what are the major changes thatyou’ve noticed throughout the years? We havealways aimed for the fair to grow, but gradually.  We started with 24galleries in 2013, now we have 33.  In 2013 we had 6,000 visitors, 2014 wehad 10,000. This seems to indicate that we’ve created more awareness forcontemporary art among the local audience.  A work by Mike Adrao. Image courtesy of the artist & AFP Why the unique choice of venue for the fair and how do you think that affects the way the artworks are perceived? We wanted an accessible venue, one located in the commercial and business center, Makati City. The Link is a working car park, but it seemed suitable for exhibiting art – provided we worked on a few details.  We seem to have succeeded – the space gives off a raw, urban vibe that seems in sync with Manila’s contemporary art scene.  The Art Fair Philippines’ organizing committee; from left to right, Ms. Lisa Periquet, Ms. Dindin Araneta & Ms. Trickie Lopa How were the Special Exhibitions selected to be shown at the fair and what can we look forward to seeing this year? We want to focus on artists who’ve achieved both critical and commercial recognition, within the Philippines and outside.  This year, we consulted with Dr. Patrick D. Flores, who is also putting together the Philippine pavilion to the Venice Biennale.  Roberto Feleo is debuting work that will eventually go to a museum in Ilocos Norte, in Northern Philippines.  All of our other special exhibitors have made works especially for the art fair.  A work by Roberto Feleo. Image courtesy of the artist & AFP Currently, the majority of collectors of Filipino art are from the Philippines themselves. Do you see there being a growing international interest in Filipino art? I think it’s only natural that you look to your own before looking outward. So yes, majority of collectors for Philippine art will most likely be mostly Filipinos.  But good art will always stand out wherever you bring it, so good Filipino works will definitely attract an audience for outside. Art Fair Philippines will run from the 5th to the 8th of February, 2015, at The Link, Makati City. For more information, go to: https://artfairphilippines.com/. See below for a list of participating galleries.    Exhibitors at Art Fair Philippines 2015 1335 Mabini Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea Archivo 1984 Gallery ARNDT Art Verite Art Cube Artesan Art Gallery + Studio Art Informal Avellana Art Gallery Blanc Gallery CANVAS Crucible Gallery Edouard Malingue Gallery Equator Art Projects Finale Art File Galerie Michael Janssen Galleria Duemila J Studio MO_Space NOVA Nunu Fine Art Pablo Gallery Paseo Art Gallery ROH Projects Salcedo Private View Secret Fresh Silverlens Taksu KL The Boston Gallery The Drawing Room Tin-Aw Vinyl on Vinyl West Gallery Inc    ...

February 02, 2015

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Interview with Lorenzo Rudolf...
Art Stage Singapore’s Founder and Director Lorenzo Rudolf opened the 5th edition of Singapore’s premier art event on 21 January at the Marina Bay Sands. Speaking to the media, Rudolf outlined the 5-year progression of the Fair, revealing the strategy to creating a regionally successful art fair: A cooperation with Singapore’s educational and cultural institutions to cultivate a culturally aware fair going public. He also emphasized a persistent challenge with regards to advocating for Southeast Asian art which is that the region remains to be fragmented to this day. In this edition of The Artling interviews, we caught up with Lorenzo Rudolf to get his insight into the regional art market, its status and challenges and his plans to position Art Stage Singapore into making the region a more established arena for supporting contemporary art. For the fifth edition of Art Stage Singapore, what aspects of Asian Contemporary Art is given focus? Is there a specific trend/movement that the Fair will highlight? In the international art world, there is a momentum for Southeast Asian contemporary art. Museums worldwide, also leading ones in the States and Europe, are beginning to be interested in Southeast Asian contemporary art, to hold exhibitions and to collect them. The same goes for private and corporate collectors. Undeniably, this phenomenon has also got to do with Art Stage Singapore and its engagement with the world for Southeast Asia.  The first art scene in Southeast Asia which received big international attention was Indonesia, now followed by the Philippines; but also artists from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar have got on the radar. Also in Southeast Asia itself there is a constantly growing awareness, with Art Stage as the area’s matchmaking flagship event and Singapore as its hub. We had also realise this positive development at the fair. At Art Stage Singapore 2015, the Southeast Asian presence will no longer be dominated by just Indonesia and Singapore. Today, the Philippines and Malaysia have also been push into the limelight; both countries have a more than doubled presence as compared to the past years. We have also received interests and support from collectors from all over the region like never before. Southeast Asia understands Art Stage Singapore as its International platform. We are fully aware of it and face this task. Works by Renato and Guerrero Habulan, Father and son artists from the Philippines.   Therefore one of the highlights this year at the Fair is definitely the Southeast Asia Platform. This year, we took a greater step ahead and will be presenting a 100% curated exhibition of over 1000sqm, executed with a fully academic approach. However, each work is backed by galleries and all presented artworks are for sale. This is probably the first time an art fair has ever done so. Titled “Eagles Fly, Sheep Flock – Biographical Imprints: Artistic Practices in Southeast Asia”, the exhibition will showcase in a spectacular way over 30 of Southeast Asia’s most interesting and promising emerging artists who are also the stars of tomorrow. The Southeast Asia Platform is curated by Khim Ong, one of the best emerging curators of the region.  Another original component debuting at the Fair is Video Stage. Video Stage will showcase over 50 works from all over Asia Pacific, and the selection includes significant historical works. Video is a difficult medium for galleries to present at art fairs. However in a time where multimedia and technology are ubiquitous, video is a medium that is increasingly used and increasingly important in young art scenes. Hence, we have decided to create Video Stage, which will be a permanent component of the Fair in the following years. The Fair will have other various museum-like exhibitions, of which one will be dedicated to renowned French cubist and surrealist painter Andre Masson, where over 50 works will be showcased and will be the first of this scale to be shown in Asia. There will also be a special video installation by celebrated Russian artist collective AES+F, who will demonstrate, through their works, how amazing and fascinating video art can be. We will also have a special exhibition of large scale paintings by 16 Malaysian artists, which includes prominent names, titled ‘Being Human’. Last but not least, there will be a spectacular entrance installation to the VIP Lounge specially created for the Fair by international superstars and Turner Prize winners Gilbert & George, who will also be physically present at the Fair, guaranteeing funny and interesting encounters not to be missed. British Artists Gilbert & George at Art Stage Singapore 2015   But Art Stage is not only a marketplace for collectors and VIPs, it is at the same time, a temporary museum for everybody interested in art; in nowhere else will you be able to get such a comprehensive overview of Southeast Asia’s artistic creativity than at the Fair. Consequently, there is an interesting juxtaposition of works from Asia alongside selected works from the West. Surrounding Art Stage Singapore, there will also be over 100 side events, all coordinated under the umbrella of the Singapore Art Week. For this year, Art Stage will be the first of many art fairs in Singapore and in the region, what sets this fair apart from the likes of Art Basel HK, Singapore Art Fair, Shanghai Art Fair, Artfair Jogja, etc? For a very long time, the art world was defined by academia, museums, art critics, etc. But today, the art world is mainly driven by the market. An art fair, like successful artists and galleries, have to become a brand. This means that an art fair has to have a clear identity. What we see today here in Asia was what happened in Europe and then the States in the 90s: there are new art fairs emerging all over the region. This is a definite sign that the market is moving. However it is clear that neither collectors nor galleries can participate in every single art fair – they have to be selective on which to attend. From how I see it, in the next couple of years, only 2 fairs in Asia will remain to be of International importance: one is Art Basel Hong Kong and the other Art Stage Singapore. While the fair in Hong Kong is backed by the most established art fair brand in the world, Singapore has a young brand that is well positioned in the region. As a young brand, we not only have to be competitive but also creative. We have to always be a step ahead of the big established competitor, knowing exactly that whatever we create successfully starts to show also there the following year – it is the classic destiny of the young brand. At the same time, it is also what keeps us actively competitive and innovative. This is why we create new formats like the Platforms and curated sales exhibitions, and why we continuously invest in the discovery of new artists and galleries and be involved in helping them to enter the International art market. Art Stage Singapore is where you can discover Asia and more specifically, Southeast Asia. However, every art fair has its own target audience in the same market. On a more local level, it is clear that there are many art fairs which are successful in their own domestic markets. Other than Art Stage Singapore, each country in the region has its own art fairs which is great because each of these art scenes need their own marketplaces. The important thing for all these fairs is that they do not try to copy or even to canibalize each other. A very specific situation is mainland China, especially Shanghai. The situation has totally changed from the time when I had launched together with two partners, Asia’s first big international contemporary art fair in 2007. Shanghai has today a clear masterplan regarding its development in contemporary art, and besides big and spectacular private museums and new galleries, the city hosts around ten contemporary art fairs per year. Two of them, Art 021 beside the Rockbund museum and especially the Westbund Art Fair, organized by former top artist Zhou Tiehai, are really interesting. Rudolf during the 2014 Art Stage    We’ve also seen some art fairs get a more difficult start than others. What do you think is the key in sustaining the momentum of support from artists, galleries and collectors here in the region? Having more art fairs does not simply imply that the art market becomes bigger; some of these new art fairs already realised it. The market can only grow through education. Singapore is still an emerging and very fragile market, far away from being established. Instead of stabilising and developing the market, all these new art fairs create a big confusion; we all saw the counterproductive consequences. Besides that, we have to be clear that, in an International context, Singapore only functions as a destination; also Art Stage Singapore could never survive relying on the Singaporean market alone. The Fair is successful because it brings together collectors, buyers and art lovers from all over Southeast Asia, Asia and even Australia, Europe and America. This is only possible with huge marketing efforts. You have to be willing to invest in the promotion of the event as well as of Singapore. You need the support of the art world, you need the support of the galleries, of the collectors and of the artists. In other words, they have to believe in you and you have to cooperate with them. Here, we are a region that is not as developed as it is in the West but is nonetheless, part of the globalisation of the art world. That means, as an organiser of an art fair, you have to cooperate and support the local scene much more and help them get into the International game. That is how you build up mutual respect and confidence. At the end, it is the market which decides which art fairs will succeed. As mentioned earlier, not all galleries, collectors and artists can participate in every single fair. At the moment, they follow Art Stage Singapore and we will do everything that we can, which will also be the case in future. What differences have you observed between large Art markets – between NY, Basel, Miami, Southeast Asia, China for example? All these markets are very specific. New York is very sophisticated and very educated. It has a unique artists, gallery and museum scene. A very strong pillar of the New York art market is the powerful Jewish community. But New York is also the art destination in the US. However, it is noticeable that New York is no longer as dominant as it was 10 years ago. Globalisation in the art world has created new centers worldwide and the art world is increasingly becoming decentralized. Nevertheless, New York will always be New York. Basel, a small city in Switzerland, incredibly educated, has a very long art and museum tradition. The first public museum worldwide opened here in the 16th century. Up to date, the museum scene has always strongly been supported by the local aristocratic families, especially by the very wealthy owners of the worldwide famous local pharmaceutical industry. There is probably no other city which, in relation to the number of its citizens, has more museums than Basel. Nevertheless, it is a quite quiet place, except during the period of Art Basel, when the city becomes the get together of the global art scene. Since the 1990s, when Art Basel created a new art fair format which revolutionized the art market and made the fair the world event as it is - I had the chance to be Art Basel’s director at this time - the entire art world meets every year in June in Basel. With the launch of Art Basel Miami Beach, America’s top art fair, Miami decided to change its “MiamiVice image” to become a serious cultural city with a lot of new private and public museums - the most spectacular one is the Perez Art Museum, donated by top developer and collector Jorge Perez and built by Herzog & de Meuron -, theatres, performing art centers, concert halls, etc. The fair is without any doubt, the world’s most socialized art event, it is theplace to see and to be seen.  There are more private jets flying in than for Super Bowl. However, other than the period of the art fair, Miami’s art market is limited, never comparable with New York or even Los Angeles. China, on the other hand, is still a very emerging and fragile market. Despite its economically induced fluctuations, it is constantly growing. Its biggest problem is the extremely high taxes on art. That’s the reason why a big part of the market evaded to Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there are a lot of outstanding and breathtaking public and private art initiatives in China. Even when nobody knows if and when the tax situation will change, China will surely become one of the most important art markets worldwide. Principally, Southeast Asia has a big potential. There is a strong economical growth and strong and constantly growing art scenes and art markets all over. There is an increasing interest in Souteast Asian contemporary art worldwide … but often, a big lack of competitive structures and infrastructure. Unfortunately, there are also nationalistic views obstructing an International growth. To have an International weight, Southeast Asia has to function and position itself much more as an open scene; as one market. Singapore is the only place which, as the regions’ financial and multicultural center, could bridge these problems and become Southeast Asia’s active, supportive and internationally important arts hub. This is a big opportunity, but also a big challenge for the lionstate. Art Stage Singapore plays an important integrative role in match-making the Southeast Asian scenes and between markets and is the building bridge for these scenes to the International art world. The entire region hopes that with the upcoming National Gallery, in coordination with Singapore Art Museum, the instituitional aspect of Singapore’s art scene will also strongly play a part. A piece by Chinese Artist Yang Yongliang   Which aspects of this region’s art market still require development before it matures to an established environment for buying museum quality art?  I think there are 3 aspects which are crucial for becoming an Internationally relevant and mature art place: First, education. The higher the tower you want to build, the stronger its basis must be. In other words, a strong art city needs a society with interest and knowledge as its basis. Contemporary art is increasingly an important component of every modern urban society. Imagine that art education starts at school. Second, openness. Contemporary art is a global language that is understood all over the world. It goes beyond national boundaries, has nothing to do with national matters.   Third, Art has to be understood not only as a business but first of all ,as a cultural good. We have to focus much more on content. Let’s be clear: without content there is no market, without content there is no business. There was a recent business times article which discussed the unfortunate effects to galleries of holding too many art fairs in Singapore, that some galleries are opting to close their spaces as much of the public now prefer to going to art fairs as opposed to visiting galleries. What are your views on that? It is true that there is a trend worldwide that galleries are increasingly forced to participate at art fairs, some of them make up to 80% of their annual turnover at fairs. Collectors are no more traveling to visit single galleries, they focus much more on art fairs – and on auctions and biennales – where they have more comprehensive overviews and offerings. This happens all over the world, not just in Singapore or Southeast Asia. It is a fact that the recent inflation of art fairs in Singapore have created an unhealthy confusion in the fragile local market. But I do not think this is the real problem of these galleries mentioned in the article. We have a lot of new competition in the local gallery market; the offer has massively increased and follows more and more International trends. This is a typical consequence of the globalization of the art world. On the other hand, we have to realize that the local demand did not develop in a comparable way. Therefore, what are the reasons in a global city like Singapore? We have to ask why art exhibition openings at local museums mostly have such a small attendance? CCA opened a world class exhibition by Asian icon Yang Fudong and the artist himself was present … However, the museum was half empty. Everywhere else, people probably would have queued to get in. We have to ask why in Singapore, art galleries have very few visitors … While boutiques and malls, they are always packed? We have to ask why a number of local collectors do not buy any artworks in Singapore … yet are very active outside the country? The answers are probably not purely market-related … And finally, what role does the Southeast Asian market play in the cultivation of art on a more global scale? As mentioned before, we have a momentum for Southeast Asian art in the international market. However the window is limited; we know that this will not continue for eternity. The trend will be over and every artist will have to compete and to position themselves alone. Some will more likely succeed Internationally as they would have found their specific and unique way of expression, which is understood all over the world. However, our main problem here in Southeast Asia is not creativity and artistic quality; the biggest problem is that most of the region does not have a competitive infrastructure as compared to other destinations in the world. Nevertheless, with a bit more open, constructive cooperation and exchange among the different art scenes, together with Singapore altruisticly offering its unique infrastructure and support possibilities to the best emerging artists of the region, Southeast Asia would absolutely have the potential to be of important standing in the global art world … with Singapore as its hub and as an art city of worldwide reputation.   ...

January 22, 2015

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Zhao Yao, Artist, Jan. 19, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

January 19, 2015

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