Art Stage Singapore 2014 saw a bigger push on art from the region through curated country platforms.
IT was mission accomplished for the recently concluded Art Stage Singapore 2014. The art fair is expected to continue focusing on contemporary South-East Asian art in an over-arching Asian outreach to define its direction and identity.
With the stirring “We Are Asia” tag-line, the fourth edition of Art Stage Singapore (held at the Marina Bay Sands from Jan 16-19) centred on newly introduced country/regional platforms which brought new awareness and appreciation towards particular Asian art communities while serving to redress gaps in (regional) representation in art-investment commerce.
The Swiss-born Art Stage director-founder Lorenzo Rudolf said the game plan was to build on its strong Asian focus, while developing the fledgling South-East Asian market.
The platforms comprised eight individually guest-curated satellite showcases, namely Australia, Central Asia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South-East Asia (Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand).
This model neatly sidestepped the sticky situation last year when 30 artists were wooed for the dedicated Indonesian Pavilion, riling the country’s powerful gallery-system lobby.
Not surprisingly, Indonesian veterans spearheaded by FX Harsono (ARNDT) and Made Wianta, both 65, exerted considerable presence again at Art Stage Singapore.
Of course, the hotshot Indonesian line-up (all in their 50s) – Heri Dono (Mizuma Gallery), Agus Suwage (Nadi Gallery), the Swiss-based Eddie Hara (Nadi Gallery, Semarang Gallery) and Yunizar (Ben Brown Fine Arts and Gajah Gallery) – featured strongly too.
Two-time Venice Biennale (2005, 2013) representative Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, Nyoman Masriadi, Joko Avianto (remember his Theatre Of Ships bamboo installation at last year’s George Town Festival?), Jumaldi Alfi, Eddy Susanto, Maryanto, Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo (noted for his use of Merapi volcanic ash, since 2008) and the indie guerilla husband-and-wife team of Santi and Miko also sparked healthy marketplace conversation for the Indonesian contingent .
At Art Stage Singapore 2014, Wiharso’s Borderless (measuring 300cm x 1,000cm) was arguably one of the largest (works) displayed.
Chillingly imposing was Harsono’s installation The Raining Bed, which shed light on the hidden past of Chinese Indonesians. For this work, a serrated curtain of continuous rain kept falling on a Peranakan bed of ceramic alphabet decals. One of Harsono’s poems was also used for this installation.
The South-East Asian platform showcase also highlighted Malaysians J. Anu (Ma-Na-Va-Reh: Love, Loss And Pre-Nuptials In The Age Of The Big Debate, Wei-Ling Gallery), Haslin Ismail (Book Land, G13 Gallery) and Justin Lim (There Is No Other Paradise, Richard Koh Fine Art).
Conceived as a tribute to Anu’s “wedding-planner” grandmother, Ma-Na-Va-Reh playfully re-enacted the ceremonial Hindu rituals in a shrine-like ambience of a wedding dais and painted panels with tacky bric a brac while telescoping into the present in the larger racial matrix with kolam featuring political leaders’ portraits as “a kind of solemnisation of our shared histories.”
Haslin’s origami of architectonic book sculpture installations was a masterful babel of reconstructed socio-linguistic histories. Here was a young Malaysian artist with a work that was at once whimsical, clever, ironic and pointed.
Justin Lim explored the slippery engagements of the racial divide and issues of race and religion in his fibre-glass bathtub sprinkled with white resin flowers in a ritual cleansing mandi bunga.
Shoosie (Susylawati) Sulaiman’s work, Negara 2012-2013, was taken from her major solo show, Sulaiman Itu Melayu, at the Tamio Koyama Gallery, Gillman Barracks in Singapore last month. It took pride of place at the gallery’s Art Stage booth with its take on notions of identity, especially on the Malay-Chinese dilemma – Shoosie’s mother is Chinese. In it, glum faces of bald people save one, were set against a backdrop of haphazard fragments of the Malaysian flag, probably referencing the fractious general elections last May. Shoosie, like Haslin (2010) was a winner of the Major Award of the Malaysian Young Contemporary Artists competition in 1997.
Penang-raised artist Ch’ng Huck Theng also showed his latest sculptural creations, while two Australians with Malaysian roots – Malaysian-born Kevin Chin (Dianne Tanzer Gallery) and Singapore-born/Malaysian-raised Simryn Gill (Michael Janssen Gallery), the sole Australian star at the 2013 Venice Biennale, were also featured.
The other South-East Asian platform eyebrow-raisers included Thai artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert’s golden skull and Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew’s veiled layered time-space featuring gossamer images of his “seated” ageing father; Myanmar artist Soe Naing’s diaristic on-site reverse paintings; Laotian artist Phasao Lao’s shamanistic patchworks; and Filipino artist Bea Camacho performance art of knitting herself “back” into a womb-like spool.
Where Singaporean art was concerned, the banal dramas of alienation of Sarah Choo Jing and Jolene Lai were independent entities within an enclosed space, with Choo’s entire stock at the fair sold out.
Elsewhere, Jane Lee’s paint smorgasbord 50 Faces dubbed the “Melting-Cheese” painting sold for an estimated conversion rate of RM219,823.
Malaysian-born Singapore-based Kumari Nahappan also did well with her chilli concoctions (the highest price paid for her work was RM34,305).
A Gerhard Richter went for RM2.61mil although the highest-priced Richter in the Michael Schulz Gallery was one with a RM38.2mil tag. The gallery didn’t even bother to label his works, blithely taking it for granted.
Other noteworthy sales included Zao Wou-ki (Lin &Lin, RM4mil); Donald Sultan (Sundaram Tagore, RM1.33mil); Jean-Michel Othoniel (Galeri Perrotin, RM675,228); Anthony Gormley and Qiu Zhijie (Galleria Continua, RM737,222 and RM208,026 respectively), and four pieces of Yoshitomo Nara for a total of RM114,414.
News resource site Art Market Monitor reported robust sales at Art Stage Singapore 2014 on the first day itself from, among others, Yunizar (RM384,628), China’s new superstar Zhu Yi-yong (RM756,057), photographer S. Salgado (RM129,010), Egyptian Ives Hayat (RM721,828), Filipino Rodel Tapaya (RM73,272), Frenchman Philippe Pasqua (RM311,860), and a video by Yang Yong-liang (RM333,064). A Malaysian reportedly snapped up one of the works of Indonesian artist Yarno for RM62,372.
Four rare works of Nam June Paik, the Grandfather of Electronic Art, done between 1990 and 1995, were also sold by the new Space Cottonseed.
In the game of name-dropping, you also had Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Botero, Picasso, Chagall, Yue Min-jun, Zhang Xiao-gang, Wu Guan-zhong, Yayoi Kusama, Gilbert & George, Bernar Venet, Ai Wei Wei, Marina Abramovich, Chu Teh-chun, Zhang Da-qian, M.F. Husain, S.H. Raza, Wim Delvoye, Takashi Murakami and his former protégé Mr, a self-confessed otaku.
In particular, there were visceral “oddities” like a wire ying-yang spliced bicycle (Shi Jin-dian), delicate painted paper-plastic bumblebees (Mylyn Nguyen), wings of shuttlecocks (Zhou Wen-dou), painted stacked soft-drinks crates (Pakpoom Silaphan), a random spool of coloured threads (Lee Myungil) and safety-pin art (Jim Lambie).
Art Stage Singapore 2014, with 158 exhibitors, attracted some 45,700 visitors to its Marina Bay Sands venue in a giddying roustabout of 70 events celebrating Singapore Art Week, including the spillover parade from the Singapore Biennale 2013.