Fewer galleries at Art Stage Singapore 2018
In all honesty, I cannot say I am surprised here. I think Art Stage started this ball rolling the moment Art Stage Jakarta was set up.
It is common knowledge that Indonesian art buying contributes up to 80% of combined auction revenue of art from Southeast Asia. This has been so since the 90's when Christie's and Sotheby's set up shop in Singapore. When Art Stage Jakarta started in 2016, I'm sure as experienced fair organisers, it would have been clear to them that the move would cannibalise the Singapore market. It would have been unrealistic to expect Art Stage Jakarta to be simultaneously developed without consequence to Art Stage Singapore when Indonesian market dominates three quarter of the Southeast Asian market. People simply have less reasons to visit.
In my reckoning the shrinkage is a question of relevance of Art Stage Singapore against the backdrop of an ever-expanding deluge of art fairs, theirs inclusive. Today, there are 2 successful art fairs in Indonesia, 2 in Manilla, 1 in India and another 2 in Singapore. When Art Stage was set up in 2011, there were either non-existent or were pitched at very local levels.
It may be interesting to recall a post on a Straits Times article published on March 24, 2016, titled "Art Stage Jakarta - boon or bane?" Looking back, alarm bells started ringing back way then. It is as relevant a discussion today as it was then.
For those who wish to understand the original intentions of Art Stage Singapore, this is an excerpt of my interview with Lorenzo Rudolf in 2011.
"What is interesting for Singapore in my eyes is not building up its own art scene and becoming competitive with China. What is interesting there is to build a centre of exchange and dialogue, where the fragmented art scenes of Asia can coalesce...."
6 years on, maybe we should ask if that intended coalescing did happen and if it was sustained, and if not, why ? Perhaps, a simpler question needs to be answered :"Why buy art in Singapore ?"
[Additional note : I'm also not sure if a weak market can explain everything, because If sentiments are really that poor, how do we explain the decision of a few gallerists to hold exhibitions outside the fair ground during the Singapore Art Week at the Arts House? This would not be the first time galleries are doing that. The question is, why? And why is nobody talking about THIS elephant in the room?]