For Art's Sake
Art Stage S’pore 2013: The Singapore fair scene
The S$3 coffee at Art Stage Singapore is quite good. It is also, I have to say, possibly the only thing I can afford at the four-day art fair.
Go for the flat white. It’s full-bodied and creamy, and a nice way to perk you up if most of the art works on display don’t.
What’s in store for you at the fair? Some little surprises here and there — there are quite a number of performances and, well, photos of artworks are starting to trickle in on Facebook so you decide. For me, initially at least, it was mostly more of the same. Good quality same, for sure. But also blah same.
And what of the much hyped (and in some circles, much criticised) Indonesian Pavilion? It’s right at the back. Biggish but not particularly pavilionish.
That said, Singapore seems buzzing more than last year, with lots more happening not just at Art Stage but around it. And even if I’m feeling slightly ambivalent about the works, the programmes lined up all the way to Sunday (at the fair grounds and beyond) is way better. In particular, keep an eye out on the Centre For Contemporary Art talks at the fair.
Keep an eye out, too, for the Singapore works. They’re everywhere, courtesy of the strong presence of local galleries. Among others, Art Seasons has a whole bunch, including some surprising new personal discoveries, Fost Gallery’s cobbled together a nice little show of Ang Sookoon’s previous works, a Chen Wen Hsi show is up at one end courtesy of Museum Of Art & Design, and 2902 Gallery’s showcase of John Clang’s photographs is a simple but really lovely one (the floating people photos I can see fitting perfectly for the visual art component of Esplanade’s Da:ns Festival).
Meanwhile, over at Singapore Tyler Print Institute (which also shows Genevieve Chua), ask about Heman Chong’s work. It’s an interesting one similar to what he did for the previous Art Hong Kong
And it’s cheap too. Basically, he’s selling contracts. The “price” for it is 365 hours of your own “me-time”. That’s one hour a day for a year of you not SMSing, not Skyping, not talking to anyone. You are essentially paying with time. Think it’s gimmicky? Chong said that over at Art HK, a collector came and refused to “buy” it. Why? Because keeping his mouth shut would literally translate to financial loss for his business. According to Chong, said collector said it was the most expensive work he saw at Art HK.
Right at the back near the café with the nice S$3 coffee are little booths showing works from students of School Of The Arts, Nanyang Academy Of Fine Arts and Lasalle College Of The Arts. Diagonally opposite it — and by that I mean waaay over at the other end of the fair — is The Substation’s own booth featuring The Singapore Psychogeographical Society/Debbie Ding’s Ethnographic Fragments From Central Singapore. It’s her little rocks show previously exhibited at the arts centre, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it and I found it quite interesting. Rocks/pavement pieces taken from construction and excavation sites, bartered with audiences from the previous show. Alongside the Paris “extension” of the project—including three heavy-looking pieces of a Paris street.
I’ve got a quibble though — why are these small booths so dispersed? Galleries can take care of themselves—it’s every gallery for itself, after all. But wouldn’t it have been better to have the school booths and The Substation a bit closer to each other? More impact presence mah.
Better yet, have it closer to the Singapore Platform.
IT’S A TWO-IN-ONE
That said, the National Arts Council-organised two-in-one show booth does occupy a prime spot. If, by prime, you mean right opposite the Indonesian Pavilion.
Like the schools and the Sub, keep an eye out for it, too. It’s two nicely-contrasting showcases comprising mostly of previous works but packaged to make sense as exhibitions.
There’s the sombre, experiential New Black City — which is basically artist and show curator Jason Wee’s previous Chan Hampe Galleries exhibition Master Plan on a slightly bigger scale. He’s roped in Jeremy Sharma and Khiew Huey Chian in this monochromatic space you walk through. The former’s slick, shiny black paintings blend in (or not, depending on the outside light’s reflection) with its conical surroundings and his small 3D lasercut(?) sinewaves (?) objects as soft, small, counterparts to the jaggedness of the room. Rectangles, meanwhile, are what Khiew brings to the table by way of objects constructed from erasers.
Its “brighter” counterpart is the cheeky commentary on the art market, I Am An Artist. Now What?, curated by Charmaine Toh. Ang Song-Ming’s Justin Bieber “altar” of sorts (forged signatures, Bieber shoes with gum stuck on its sole) and paintings that’s a homage of sorts to the colour palette of Belle And Sebastian’s album covers — which, he pointed out, was a homage to The Smiths’ own album covers colour scheme — which, he again pointed out, was the inspiration for British artist Jonathan Monk’s own painting homage. So basically Ang is doing a Monk. Nice.
There’s also Rizman Putra’s The Reinvention Of Sports For Jaded Individuals, which echoes a section of his Cake show Decimal Points 5.1 — basically a tongue-in-cheek exaggerations where he takes on the roles of different athletes. We caught him punching himself on a teeny weeny boxing ring. Not sure if there will be performances for the rest of the fair, but you can get a sense of it via the video.
Samuel Chen’s works in After… are easy to overlook — small reproductions of self-portraits of 19th century painters. But I found the whole thing charming. Through sly/OTT humour, the other two question the market buzz going on around them (via celebrity and sports). Chen’s meanwhile is an unassuming reminder of the presence of the artist that, at the same time, delivers a poignant statement about the relevance of knowing your history. After all, it’s quite easy to forget about it while you wander around a big bucks art fair.
So, yes, it’s time to head down to Art Stage. And have a cuppa or two. Like I said, the coffee’s good.
(Art Stage Singapore runs until Jan 27. For more details, visit www.artstagesingapore.com)