Since its inception in 2011, Art Stage Singapore has incorporated a matchmaking platform with arts as its unifying element for the local community. The Art Stage Salon hosts a series of receptions with guest speakers and specific themes on a regular basis.
Dating back to the 1870s in France, and made famous by prominent historical figures such as the American writer Gertrude Stein, Salons are events that have traditionally served as important platforms designed for notable members of society to come together to exchange ideas.
In the month of August, a panel discussion with the topic Singapore Art: Going Where? was organised in partnership with Yavuz Fine Art. It sought to address the importance of exploring the standing of Singaporean art and its potential in the Southeast Asian as well as global context. The panelists included gallery owner Can Yavuz, artist Michael Lee, Singaporean collector Dr John Chia, and was moderated by Lorenzo Rudolf, founder and director of Art Stage Singapore.
Comparing Singapore to the other Southeast Asian counter parts, we were considered a very constricted nation; even from the view point of outsiders. Although the environment was semi-free back in the 1980s, there was a lack of opportunities for Singaporean artists to develop and showcase their art. For this main reason, Can Yavuz was prompted to set up his own art gallery in Singapore to provide the necessary and essential support for the many talented and budding local artists. Some would reason that Singapore is still a young country, but sometimes it feels like it is just a poor excuse used to cover up the focus placed on other national priorities like economic success and better education. Michael Lee mentioned about artists including himself turning to foreign lands to pursue their art practice for more opportunities and inspiration, for example taking up art residencies. He added that the overseas exposure aided in instilling a sense of belonging in him that not only nurtured his artistic ability and integrity; it taught him to view Singapore from the “outside”.
However, when we question where Singapore art is going, we should not underestimate the potential that we possess. In the last four to five years, marked growth and support has been observed in the visual arts circle. Certain indicators include the presence of several recurring art fairs (Art Stage Singapore, Affordable Art Fair, Art Apart Fair, Singapore Art Fair, etc.) and art festivals (Singapore Biennale, Singapore International Festival of Arts, Singapore Night Festival, Singapore International Photography Festival, etc.), an increase in the number of visual art gallery clusters (Gillman Barracks, Galleries at Raffles Hotel Arcade, Helutrans Art Space, etc.), more Singaporean artists doing residencies overseas and additionally solo and collaborative exhibitions worldwide. Dr Chia also highlighted that collectors such as himself have slowly become more receptive to local contemporary works that were once viewed as too complex and challenging to appreciate. Overall, the outlook is positive and Singapore has managed to establish herself as an arts and cultural hub. But moving forward, influential people such as political and cultural leaders need to be relied upon to make important changes, so as to diversify and mould the arts industry towards maturity.
“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” Lorenzo Rudolf aptly concluded the discussion with this famous quote by John F. Kennedy. So as we continue to ponder on the question of where Singapore art is going in the Asian and global context, let us also reconsider the position of artists as cultural intermediaries, and creators, who play a vital role in influencing the standing of Singapore Art.
Written by Tessa Ann Wong