Big deal for some galleries, consolation for others at Art SG

SINGAPORE – Business was good at the Cuturi Gallery booth at Art SG. Although his booth was only 25 square meters in size, the local gallery was selling large paintings by all five Singaporean artists they were presenting at the art fair at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre.

Artwork by artists including Khairulddin Wahab and Aisha Rosli ranged between $3,000 and $15,000. Customers also bought works that were not exhibited in Art SG. Gallerist Kevin Troyano Cuturi, 33, says: “We loved the experience and will definitely explore a bigger presentation next year.” The art fair ended on Sunday.

At the Richard Koh Fine Art booth, Singaporean artist Melissa Tan was selling laser-cut stainless steel artwork for $45,000, surpassing the $30,000 price point gallerist Richard Koh usually sees for art collectors here. While the art went to a Singaporean collector, Mr Koh, 58, says: “We need more regional collectors.”

David Zwirner International Gallery said last Friday that it had sold US$2.5 million (S$3.3 million) worth of art last Wednesday to collectors in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China and across Southeast Asia.

At its close on Sunday night, Art SG organizers said they welcomed nearly 43,000 visitors, surpassing the previously announced target of 40,000 visitors.

Speaking at the show last Saturday, Mr James Green, senior director and manager of David Zwirner in London, said: “Selling to someone new is a sign of success.”

The gallery opened its Hong Kong location in 2018, so it has a head start in Asia. For Art SG he brought artists Katherine Bernhardt and Oscar Murillo. “We didn’t go in blindly. We already had requests,” adds the 39-year-old.

Of course, not all galleries sold works. Local gallery artcommune, which presented a solo show by second-generation Singaporean artist Wong Keen, did not record a sale until Saturday night.

Regardless, gallerist Ho Sou Ping (50) says it was important to be at Art SG. “You have to go to fairs to meet new collectors. It is a necessary investment.”

For Australian artist Gary Carsley, Art SG was also a good opportunity to meet his audience and he was encouraged by the “active research” he and Australian Singaporean artist Renjia Teoh made of an immersive installation called Flutterbye Mansion, a solo presentation at local gallery Art Porters. About the visitors to the stand, the 65-year-old says: “There was an awareness that the processes of making the work are intrinsically linked to the meaning of the work.” Three of their works were sold.

Noting that art fairs take time to establish themselves, Art SG co-founder Magnus Renfrew, 46, says that when he started Art Hong Kong in 2008, “the fair didn’t have the scale and ambition back then”.

“We had to encourage collectors from all over the region to come. The same approach is badly needed for Singapore.”

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