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Jan 16 2019

Art Stage Singapore Cancels 2019 Edition

by Reena Devi

Interior view of Art Stage Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy of Art Stage Singapore.

On January 16, less than ten days before the opening of its 2019 edition, Art Stage Singapore announced that the art fair will not take place as scheduled.

Founder and president of Art Stage Singapore Lorenzo Rudolf sent out an email to all exhibitors informing them that the fair, which was slated to run at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre from January 24–27, 2019, has been cancelled. In his email, he stated: “I’m sorry to have to inform you that as president of Art Stage Singapore, I am forced to immediately stop the preparations for Art Stage Singapore 2019 (Jan 24 to 27) and to cancel the fair.” Rudolf added, “The given circumstances, about which we shortly will inform you, unfortunately leave no other choice.”

Speculation that the fair would be cancelled had been brewing since December of 2018. Some gallerists and certain collectors participating in the Collector’s Stage showcase were informed before others in the days before the official announcement.  

Prior to its cancellation, the fair’s 2019 edition was to feature approximately 45 participating galleries, as indicated on the official website. Despite this low number, the upcoming edition had garnered some positive buzz in Singapore, due to an attempt to rebrand itself and return to its local focus. The number of participating galleries has rapidly declined over its last few editions with 84 galleries in 2018, 130 galleries in 2017 and 170 galleries in 2016.

Art Stage Singapore was launched in 2011 as the marquee event of Singapore Art Week, with the support of Singapore Tourism Board, the National Arts Council and the Singapore Economic Development Board. In its first few editions, the fair showed promise, drawing regional and international collectors while showcasing Singapore artists in an exclusive Singapore platform.

Organizers had announced new platforms for the upcoming 2019 edition such as Singapore Stage, showing local artist installations; Collector’s Stage, displaying key pieces from 28 local private collectors; and Project Stage, including independent art spaces run by Singaporean artists such as Coda Culture by Seelan Palay and Your Mother Gallery by Jeremy Hiah.

Nonetheless, there have been persistent rumblings from external stakeholders such as collectors, gallerists and art handlers about whether Art Stage Singapore was still going to take place. As of early January, concerns were raised about artworks still not having been collected from overseas lenders, even though the fair was weeks away.

Even so, most of the collectors, artists and gallerists involved in the fair whom AAP reached out to over the past week were either confused and frustrated, or convinced the fair was proceeding on track until the announcement today.   

Daryl Goh, founder of NPE Art Residency which has a booth at the fair, said it was is a disappointment that Art Stage had to pull out of Singapore Art Week. “The biggest impact is the cost and expenditure that galleries have already put in, in addition to the time spent in planning and curation,” he said. He added, “But the industry is organic and there won’t be a lack of art opportunities for artists and public.”

Most of the exhibitors AAP reached out to preferred not to speak on the record, describing the situation as unchartered territory because most fairs announce cancellations at least six months beforehand, not less than two weeks prior.

The future of the other venture operated by Art Stage organization is now uncertain. In May 2018, the Jakarta edition of Art Stage was postponed until to August 2019. There is no word at this time about whether Art Stage Jakarta will take place later in the year.

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