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14 January 2011

From their status as financial hubs to their dense populations, Hong Kong and Singapore have much in common. When Art Stage Singapore 2011 opened to the public yesterday the latter city hopes to add one more facet to the list of similarities: they’re both international art destinations.

Singapore has much catching up to do. Art HK, Hong Kong’s flagship arts fair, attracted 46,000 people last year, a 60 per cent increase on 2009. It’s also the preferred destination for auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, who both base their Asia Pacific operations there.

The man tasked with elevating Singapore’s position is fair director Lorenzo Rudolf. Rudolf comes with an impressive CV: he was a former director of Art Basel and a key initiator of Art Basel Miami, both of which are viewed as among the most important contemporary art fairs in the world.

Rudolf, who resisted the Singapore government’s attempts to bring him here in the 1990s, thinks Art Stage will complement Art HK and that Asia is big enough for both. “There’s been an incredible increase in interest over the past 10 years, and that’s not just in China and India,” he says.

It’s the growth in interest outside China that Art Stage seeks to tap into. “Singapore has the big advantage of being multicultural,” Rudolf explains. “Just as an art fair in Tokyo is going to be dominated by Japan, an art fair in Hong Kong is always going to be dominated by China.”

That is why many Hong Kong galleries are exhibiting at Art Stage. “Our clientele here is different,” David Chan, director of the Osage gallery, says. “There’s also a greater variety of art here.”

It’s a feeling echoed by Lorraine Kiang, manager of the recently launched Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong. “The artists on display are more international here,” she says. “This gives us an opportunity to show our face and gain more exposure to Southeast Asian clients.”

Rudolf says that this variety will help facilitate his plans for Art Stage to be a get-together for art fans. “Not many fairs have a lot of artists present,” he says. “Here we’ll have dozens.”

Among them will be Takashi Murakami, who was spotted at the Singapore Art Museum, where an exhibition is being held in collaboration with Art Stage. Photographer David LaChapelle, who will give a talk on Saturday, told Monocle that Art Stage’s location across three halls at the Marina Bay Sands Expo makes it “contained and more civilised”.

The Singapore government, which is actively supporting the fair, has already laid plans for the future. Dr Eugene Tan, a director at Singapore’s Economic Development Board and the curator of the Singapore selection at Art Stage, says that long-term leases have already been earmarked for artists at Gillman Village, a sleepy enclave that’s being developed as an arts cluster. It seems the art world’s sleeping dragon is beginning to stir.


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