With just a week to go before one of the region’s biggest contemporary art show kicks off, Art Stage Singapore was abruptly canceled.
The reason, according to Art Stage Singapore president Lorenzo Rudolf? Singapore’s a tough market, he says, blaming “unequal competition” at Gillman Barracks, which is hosting a new showcase of galleries called S.E.A Focus, which takes place concurrently with Art Stage.
The ninth edition of the annual gala at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Expo and Convention Centre had been scheduled to take place from Jan 24 to 27, where it was supposed to offer a stage for artists, galleries curators, museums and collectors from Southeast Asia and beyond to showcase their projects. Arrangements for the exhibits and commissioned pieces have been made long before the date of this year’s Art Stage, but stakeholders and participants received an alarming email yesterday morning from Rudolf. In his brief message, he mentioned that he had no choice but to cancel the fair.
This was the email he sent out.
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.
The given circumstances, about which we shortly will inform you, unfortunately leave no other choice.
We ask you to cease all preparations for Art Stage Singapore 2019 from your side as well, or to reverse them.
We will soon inform you about the next steps.
We apologize for any inconvenience you may experience.
Rudolf’s true intention behind the abrupt cancellation of the event was revealed later. Prestige Online managed to get hold of Rudolf’s full explanation — a statement that disclosed his chagrin with competing art fairs and the “cannibalism” taking place in the local arts scene.
“Due to the very difficult market situation in Singapore as well as to an unequal competition situation on site, I ultimately didn’t have any other choice than to cancel the fair at short notice,” he wrote.
Rudolf then goes on to relay his hard fight to establish Singapore’s reputation as “an art place of an international standing”, despite the country’s “exorbitant prices and its stagnating market”.
According to Rudolf, over 450 out of the 500 galleries he brought in to Singapore for Art Stage have refused to return due to a lack of local sales.
“We have always lived up to our responsibility for Singapore and have often put our own interests behind those of Singapore… even if it cost us a lot of money.”
The new challenge Art Stage Singapore faced this year was none other than Gillman Barracks’ S.E.A Focus, a new art fair organized by STPI, a creative workshop and contemporary art gallery based in Singapore.
Rudolf took particular issue with this, questioning why their event had to clash with Art Stage, given that the local market of collectors and buyers are weak enough as it is.
Art Stage Singapore, he says, has no chance to financially compete and survive “this unequal competition and cannibalism”.
With the event seeing no chance of running this year, the 45 exhibiting galleries are left in a proper lurch. Participants who spoke to The Straits Times relayed their shock at the last-minute cancellation — one gallery director mentioned how a “five-figure” sum had been spent to ship out art pieces as well as flying in a curator and an artist.
Exhibitors are now scrambling to showcase their pieces elsewhere across Singapore, including Gillman Barracks and various other galleries.
“In some way, it’s better than the fair happening with little visitorship and little sales,” said one gallery owner to ST.