Diary

Stage and Screen

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva at the 6th Art Stage Singapore

Left: NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore director Ute Meta Bauer and artist Joan Jonas. Right: Dealer Lorraine Malingue and Asia Art Archive's Claire Hsu. (All photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)

LAST WEEK in Singapore the flow of the art was as inconsistent as the tropical downbursts. The slew of events and exhibitions—including the sixth edition of Art Stage Singapore—evoked mushrooms sprung up after the rain: hard to spot but fun to hunt and with a dizzying array of potential effects.

In July, the city-state came under criticism from international human rights groups after sixteen-year-old blogger Amos Yee was sentenced to four weeks of detention for posting collaged videos of Singapore’s recently deceased founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. That thought lingered in my mind on Tuesday at the second edition of the Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art. “Welcome to Eagle Crest, the official United States Ambassador’s residence in Singapore,” said ambassador Kirk Wagar nonchalantly as guests awaited the languorous speeches. The first to intervene was Joan Jonas, in town to open her show at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art. “It’s better to be independent and free, although it is very difficult,” she said. “I have a seated dinner I probably should go to now,” murmured one of the soigné guests poolside, impatient with the hot evening. Eventually, the $15,000 prize (three times last year’s) went to flamboyant local artist Lee Wen, whose touching acceptance speech, fueled by his generous temperament, suddenly forced attendees’ humility.

Left: Art Stage's Tom Tandio and Pablo Espinel R. with Aurora Espinel. Right: Artist Heman Chong and Singapore Tyler Print Institute director Emi Eu.

I followed the elegant Emi Eu and Rita Targui from the Singapore Tyler Print Institute to crash the next party, at the Corner House restaurant in the botanical gardens. Larys Frogier, director of Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum, greeted me with a gentle smile, as he would again the next day when I bumped into him at the National Gallery of Singapore, where he was getting acquainted with art from the region. The dinner was held in honor of local artist Heman Chong, en route to Shanghai to open his “Ifs, Ands, or Buts.” Even later, the cosmopolitan Russian dealer Irina Stark and I listened to Hou Hanru’s accounts of his jet-set lifestyle and residences in Paris, Rome, and San Francisco before he jumped into a car with Chinese colleagues to visit an artist’s studio in the middle of the night. Move over, HUO.

By the time I ran into Spring Workshop’s Christina Li the next day, in town to pick up the venue’s Prudential Art Award for Best Asian Contemporary Art Institution, she was already on her way to catch a plane back to Hong Kong. Arriving at the fair preview, I took in the mood established by director Lorenzo Rudolf, a mix of celebratory expectation and caution about a slowing market. There has been some rotation in the gallery roster this year, and a greater emphasis on theme (Urbanism), with an impressive guest list for talks, from Rem Koolhaas to sociologist Saskia Sassen. At the Southeast Asia Forum, Sàn Art curator Zoe Butt claimed that “there are more nonprofits in Southeast Asia than anywhere else.” Who knew?

After attending the launch for Tiffany Chung’s The Galapagos Project, a book that touches on urbanization and environmental tragedy, I joined Lorraine Malingue for the live events at ICA Singapore. “This is so much fun,” said Rachel Rillo from Silverlens, sitting with Isa Lorenzo while watching skateboarders perform on sculptures by Zarka, part of “Beneath the Moon,” curated by the Palais de Tokyo’s Khairuddin Hori. Before bed I quickly dropped by the fair’s afterparty at Chijmes, a former convent and school–cum–restaurant complex mixing seafood, performances, and pub crawl.

Left: Spring Workshop curator Christina Li and writer Aimee Lin. Right: Curator Enin Supriyanto, dealer Michael Janssen, and artist Ho Tzu Nyen.

Thursday night’s party at Lewin Terrace was lively, as art consultant Cheryl Ho gathered works and crowds from Japan and Singapore. Collector Daisuke Miyatsu was in good spirits and talked about his upcoming collaboration with the Hong Kong Art Center. The canapé reception at the National Gallery was relaxed as curators Enin Supriyanto and Agung Hujatnika chatted away with artists Moe Satt and Tintin Wulia and collector Melani Setiawan and Wibi Triadi from Bandung’s Ruang Gerilya sampled the local delicacies.

Friday at Gillman Barracks felt stale compared to last year, with many galleries next to NTU now gone. Up the road, Mizuma Gallery mixed works by Indonesian artist Nasirun and Japanese artist Tanada Koji. Sundaram Tagore showed Steve McCurry photographs in line with the National Geographic aesthetic he’s know for, and Pearl Lam featured Yinka Shonibare’s 2005 Odile and Odette. Ebullient dealer Can Yavuz had an extensive list of Australian artists, and ShanghArt showed Chinese Pop artist Xue Song. Yeo Workshop was the most experimental in the neighborhood, with videos and a ceramic installation by Quynh Dong and an outdoor hut transformed during a six-month residency by Australian artist Merryn Trevethan. But it was sitting down in a shipping container curated by the nonprofit Scout that will stay with me. They had the good idea to include nude drawings by Aqilah Hassan and Megan Miao’s interactive video mimicking a casting-couch experience. “When did you first start watching porn?” the director asks in the latter. If art can’t break local taboos, what can?

Left: Curators Suman Gopinath and Louis Ho. Right: Art Stage Singapore president Lorenzo Rudolf, US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar, and auctioneer Simon de Pury.

Left: Curator Enin Supriyanto and Kochi Biennale Foundation director Bose Krishnamachari. Right: Curator Zoe Butt and artist Uudam Tran Nguyen.

Left: Artist Agus Suwage and dealer Biantoro Santoso. Right: Artist and curator Michael Li and curator Xiang Liping.

Left: Artists Aqilah Hassan, Cheo Chai Hiang, and Megan Miao. Right: Dealer Can Yavuz and curator Brian Curtin.

Left: Dealer Audrey Yeo and artist Quynh Dong. Right: Dealer Tomio Koyama.

Left: Dealer Matthias Arndt. Right: Rockbund Art Museum director Larys Frogier and Heman Chong.

Left: Dealer Lorenz Helbling. Right: Curator Enin Supriyanto with artists FX Harsono and Aye Ko.

Left: Palais de Tokyo's Khairuddin Hori. Right: Writer and filmmaker Michael Schindhelm with NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore's Philip Francis.

Left: Collectors Daisuke Miyatsu and Melani Setiawan with Misuzu Takamura. Right: National Gallery Singapore director Eugene Tan.

Left: British Council's Diaz Parzada and Art Basel's Amalia Wirjono. Right: Curator Iola Lenzi and artist Manit Sriwanichpoom.

Left: Silverlens's Rachel Rillo and Isa Lorenzo. Right: Dealer Shelly Wu, Sifang Museum director and collector Lu Xun, and collector and curator Rudy Tseng.

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