Attitude Adjustment

Left: Artists Aye Ko and Arahmaiani. Right: Advisor Pablo Espinel Rudolf and dealer Pearl Lam. (All photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)

“FINALLY!” was all anyone could think last Tuesday when Myanmar-based artist Aye Ko received the 2017 Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art. He’d been nominated for the prestigious prize three years running.

Ko immediately promised to “share it with the community, with the children, and for their education.” Kirk Wagar, US ambassador to Singapore, and Art Stage director Lorenzo Rudolf presented the elated artist-activist with an oversize check for $15,000. “His work is a good investment too,” said Rudolf, who apparently gets asked about this a lot. The other nominees, Indonesia’s Arahmaiani and Myanmar’s Chaw Ei Thein, seemed happy to let Ko have it.

“I am in my last nine days, but I have no doubt that this award will go on,” Wagar promised. His own future was hardly stable. An initiator of the prize, Wagar is one of the Obama-appointed ambassadors who the upcoming Trump administration has unceremoniously demanded vacate their residences by Friday’s inauguration.

I joined the ceremony after a quick detour at the Arts House, Singapore’s former parliament, for “Shared Coordinates,” a friendly regional project among dealers Edouard Malingue Gallery, ROH Projects, and Silverlens. The evening was nonstop, but there was time to relax after the US embassy awards at the Raffles Hotel Arcade. It celebrated three solo shows—by Ruben Pang, the Le Brothers, and Kenny Pittock—in as many spaces, sponsored by Chan Hampe Galleries and curated by new recruit Khairuddin Hori, formerly of Paris’s Palais de Tokyo. The party featured a lot of cake.

Left: Collector Alain Servais and Art Stage's Lorenzo Rudolf. Crystal and Kirk Wagar, US ambassador to Singapore.

The next day, Art Stage opened to easygoing crowds eager to see the booths. I ran into Aaron Seeto, the newly appointed director of Indonesia’s Museum MACAN who confirmed that the institution will launch in November to coincide with the openings of the Jakarta and Jogja biennials. The genial collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien (has he ever missed an Asia-related art event?) roamed the aisles and spoke enthusiastically of the Bandung Philharmonic, which was to play a symphony in his honor in the upcoming days. Other collectors included Lourdes Samson, Wiyu Wahono, Hady Ang, and Alain Servais, who were joined by curators and artists such as Ute Meta Bauer, Xue Mu, Faisal Habibi, Joyce Toh, Louis Ho, Bruce Quek, and Han Sai Por. The whole event felt open and suffused with camaraderie—a feeling that would extend to the after-party at the White Rabbit, a former chapel in Dempsey Hill that offered live music indoors and garden tables and plenty of chatter outdoors.

“We need to meet outside the fair too!” exclaimed Gridthiya Gaweewong to Zoe Butt on a panel about privately funded institutions. Joined by Seeto, they agreed that Asia continued to lack a proper arts infrastructure—but “the future is a bright and shiny as the MAIIAM’s facade,” Gaweewong claimed, wearing a big smile. I followed Enin Supriyanto and Tom Tandio to the SAM Museum for courtyard canapés and the announcement of the eleventh Benesse Prize. This year’s selection was among works in the recent Singapore Biennale—titled “An Atlas of Mirrors,” it took this perhaps a little too literally, featuring many atlases and mirrors. The $27,000 was awarded to Thailand’s Pannaphan Yodmanee, with a special prize going to Singaporean artist Zulkifle Mahmod.

Left: MACAN's Aaron Seeto and curator Joyce Toh. Right: Curator Biljana Ciric, artist Robert Zhao, collector Hallam Chow, and artist duo Birdhead (Songtao and Jiweiyu).

Postprandial activities included champagne at the Mona Lounge at Sum Yi Tai in celebration of the fair’s talks program, organized by Nadia Ng. Tandio commandeered the karaoke machine while Supriyanto regaled us with stories about his time in jail as a student protester during the Suharto regime. Arya Pandjalu, Agan Harahap, Marcin Dudek, Maryanto, Natasha Sidharta, and Grace Samboh took over the smoking area on the terrace. I opted out from more drinks at Skyline but was easily roped into an impromptu nightcap in the hotel lobby with Canna Gallery’s Tommy Sutomo and Inge Santoso, who had pulled a Château Haut-Brion for artists Entang Wiharso, Sally Smart, and Elana Herzog. Into the night conversations moved from lamenting patronizing NGO-style exhibitions to logistics for visiting the upcoming bilocal Documenta.

As I was leaving Singapore the next day, I lingered at the “boozy brunch” organized by Pearl Lam’s new branch at Dempsey Hill, which opened with Zhu Jinshi’s thick abstract impastos. The works matched collector Chong Zhou’s shirt. “I should give it to Pearl,” he joked. At the Gillman Barracks arts cluster, galleries were preparing a suite of openings, kicking off with a talk by Birdhead at Shanghart. This year, Rudolf’s motto is “Art is an attitude,” a reference to Harald Szeemann legendary 1969 exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form.” Well, there isn’t much attitude in Singapore, but it seems that the concept of Southeast Asian Art Rudolf has been shaping since Art Stage’s inception is finally becoming a form, and, for better or worse, Singapore is now the central rendezvous.

Left: The Factory Contemporary Art Centre's Zoe Butt and artist Chaw Ei Thein. Right: Curator Louis Ho and dealer Faina Derman.

Left: Dealer Angie Chan with the Le Brothers. Right: National Gallery Singapore's Russel Storer and Eugene Tan with dealer Lorraine Malingue.

Left: Artists Carlos Celdran and Jimmy Ong with curator Enin Supriyanto. Right: Artist Jason Wee.

Left: Art Stage's Maria Elena Rudolf and advisor Edie Hu. Right: Art Basel Amalia Wirjono and artist Jim AllenAbel.

Left: Artist Emily Phyo and Myanmar/art Nathalie Johnston. Right: Artist Entang Wiharso and dealer Matthias Arndt.

Left: Artist FX Harsono and dealer Tyler Rollins. Right: Artists Sally Smart, Entang Wiharso, and Elana Herzog with dealers Tommy Sutomo and Inge Santoso.

Left: Artist Min Hyung and collector Willis Liu. Right: Bernice and Christopher Frank, artist Han Sai Por, and STPI's Emi Eu.

Left: Lawangwangi chief director and collector Aan Andonowati. Right: PR agent Diana Babei with artists Bruce Quek and Xue Mu and dealer Joseph Ng.

Left: Redbase Foundation Nancy Nan with artists Cecep M. Taufik and Faisal Habibi. Right: Gallery Kassi Tokyo's Toshiaki Tachikawa and Naoko Hatano.

Left: Collector Kaori Zage, dealer Sundaram Tagore, and Rebecca Woo Dwan. Right: Collector Disaphol Chansiri, curator Gridthiya Gaweewong, and artist Pham Huy Thong.

Left: Collector Wayu Wihono and dealer Silvana Ancellotti-Diaz. Right: Curators David Teh, Siddharta Perez, arts manager Stefania Mangano, curator Grace Samboh, and collector Natasha Sidharta.

Left: Collectors Ryan Su and Celeste Basapa. Right: Collectors Narcissi and Emmo Italiaander.

Left: Dealer Junior Tirtadji with Tromarama artists Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans. Right: Curator Khairuddin Hori and artists Angie Seah and Ruben Pang.

Left: Dealer Lim Wei-Ling and collector Lourdes Samson. Right: Dealers Rachel Rillo and Stephanie Fong.

Left: Dealer Sopawadee Bhunyaraks. Right: Director of West Bund fair Zhou Tiehai.

Left: Filmmaker Patricia Chen, collector Melani Setiawan, and dealer Virginie Puertolas. Right: Collector Daisuke Miyatsu and Shizu Daisuke with Sasa Bassac’s Erin Gleeson.

Left: Gwen Theresa The and Art Stage Jakarta director Leo Silitonga. Right: Collector Chong Zhou.