Japanese artist Miwa Komatsu during a live painting performance at the eighth edition of Art Stage Singapore at the Sands Expo And Convention Centre in 2018. Photo: The Straits Times.

Art Stage Singapore Cancels 2019 Edition One Week Before Opening

The ninth edition of Art Stage Singapore, the island’s major contemporary art event, has been canceled a week before the fair was set to open. The move came as a shock to the majority of the fair’s exhibitors, who are now scrambling to find other venues for artworks that have already been shipped to Asia.

An email that Art Stage Singapore founder and president Lorenzo Rudolf sent to exhibitors earlier today said: “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 will shortly inform you, unfortunately leave no other choice.”

While ArtAsiaPacific reports that rumors over whether the fair would take place have been circulating since December 2018, Art Stage Singapore issued a press release on January 1 that contained information about the fair, including ticket prices, hours, and details about the scheduled projects. Even fair director Marcus Teo was left in the dark. He told Business Insider that he was also waiting to hear the reasons behind the cancelation.

Many exhibitors responded to the news with outrage, while others expressed disappointment. Marc Straus Gallery’s director, Singaporean Ken Tan, told the Straits Times that the company had already invested a “five-figure” sum in the fair. While the gallery may be able to recover some of the costs through insurance, there won’t be any compensation for time spent preparing for the event and the loss of potential sales. He added that the gallery will travel to Singapore as planned in order to meet with collectors and hopefully stage a pop-up exhibition there.

In an attempt to help galleries figure out their next move, the Facebook group Art Stage SOS is connecting exhibitors with local galleries and other members of the Singapore arts community. Since it was created, several venues have made their spaces available, including Chan + Hori Contemporary, Telok Ayer Arts Club, Addicted Art Gallery, and Team Poetry.

Established in 2011, Art Stage Singapore is backed by the Economic Development Board, the Singapore Tourism Board, the National Heritage Board, and the National Arts Council, and has been led by Rudolf, a former director of Art Basel. 

In an interview with the South Morning China Post last year, Rudolf expressed dismay at the fair’s shrinking numbers. In 2017, 131 galleries participated; the following year the number of exhibitors fell to ninety-seven. This year, only forty-something galleries rented booths. “Strong economic growth has led to many new galleries and private museums opening in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand,” Rudolf said. “Everywhere, everywhere, the art scene booms. The only place we have stagnation is Singapore.”

While the number of exhibitors in the fair has dwindled, for Daryl Goh, founder of NPE Art Residency, which had a booth at the fair, the industry is “organic.” “There won’t be a lack of art opportunities for artists and public,” he said.