If you have been around Marina Bay Sands last weekend (probably for Laneway festival, we know), you would have probably seen people walking around the area with white lanyards around their necks. Yup, they are wearing admission tags belonging to one of Singapore’s most renowned (and arguably pretentious) annual art fair, Art Stage Singapore.

Since its inaugural in 2011, Art Stage Singapore is the definitive rendezvous point for discourse and exchange of ideas, connecting the world to the best of Asian contemporary art scene. It boasts of being the “definitive fair of Southeast Asia” that is stationed in Singapore, a host country that very much complements the art fair as a similar contemporary and urban hub.

Photo: Singapore Art Week

However, it seems as if our country’s involvement in Art Stage Singapore is almost merely limited to being the host country of this flagship event for Southeast Asian contemporary art. Sure, there are gallery exhibitions displayed in the fair that are owned by Singaporean companies and local schools (think art schools NAFA and Lasalle, of course!), yet the overwhelming number of overseas-based galleries and limited exploration of Singaporean culture in displayed artworks risks reducing Art Stage Singapore to just another tourism gimmick.

Subsistence | Artist: LIYU, 2014, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

While Art Stage Singapore 2015 features more than 200 galleries, only 43 were related to Singapore. Few contemporary art works had to do with our local Singaporean culture, although there are quite a number of artworks from all over Southeast Asia, including Yogyakarta, Thailand and Malaysia. Click here for a full list of participating exhibitions in Art Stage Singapore 2015.

Korean artist Park Seung Mo’s wire mesh portrait of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Photo: Mayo Martin

Of course, it is unfair to deem Art Stage Singapore disloyal to its host country, since it has never really established Singapore as the anchor of contemporary artworks to be displayed – a corporate strategy to receive as many international visits as possible. There actually has also been media push efforts by Art Stage Singapore to emphasise on the appreciation of local Singaporean artworks. Unfortunately, although local or locally-inspired works seen at the actual event were evident, it was limited to only a handful of exhibitions.

Standoff | Artist: Anton Del Castillo, 2015, Mizuma Gallery

Perhaps in future Art Stage Singapore fairs, it would be nice to see more locally-inspired contemporary artworks for the appreciation of the international guests we receive annually for this event. A global consciousness should be celebrated, but not at the extent of compromising Singapore’s own voice – even in the contemporary arts.


Art Stage Singapore is held every January.
Art Stage Singapore 2015 (22 Jan – 25 Jan) is part of Singapore Art Week and SG50.