Trendspotting With Lorenzo Rudolf, Founder And Director Of Art Stage Singapore

The man behind Southeast Asia's flagship art fair talks eCommerce, the rise of Thai art and what's on his walls at home

  1. How has Art Stage Singapore evolved since the first edition?

Lorenzo Rudolf: From the first edition in 2011, Art Stage has a clear Southeast Asian identity—it is a Southeast Asian fair for Southeast Asia. Even with the eighth edition this year, we continue to focus on the three main aspects of the conceptualisation of this identity: 1. To be the bridge for Southeast Asia to the global art world and the platform to internationally position the region’s art scenes; 2. To be the door to Southeast Asia for the global art world in introducing international galleries, collectors, curators, media and art enthusiasts to the Southeast Asian art scenes; 3. To be the forum to create and foster a Southeast Asian understanding, exchange and co-operation as the matchmaker of the various Southeast Asian art scenes.

That has been the key to the success of every edition of Art Stage Singapore and we see Art Stage Singapore becoming the necessary catalyst of the region. In Singapore, there were many foreign galleries who opened local branches, which led to an entire gallery district, Gillman Barracks; new museums opened; and during Art Stage Singapore, we have an entire art week (Singapore Art Week) with over a hundred side events in their programme. And similarly, we also see the entire region growing with similar developments in other areas of Southeast Asia such as the openings of many new galleries, private museums, art institutes, as well as art fairs.

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Art Stage Singapore at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Singapore, on 25 January 2018. Photo by Lucas Schifres/Studio EAST

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  1. Is there a specific art trend or movement occurring at the moment?

LR: One of the main goals of Art Stage is to matchmake the Southeast Asian art world and to bring these national art scenes closer to each other. This year, we are specially focusing on what is probably the most active and innovative region in Southeast Asia—Thailand.

In the last one and a half years, a lot of new serious and professional art galleries had opened in Thailand. There is the MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art, a new private museum in Chiang Mai which I feel is a wonderful and necessary academic platform in Thailand. And we will be having other big collectors who will be opening their own museums in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Naturally, we want to pay tribute to this movement at the Fair by featuring many Thai galleries and artists and planning spectacular museum-like projects with by leading Thai artists such as Kamin Lertchaiprasert, Arin Rungjiang and Natee Utarit.

  1. What were the highlights of the upcoming fair?

LR: Art Stage Singapore 2018 is geared towards one main theme—Interactions. We presented interactions in three different directions. The first we had was the geographical interaction, which was our initiative to focus on Thailand through our special projects with Thai galleries and artists.

The second interaction we presented was the artistic interaction between different creative industries and disciplines, which is something we experience more and more in the contemporary field and Southeast Asia. This year, we wanted to show how art and design are interacting with one another. In the creative industries today, the borders between these creative disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred. If we looked at Zaha Hadid, was she an artist, or an architect, or a designer? I think she was all of those, with many other artists and designers being multi-disciplinary in similar ways. But we also want to present these interactions between art and design in simple and practical ways. There are more people who are collectively buying both art and design pieces to decorate their homes and we can see how art, design and interior design go hand in hand in our homes and daily lives.

The third form of interaction focuses on the personal interactions among collectors. It is the dream of every collector to meet other collectors and to see their collections. In the past, it was very difficult and almost impossible to convince Singaporean collectors to open up their personal collections and homes to international visitors. I think, especially after our big success for all the collectors’ shows in Art Stage Jakarta where all the leading local collectors there opened up their homes and welcomed other collectors from all over the world, we are seeing how things are beginning to change here in Singapore too. We are glad to have Singaporean collectors today who are opening their collections to an international audience as well. A good collection is always a mirror of the collector and that is the reason why it is so interesting to build up this discourse among collectors. We wanted to give a special focus on this and we are really glad that international visitors get the chance to interact with our local collectors.

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Kamin Lertchaiprasert at Art Stage Singapore

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  1. How has eCommerce affected the way artworks are purchased today?

LR: eCommerce has surely allowed the market to expand, but mainly on certain price levels such as the more upscale market. With the ease of eCommerce, everyone is able to get their hands on any information before visiting a gallery or an art fair, including key data such as market prices, background of the artwork, and so forth. This makes it much easier for a potential buyer, especially during any negotiations.

Art fairs vs eCommerce. Art fairs vs galleries. What are the positive and detrimental effects of these growing relationships?

LR: To me, I do not think that there is a necessity for the word “versus” because we are not competing against each other at all. Rather, I think it is a situation where we are simply all different actors who are part of a growing market. While art fairs are beginning to consider the eCommerce aspect of the industry, eCommerce will also always be linked back to art fairs and galleries. Rather than being in a relationship where we are pitted against each other, I believe that it is a relationship where we will grow more and more together with each other.

  1. Which art piece first sparked your love for art?

LR: I grew up in Bern, Switzerland, which saw the breakthrough and the development of contemporary art worldwide with Harald Szeemann, the director of the Kunsthalle Bern. As the director of the Kunsthalle Bern, he commissioned environmental artist Christo to wrap the entire Kunsthalle building—the first wrapping of this kind in Christo’s legendary career. That, for me, was what sparked my love for art.

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Couple on the Grass, Fernando Botero, Art Stage Singapore Honorary Invited Artist

  1. How is your home designed? And what art fills your home?

LR: Our home is designed by ourselves and we filled it with a mix of Southeast Asian art, big museum pieces, and works from young artists. Some of the artworks we display are pieces from artists such as Aditya Novali, Zen The, and Christina Quisumbing Ramilo.

  1. Who are the Asian artists or designers that have recently caught your eye?

LR: The artworks which I’m most often attracted to are the ones which I do not understand at that moment. I want to invest myself into understanding and building up a dialogue with the artwork. And in Southeast Asia, there are a lot of great young artists. In Singapore, for example, we have a great young female artist by the name of Zen The, who is very bright and intellectual. And among the many emerging Indonesian artists, there is Aditya Novali, the winner of the Best Young Artist at Art Stage Jakarta 2017 whom I had been fascinated with his developments and thinking from the beginning. For the Philippines, we have young artists like Christina Quisumbing Ramilo who works with artefacts found in nature and brings the discussion back to fundamental human questions. And in the Thai art scene, we have Anon Pairot, who is a designer by profession, but also an artist who brought his community project of a Ferrari car made entirely out of rattan into the Fair and became more well-known after. Up to this day, Anon is still doing more community-driven artworks, which is what I like, when the artist has a mission and is not only producing for the market.

  1. How would you say fashion and art affect our lives and behaviours in similar ways?

LR: For a long time, they have always remained as two different creative disciplines, but today, we can see that both fashion and art are beginning to cross over. For the past decade, there is no important fashion line or label who has not worked with artists.

  1. What do you love most about art?

LR: Contemporary art has to challenge me. I like it when I have to invest myself into understanding art and building up a dialogue with the artwork. For me, an artwork has nothing to do with its decorative purpose or investment quality. Art is, first and foremost, a cultural piece, and I want to learn and build a personal relationship with it.

Therefore, a good piece of contemporary art is personally a reflection that goes beyond the piece of art itself. And because I have to integrate myself and engage in a dialogue with the artwork, the piece then becomes a reflection of myself, because at the end, it becomes a journey I am doing, rather than only looking at the piece of art.

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