Charmaine Lim, The Straits Times, Wednesday 25th October 2023
SINGAPORE – Affordable Art Fair returns with a bigger space and a tightly curated list of 81 galleries, 14 of which are first-timers.
Fair director Alan Koh says the curation is done by a committee “made up of industry partners and our team members from the global fair teams”.
He adds: “We review the artist’s practical training, education or mentors if they’re self-taught. For galleries, we look at their background and how many exhibitions they’ve done.”
Spread over 1,887 sq m, 2023’s 14th edition is slightly bigger than 2022’s 1,750 sq m and 80 galleries.
“We have more space, so each gallery can have a bigger table. With that, you also get a better presentation,” says Mr Koh, 40.
Taking place at the F1 Pit Building from Nov 10 to 12, the three-day art fair is an entry point for patrons looking to buy their first art pieces from up-and-coming and established galleries and artists.
Mr Koh says: “36 per cent of our galleries are local and 64 per cent are international. I would say about 80 per cent are from Asia and 20 per cent are from the rest of the world.”
Singapore and Hong Kong have the most newcomer galleries, at six and four respectively.
Since the art fair began in Singapore 13 years ago, six galleries – Gnani Arts, Astrid Dahl Studio Gallery, Bruno Art Gallery, Quantum Contemporary Art, Redsea Gallery and Utterly Art – have participated in every edition, save for in 2020 and 2021 when the fair was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“If we have 100 galleries, which we had in 2013, it’s great for revenue because we’re like landlords renting out space. But we need to make sure these galleries and artists do well too. In order to do that, we curated 81 galleries to see what the market’s reaction is,” says Mr Koh.
The upcoming fair may also be a good time to buy big-ticket items such as art, ahead of the goods and services tax (GST) hike from 8 to 9 per cent on Jan 1.
However, Mr Koh is not worried about patrons tightening their purse strings after the GST hike.
“We are doing our best to bring in new visitors who are buying their first piece of art with us. There have been influxes of expats as well, but we still want our returning visitors to support these galleries. As long as we maintain the strategy of keeping the galleries fresh, I think we will see a constant appetite for buying art,” he says.
As the name implies, the fair focuses on bringing in galleries and art collectives to sell their works at an affordable price – 75 per cent of the artworks are priced under $7,500, while the remaining pieces are capped at $15,000.
Mr Koh says: “People have the misconception that art is very expensive, but real prices of $2,000 is something we can afford. The fair breaks the barrier of asking questions.”
A variety of art forms will be available, such as sculptures, photography, paintings and limited-edition prints. One artist to look out for is Singaporean sculptor Victor Tan, who is blind.
Galleries of note include Singapore’s newly opened Whitestone Gallery, Australian gallery Sarah Birtles and Chinese gallery Cospace.
Home-grown art education company Art Wonderland, known for its family-friendly programmes, will conduct role-playing and self-exploration activities for children using puppets and lights. The creative workshop is free, while the mini theatre show is $15.
Visual Arts Centre, the fair’s education partner, will run complimentary and paid workshops for painting and design, and donate the proceeds to official charity partner Singapore Cancer Society. Paid workshop prices begin at $35.
Affordable Art Fair began in London in 1999 and arrived in Singapore in 2010. This is one of 10 international locations, and two more fairs in Shanghai and Berlin are in the pipeline.
In 2022, the Singapore edition attracted 15,000 visitors and enjoyed $4.5 million in sales, a unicorn year marking the fair’s return after the Covid-19 pandemic.