Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Asian Hues

Well, My experience at ARTSingapore and views on the art market in Asia shared for the benefit of the readers of this blog. This article was published in "Graphiti" the Sunday magazine of The Telegraph Newspaper with a readership of close to a million readers. Your views as always are most welcome !
Hot on the heels of the Indian Art Summit has come ARTSingapore in the island city. ARTSingapore is a Contemporary art fair, which has been around since 2000. It’s a genuine art initiative for true art fans unlike some fairs which have started up in the past few years that aim merely to exploit rising values of Contemporary art.

Chen Shen Po, director of this fair and a real art lover, brought together quite a spectacular display of works. What really caught my eye was the selection of Korean Contemporary art. The Korean art space has evolved in a very sophisticated manner and some of the artists are brilliant.

Dream of Maewha by Korea’s Hong Kyung Tack; (below) Korean artist Yoon Byung Rock’s Autumn’s Fragrance

Normally, given the importance of China, it’s tough for artists from other Asian countries to generate a lot of interest. But the Korean artists grabbed a great deal of deserved attention. I loved the work of Hong Kyung Tack shown by Seoul-based CAIS Gallery that falls into the new genre of eye-catching patterned art with bright motifs.

Kim Dong Yoo, represented by Leehwaik Gallery, also had a spectacular display with a large 8ft x 6ft work with small miniature images of legendary Hollywood beauty Audrey Hepburn coming together to form a large image of Hepburn again. The different shades and subtle strokes were a delight to behold. Kim’s works of this size generally fetch around Rs 75 lakh at big auctions as he’s a popular, established artist.

Audrey Hepburn vs Audrey Hepburn by Korean artist Kim Dong Yoo

Also what was particularly rivetting was a work by Yoon Byung Rock, represented by Simyo Gallery from Seoul, in which I felt the apples were literally about to fall off the canvas.

I was also quite impressed with how Indonesian Contemporary art is shaping up. The works are good and the prices for large works were under Rs 2 lakh — a very reasonable sum given the quality.

At the booth of SIGIarts, an Indonesian gallery, I was also taken with a work by Ketut Moniarta and his innovative take on recycling. Indonesia is clearly bustling with ideas and a lot of new galleries are being set up which shows that their market is starting to take off.

Netto by Ketut Moniarta of Indonesia

I must make a point about sculpture and installations I saw at the fair. The finishing and quality were excellent. (Note to Contemporary Indian artists — especially the younger ones: this is something you need to work on).

There were also a slew of informative talks with Low Sze Wee, deputy director of the National Art Gallery. He chaired a panel on Singapore’s top artist, Cheong Soo Pieng, and his works focusing on the Malay lady and his blending of East and West that’s made him a pioneering artist of his generation. There was a talk on photography where internationally acclaimed Chris Yap chaired a discussion on how the artistic frontiers of photography keep being pushed out.

There was also a presentation on Indian Contemporary Art, The Road Ahead that I presented and the discussion revolved around India’s top Contemporary artists like Subodh Gupta, N.S. Harsha and the average 74 per cent slide in prices in the Indian Contemporary art market from last year.

I also attended a thought-provoking group conversation with Bali-based Swiss artist Richard Winkler based on his unique distinctive depiction of Balinese women on large canvas formats that was a fair highlight. He had 10 large works, all priced at Rs 50 lakh and I noted eight had already been sold on the penultimate day.

From an organisational standpoint, as a first-time fair visitor, what struck one was the way it all seamlessly came together. The advantage in Singapore is the infrastructure. The Suntec City convention is expertly designed and easy to get around which made a huge difference to the fair’s look and feel. Also, crowd management was excellent and the booths were generously spaced so people could get a long, expansive view of the art.

What, though, I must say was truly regrettable was that last year there were eight Indian galleries at the show and this year there were none. I realise some galleries feel a need to tighten belts in these straitened times. But it’s coming at the price of sacrificing the chance to attract new collectors and spread the reach of Indian Contemporary art. It’s a short-term approach.

The fair was packed and on Saturday afternoon, I saw works all over the fair sporting red dots. Some galleries had sold out completely — even the extra works they’d brought in a day before the fair ended were gone. The lack of Indian galleries really was a lost opportunity for Indian Contemporary art whose artists should have been showcased in the heart of Asia.

Kapil Chopra is Senior Vice President of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.He writes a blog on collecting and investing in Indian Contemporary art at also writes for The Telegraph newspaper in the Sunday magazine " Graphiti" every fortnight. In Delhi, he has written for "The Mail Today " newspaper and "First City" magazine.


bubvik said...

I agree with the view that the Korean Artists hold tremendous potential. Although I am still a learner in this field, I had an opportunity to be in ARTSingapore 2008. And “Autumn's Fragrance” by Byung Rock YOON still holds a favourite place in my photo collection which I have also shared on my Indian Art News profile.
Please keep sharing the thoughts Mr. Chopra. Cheers!

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