ART SG 2024: a quality fair reaching an international audience

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Art Fair Coverage

ART SG was launched with much fanfare last year, poised as the fair to succeed and surpass ART STAGE, which for many years was the most important art fair in Singapore. The inaugural edition was a true success, and I was eager to see what the 2024 edition had in store.

As a visitor, I felt that the promise of the three sectors – GALLERIES, FOCUS, and FUTURE – was generally well kept. The main section featured galleries from all over the world, with big names like White Cube, Gagosian, Thaddaeus Ropac, Lehmann Maupin, and others. Some that had participated in 2023 were missing, notably Perrotin and Templon, but the overall quality was high. Diversity was also well represented with painting, sculpture, ceramics, video, tapestries, and more. I found the FUTURE sector, which showcased 10 galleries less than 10 years old, to be intriguing in theory but somewhat disappointing in practice and also a bit marginalized, tucked away in a corner of the fair. Lastly, the FOCUS sector, my personal favorite, was truly varied and dynamic.

While some dealers described the fair as calm, with fewer sales than expected, it’s important to highlight that there were indeed some remarkable transactions. For instance, Lehmann-Maupin reported several significant sales right from the opening, with artworks priced between $200,000 and $300,000. This includes two pieces by Lee Bul and a David Salle painting. Similarly, at the White Cube stand, two Antony Gormley sculptures, each offered at $500,000, found buyers, along with a Jules Balincourt painting sold for $125,000. The contrast was stark – while the opening attracted a real crowd, the following day was much calmer, bringing a more family-oriented audience, a sight quite unusual for an art fair. I’ve never seen so many children at such an event, and I’m planning to delve into this intriguing shift in an upcoming article. 

Curator’s Booth Pick

The GALLERIES section was quite diverse, and several booths really caught my attention, particularly Tang Contemporary Art which displayed some fantastic works by mainly Chinese artists. For instance, there was this immense canvas by Yue Minjun depicting a swimmer in the sea. But it was within the FOCUS section, dedicated to galleries presenting tightly curated programs, that I found my favorite. The Belgian gallery STEMS, which recently opened a space in Paris, was showcasing a solo exhibition dedicated to Brooklyn-based artist Tony Toscani.

I’m fascinated by Tony’s characters with their odd proportions: tiny heads perched on broad shoulders and these arms that seem to stretch beyond the norm. There’s a deliberate omission of detail, as though the artist aims for the essential. One word came to me when I stepped into the booth: “silence”. The silence of these uncluttered scenes, the silence of all those closed mouths — secrets here are conveyed without a parted lip. And also the silence that beckons you into Toscani’s melancholic world.

Tony Toscani

Top left: TONY TOSCANI, IN DEATH’S GRASP, 2023. Oil on linen. 120 x 100 cm.
Top right: TONY TOSCANI, IN DEATH’S GRASP, 2023. Oil on linen. 120 x 100 cm.
Bottom left: TONY TOSCANI, FROM WHERE TO SEE, 2023. Oil on linen. 96.5 x 96.5 cm.
Bottom right: TONY TOSCANI, GOSSIP GUYS, 2023. Oil on linen. 100 x 60 cm.

Art Dealers Interviews

In just two days, I managed to conduct 6 interviews with a very diverse array of galleries, varying in their geographic location, their market positioning, and the artworks that the dealers presented to me. The blue-chip gallery Thaddaeus Ropac showcased a large painting by Maria Jungwirth. Lehmann Maupin featured a whimsical piece by Tom Friedman depicting cut-off legs wearing Nike sneakers. Over The Influence focused on two works by Mark Whalen, while PARIS-B opted for a sculpture by Qi Zhuo. At Zidoun-Bossuyt, the spotlight was on the unmistakable style of African artist Khalif Tahir Thompson, and Tang Contemporary Art showed me the large canvas by Yue Minjun mentioned earlier.

How Much Does It Cost?

I was curious about the pricing of various artworks, differing in form, medium, and the renown of the galleries presenting them. I’ve always had a fondness for the stretched and haunting figures of Georg Baselitz. Here, White Cube gallery was offering a striking pair for $1.9 million. Staying with sculpture but shifting to a much more playful realm, Galerie Urs Meile had cleverly placed four marble sculptures by Chinese artist Hu Qingyan on the floor, deceptively resembling cardboard boxes, with prices ranging from $25,000 to $30,000 depending on the size. The realism was astonishing! Finally, I was drawn in at the stand of Annely Juda Fine Art by a three-dimensional work that mixed wood, metal, and paint by Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata. To take this piece home would cost $57,000, and one would need… a large wall to hang it on!

I really enjoyed my visit to ART SG, but I’m not certain about the fair’s commercial success for its exhibitors. I think it still needs to prove itself to the international audience and faces the challenge of evolving the habits of local collectors.

Sum it up, I'm in a rush!

  • When? | 19 – 21 January 2024
  • Where? | Singapore
  • Atmosphere | Family friendly
  • Curator’s booth pick | STEMS Gallery
  • Featured Gallery Gem | New Child Gallery
  • Spotlight Artist | Tony Toscani
  • For Whom? | Wealthy Asian collectors 

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