Image: Joyce Yung

ART SG is finally going to debut in Singapore – and it’s set to be the biggest and most glamorous art fair the country has ever seen. Over 150 galleries from 30 countries have already confirmed their attendance, with more to come in the coming months. Among them are mega galleries Gagosian, White Cube, Pace, Lehmann Maupin, Perrotin and Thaddaeus Ropac, all of which have multiple gallery locations and a slate of top artists.

For some of these galleries, it will be the first time they’re showing in Singapore. Many had stuck to Hong Kong as the base for cultivating relationships with Asia-based art collectors: Hong Kong is the world’s gateway to Chinese wealth, and closer to Japan and South Korea compared to Singapore. Before Covid-19 struck, the pre-eminent Asian art fair was unquestionably Art Basel Hong Kong, which attracted over 240 top-tier galleries from 35 countries and over 88,000 local and foreign visitors.

But the recent troubles in Hong Kong, from its recurrent political tensions to its shaky handling of the pandemic, have anxious galleries looking south to Singapore.

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Art SG fair sees growth, doubles in size

Photo: Marina Bay Sands

Art SG was initially envisioned as a mid-size art fair with just 80 galleries. But that number has now doubled to almost 160, catapulting Art SG into the league of big fairs. It was supposed to occupy just 1 floor of Marina Bay Sands’ convention centre.  It will now occupy 2 floors. 

Shuyin Yang, Art SG fair director, says: “During the pandemic, we kept talking to potential exhibitors in order to put Singapore on their radar. And gradually the idea of Singapore started to make sense to them in terms of the country’s strong infrastructure, great hospitality, and the ease of communication, banking and shipping.

“They also started to see a number of their clients from mainland China, Indonesia and across Asia relocate to Singapore, establish family offices, and buy their second and third homes here. Now everybody knows somebody who has relocated to Singapore. And with Singapore reasserting its ‘safe haven’ reputation to a higher degree during the course of the pandemic, exhibitors have now bought into the idea that Singapore would make for a good alternative base outside of Hong Kong.” 

(Related: Art sales hit all-time high)

This story was originally published in The Business Times.

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