Just a week before it was set to open on January 24th, Art Stage Singapore, a major contemporary art fair, was abruptly cancelled leaving artists and gallerists in the dark. This came a shock to the 45 or so exhibitors that were already in the processes of sending artworks to the fair’s Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre venue. Many of those meant to be involved have had to scramble to find emergency venues to house and display their art. Art Stage Singapore has been a mainstay in Singapore’s Art Week and touts itself as the flagship show of Southesatern Asia.
The reason for the sudden cancellation remains unclear. In an email statement sent by Art Stage founder and president Lorenzo Rudolf to participants on the morning of January 16th, he asked galleries to ‘cease all preparations for Art Stage Singapore 2019’ or to reverse their actions. ‘I’m sorry to have to inform you that as president of Art Stage Singapore, I am forced to immediately stop the preparations for Art Stage Singapore 2019 (Jan 24 to 27) and to cancel the fair. The given circumstances, about which we shortly will inform you, unfortunately leave no other choice,’ said the email. Fair director Marcus Teo is said to be unaware of the reasons behind the cancellation and is also waiting for more information from the head office of the fair.
Rudolf, a Swiss national and former Art Basel director, launched the high-end contemporary art fair in 2011 with backing from the island country’s Economic Development Board, the National Arts Council, and the Singapore Tourism Board. After starting strong, the fair has steadily shrunk from 170 participating galleries in 2016, to 130 in 2017, to only 84 last year. Over the last year, organizers had announced a new set up for the fair which would include platforms like Singapore Stage focusing on local artists, Collector’s Stage highlighting key works from 28 local private collectors, and Project Stage consisting of spaces run by local artists.
While the cancellation came as a shock and outside stakeholders maintained that the fair would continue as planned, there was speculation that the fair was in danger as recently as December. What really raised red flags, though, was when as late as early January artworks meant to be picked up from overseas landers had yet to be collected.
In the meantime, a Facebook group called ‘Art Stage SOS’ has been organized in an effort to help gallerists and artists left high and dry. It is also unclear as to how later events may be affected by this including Art Stage Singapore’s sister fair Art Stage Jakarta. In 2018, the Jakarta fair was postponed due to ‘the significance of the election for the future direction and development of [Indonesia], uncertainties in the market may be observed during this period,’ announced Rudolf last May. Art Stage Jakarta was originally meant to move forward in September of 2018 and is now supposed to continue in August 2019. However, everyone will be keeping a close eye on the fair after recent developments concerning Art Stage Singapore.