Art used to intimidate me. I’d run the opposite direction whenever my friends invited me to an opening. When I thought about art — as in fine art that was being shown in exhibits — I’d think about the people viewing it: critics and serious art aficionados holding flutes of champagne, talking about lines and form and everything in between. The thought of being in the same room as those people is scarier than an episode of American Horror Story. But then again, I was a 17-year-old business major whose only knowledge of art was DeviantArt.
But everything changed when I was sent to the sixth edition of Art Stage Singapore. The Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre was packed with 173 galleries from 34 countries, four of which are from the Philippines: ArtInformal, Finale Art File, MO_Space and Galerie Stephanie.
To say that it was overwhelming is an understatement. There are thousands of artworks displayed at the space and one day is not enough to see everything. And being a newbie, I had no idea where to start. An important lesson I learned the hard way: don’t speed walk when you’re in an art fair or exhibit. There may be a lot going on around you but you have to make an effort to appreciate the work, the artist and the galleries involved. Case in point: I almost ran over someone when I saw one of the Marilyn Monroe prints by Andy Warhol. I’ve never seen one in real life before and I have to admit, I fangirled a little bit.
On my way to checking out the Filipino galleries, I saw more Andy Warhol prints, Yayoi Kusama paintings and many interesting artworks like Anon Pairot’s “Sweet Word #LIFE” piece that’s made up of fake cockroaches.
Another lesson: just because you’re not buying doesn’t mean that you can’t stare at a painting for five minutes if you want to. Needless to say, that’s what happened when I came across “Water Dripping – Splashing” by Zheng Lu. It’s a metallic liquid-like sculpture that’s flowing on air. It was unreal. How can someone master their medium so much that they know how to manipulate air to their liking? It’s amazing to think that some people dedicate their lives to making beautiful things that other people can appreciate. Art Stage was a great reminder of that to someone as lost as me.
We dropped by LASALLE College of Arts to view “Sous La Lune,” a collaboration between 12 artists from all over the world. It references the moon creating a common place for these artists — all living in different places — to connect and create. Khairuddin Hori, deputy director of Artistic Programming at the Palais de Tokyo, brought the artists together and curated the exhibit. Among the works featured are “Private collection of history (little secret memories),” a representation of by Aung Ko (Myanmar),
“Echos” by Marguerite Humeau (France), “Species of Spaces in Skateboarding” by Raphael Zarka (France) and “Romanticizing Only What I Know Most” by Lou Lim (Philippines), the youngest of the collaborators.
More Filipino artists were spotted at the Southeast Asia Forum, a program by Art Stage Singapore. It features works by Felix Bacolor for ArtInformal, Norberto Roldan for Taksu and MM Yu for MO_Space. Aside from the exhibit, there is also a series of talks about the future of art titled “Seismograph: Sensing the City – Art in the Urban Age.”
Before the official Art Stage opened, the US Ambassador of Singapore invited a few local artists and notable figures to his home in the quieter side of Singapore to announce the winner of the 2nd Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art. Among the nominees were performance artist Aye Ko from Myanmar and filmmaker Nguyen Trinh Thi from Vietnam. Art Stage Singapore, represented by its founder and director Lorenzo Rudolf, and the US Embassy Singapore awarded performance artist Lee Wen at the end of the night. He is best known for his “Yellow Man” series and considered as one of the pioneers of performance art in Singapore. “There is no stronger voice for freedom of expression in art in Singapore than Lee Wen, who has spent his life speaking truth to power,” says US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar.
This made me wonder: what does it take to receive an award for a life’s work? It definitely takes more than just going to one exhibit or art fair and picking up a brush and hoping for the best. Seeing all the art at Art Stage certainly gives you a good kind of pressure: the kind that makes you think braver and work harder. If this is the effect that art has on me and other aspiring artists, then we’re lucky to have this tiny window of the art world all under the same roof.