The season of art is upon us in Singapore! This year, Singapore Art Week runs from the 19th to the 27th of January, which means we have a whole slew of art-type things to look forward to – from a show by Hollywood ACTOR Lucy Liu (yes, the Kill Bill one) to the National Gallery’s Light to Night Festival. But if you don’t know where to start/generally feel alienated by the art world/don’t feel that it applies to you/art does not even currently hold an orbit in your consciousness, we’re here to ease you into the whole “art week” thing some awfully basic questions for our sophisticated panel.
We sit down with Audrey Yeo, Director of S.E.A. Focus, and Jeremy Sharma, a Singaporean artist whose work will be featured at the fair, in Jeremy’s quiet and breezy studio in Telok Kurau. With Steely Dan softly playing on the stereo, we set out to find out more about S.E.A. Focus, a pop-up art fair that will happen at Gillman Barracks (you know, the place with the nice ice cream parlour in the middle of nowhere).
JUNK : So… art? What is art and what does it have to do to me? I scared wait my friends think I am pretentious.
AY: That should not be a problem at all! Look at it this way. Art should always be personal to you. If you encounter a piece of work that speaks to you, you should allow yourself to like it. It’s for your pleasure, your imagination, it’s personal. Don’t care what other people think!
JS: Without getting too deep into it, art is a face of culture and we need culture as it tells our story as a nation; And more importantly, we need culture that grows from the bottom up, from the people who feel compelled to tell these stories through their work – About who we are as a people and the things that matter to us as a nation. And that is why you need to support art, and ESPECIALLY local art.
JUNK: Also there is an art week coming? Who has organised it and who is it for, ah?
AY: Yes, there is the Singapore Art Week that will happen from the 19th to the 27th of January, organized by the National Arts Council. There will be many art related events happening across Singapore then, read up on the events online! Our art fair, S.E.A. Focus will happen then as well. It’s a for everyone who is curious to see what is exciting in the local AND regional art scene!
JS: The global art calendar is pretty jam packed. For Singapore, it happens in January. It’s a chance for all of us to get involved.
JUNK : And you are S.E.A. Focus. Come again? What is it?
AY: S.E.A. Focus is the name of a new pop-up art fair, housed in two specially erected tents and some existing gallery spaces at Gillman Barracks. STPI, an established Singaporean art gallery has taken the lead in putting this art fair together, featuring 26 galleries curated from the local and regional gallery network; a like-minded community effort to show all the artists that we work with and represent… it’s fresh!
JUNK: So anyone can come?
AY: Yes, come. Come! Of course, come. All are invited.
JS: Yes, come.
JUNK: To see or to buy art.. or what?
AY: To come to experience it! Art is personal, you need to come and feel it. To see if you like or don’t like it. There are people who just want to come to bathe in the artwork, and they will come and do that; We want more people to come and do the same. And of course there will also be those who will be here with the intention to buy… because it’s nice to own a piece of art if it speaks to you! No?
JS: People can also come to just look cool [laughs]. Join the art set. Come and get “it”.
JUNK: So can buy? But art is very expensive one right? How to afford?
AY: Who told you it’s expensive? Like how much do you spend at Haidilao in a year? It can all add up, too.
JS: People buy cars, houses and luxury goods here all the time. Singaporeans spend so much on so many things! So, spend less on your Gucci… and support some local culture. Buy Singaporean art, it’s actually priced quite reasonably, if you look at it in the wider context.
JUNK: What’s the price bracket?
AY: We have pieces that go from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars! A wide variety…
JUNK: Wah! Why so much?
AY: Because someone made it, and someone particularly intelligent made it… It is a special encounter, to see something that another human has made, that I never thought could exist in that particular shape, form, juxtaposition… Art engages me deeply on a personal level. It’s really hard to put a value on that experience.
JS: Really, if you want to talk about the value of artworks, it is all really tied to cost of production, materials, market forces and so on. Honestly, as artists we don’t really stray into the business of art beyond a certain point, but it is good for us to work with galleries who can give us guidance on what the value of our work can be. But, bottom line – if you want to get in to buying and collecting art, there should be something for everyone at the fair.
JUNK: But if say an art piece is $100K, that is like… 20,000 packs of chicken rice?
AY: *Raises eyebrow*
JS: I guess so?
JUNK: OK… so if I buy, then where to put the art? Our living rooms so small. My friend has a big Marvel The Avengers poster in his dining room that he’s really proud of. I don’t think he will want to take that down for an artwork.
AY: Art? Just hang on all your walls, man. Change things around to keep your living spaces interesting. Sometimes, if the piece speaks to me, I just buy first then think about where to hang it later…
JS: I know people who buy small sculptures and use them as paper weights… Can find a use for it, don’t worry.
JUNK: Can group buy or not?
AY: I don’t understand? …Oh, I see. Ah! From what I have learned over the years, art is personal… Sometimes people don’t want to show the world what is very personal to them. So if you group buy you will “expose” yourself! Ha!
JS: Actually… why not? You can time share the art work as a group. Quite a good idea! [Laughs]
JUNK: Art can also buy on Carousell right? At least I can bargain there, right?
AY: Well, I have a collection of vases that I’ve bought from Carousell! I do ikebana and I need vases. So I like to buy weird ones from there…
JS: I think so. Some people do buy art off it… Well, depends on what you consider art.
JUNK: I see. So you say that people should just come and see anyway, and experience the art in person?
AY: Yes, just come! Come see the art and see how you react. Don’t even think about things like what it’s worth. That is not why art is created.
JS: Yes, falling for art is like being in love. You don’t quite understand it, but you love it… Do I make sense? [Looks around, we all nod sagely.]
JUNK: Yeah, think so… OK. So, how much to come see “ART”?
AY: Pretty cheap! It’s $20 for a 4-day pass, or $15 per day. Students and kids enter free, and seniors, $10!
JUNK: Anything else to do while we’re there? Gillman gets quite hot in the afternoon.
AY: Yes, there are. Talks, F&B vendors (Papa Palheta Coffee, Fung Kee Hotdogs & EC Proof cocktails), and a closing party (Ice Cream Sundays), that is open to all, happens on the last day, Sunday the 27th. There will be DJs and even more food options at that event. Come!