Diversity and Dialogue: What Makes a Spectacular Art Show

The Singapore Contemporary Art Show sends a strong message about art.

By Rachel Tan


Singapore Contemporary Art Show
20 – 22 Jan, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

We live in a time of great change and flux. Art as we know it has transformed and transgressed in many ways: it is no longer confined within superfluous boundaries, defined by a select handful, or destined for certain eyes only. There is freedom to produce, and there is freedom to consume. This is evident everywhere, from the rise of iPhone photography, to graffiti, open mics and poetry slams, contemporary architecture and even (or especially so) in fashion. Sometimes it is quick and casual, other times it is introspective and demanding. Sometimes it is both of these, other times it is neither.

I stretch this illustration out to serve as a potent reminder that altogether, art today is a celebration of diversity. And that’s what the Singapore Contemporary Art Show delivers in liberal portions.

The art hall is divided into 5 sections – Photo17 Singapore, Latin American Voices, Artists Dialogues, China Encounters, and Gallery Projects. Each sector is designed to showcase various mediums and influences of art.

For instance, Gallery Projects features artwork by Lee YoungHa (pictured below). It’s a stunning oil-on-canvas on first glance, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice that the canvas is folded intentionally into ridges, and both sides are painted with great precision. This allows the audience to see 2 different images, depending on the angle at which the art is seen. It’s a juxtaposition of old and new, past and future, dreams and reality. He paints portraits of prominent and deeply-revered figures; those on display include Martin Luther King Jr, Obama, Lee Kuan Yew, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton and Audrey Hepburn.

Lee YoungHa, Lee Kuan Yew

Then, there are other equally experimental artists – Jeff Murray, who works solely with pen and ink and pure grit, Malaysian artist Azad Daniel Haris, who recreates Space Invasion using plastic cups, and Sara Zaher, who uses photo manipulation and LED panels to critically examine our fixation with social media.

Sara Zaher, The Lost Generation

The message resonates loud and clear: let art transcend social and cultural boundaries and communicate in ways that language cannot. The show extols the virtues of difference and diversity and I feel strangely at home here. (There are live painting demonstrations, talks, and even workshops for children. It’s all very inclusive.)

Douwe Cramer

I see the show director, Douwe Cramer, alone for a brief moment and catch him for a quick word. He is polite and patient, and tells me that the Art Show fulfils many purposes. It creates a platform for artists all over the world to come together and interact with their audience. This dialogue and communication is fundamental. “Collectors don’t buy art because of the gallery,” he explains, “they buy it because of the artist.” Knowing the artists’ backgrounds and context under which their art manifests is imperative. It helps us forge an inexplicable connection to the artwork, and this is the basis of appreciating art. Where you have supply and demand, you have a functioning and thriving market for art. “It’s not always the starving artists that create the best art,” he reminds me. And he’s right. The art pieces are flying off the hooks, some were sold even before I arrived at the show. You can buy an artwork for $50, or as high as $25,000.

Vincent Fournier, Mars Desert Research Station

This is a show well worth the trip. It is a conglomeration and praise of styles, forms, inspirations and intentions. The variety of art showcased heightens and contrasts the uniqueness of each piece, in ways that must be felt to truly understand. Engage freely with the artists if you can, for they offer passionate words and interesting perspectives.

Find out more here.