Art Insight #11: Lorenzo Rudolf
Founder and Director of Art Stage Singapore
Setting Clear Goals
Every January, Art Stage Singapore opens to an excited crowd of collectors, gallerists and artists. The fair is quickly earning Singapore the title of “Switzerland of Asia,” and since 2011 has gathered a highly selective exhibitor list of roughly 100 galleries spanning 19 countries. China, Korea, Japan and Australia are represented, alongside European staples like Rossi & Rossi from London and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin from Paris.
Each passing year Art Stage Singapore solidifies its status as the cross-section of the luxurious lifestyle that is so often associated with the global art market and its booming business economy. In a climate of multiplying art fairs, each with an established character and standing such as Art Basel and Frieze, Art Stage is in stiff competition. Art Stage Singapore founder and director Lorenzo Rudolf clarifies the fair’s future vision and shares his experiences as former director of Art Basel Miami and co-founder of SH Contemporary.
The art fair is not a mere event that gathers art galleries together in one place. This place is more valuable since everything can be exchanged and shared here. - Lorenzo Rudolf -
Q: What are your responsibilities as fair director of Art Stage Singapore?
A: The main goal of Art Stage Singapore is getting together artists, collectors, and art experts from East and West. I’m taking a role in every single part to achieve this goal. Based on the idea that the Asia Pacific market has to be open but unified at the same time, we try to be a matchmaker event for each part of the art world. This is why we invited opinion leaders and special collectors like Peter Nagy (Nature Morte, India), Emily Chao (Eslite Gallery, Taiwan) and Tomio Koyama (Tomio Koyama Gallery, Japan) to the inaugural program in 2011. Constructing harmonious and accessible art scenes, and creating a platform to provide these interactions between experts and passionate art lovers are the two big discourses of Art Stage Singapore. Put simply, I’m in charge of developing the content of the fair and achieving economical goals.
Q: What makes Art Stage Singapore distinct from other fairs?
A: It is an art fair held in Asia, so it should have its own identity. There are a lot of different kinds of fairs in the West, and it can’t be a copy of any of them. Supporting Asian art is a responsibility of this fair, so we put a lot of effort in providing opportunities to present that to the worldwide market and help communications. It’s not only about supporting artists, but also supporting galleries located in Asia. A lot of Western galleries are launching branches here. This is not only because they want to expand their markets, but because they want to introduce Asian artists and develop the local markets. So, we have a unique platform to present Asian art.
Q: The theme of next year’s edition is “We Are Asia.” You have been dedicated to regional emphasis since the beginning, but what helped you first come to that approach?
A: We need to remind people that Asia is comprised of separate entities. Each country has a strong nationalism and is not as cohesive as the United States or Europe. There is Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia and India, each with their own identities within their own territories. Many people ask me what I am doing to connect the Western and Eastern art world. I personally think that to connect the world, there must be enthusiastic communication among the Asian countries. Asia is not one thing. There are a lot of “Asias.” We introduce Southeast Asian art to other regions, and by doing so, we are giving an opportunity to understand each other’s art.
Q: From the public point of view, the art fair means a place for trade or market. You attempt to convey the philosophy and innovate the relationship; it seems as if you overestimate the role of the art fair, aren’t you?
A: The art fair is not a mere event that gathers art galleries together in one place. In a certain way, the fair should function as the museum. This fair introducing the art of Asia especially that of south-east Asia has to do more than connecting the buyer and the seller. This place is more valuable since everything can be exchanged and shared here. This is the meaning of our fair; this is why we get all kinds of artists together. Especially as the entrance of south-east Asia and the geographical center, Singapore is qualified to connect the art of all over the world.
Q: What do you think is the relationship between the museum and the art fair? How can that relationship reach a harmonious balance?
A: For a long time, museums, institutions and art criticism defined what good art is. However, in the last 10 to 15 years, this has completely changed. These days, a good artwork means an expensive artwork. And it’s directly related to influencing big art fairs and galleries. There is no single standard for art. It would seem that institutions could do something about this phenomenon, but that’s actually a naïve thought. The one obvious fact is that there must be balance between the commercial and non-commercial. Our fair really tries to achieve that. To show commercial art is important, but it is also important to make people realize that this idea “art is about consuming and the more expensive the better” is not true at all. In fact, the commercial and non-commercial are now two sides of art, but they were just one in the beginning.
Q: As a major figure in international art fairs, what are your thoughts on the Korean art scene?
A: I really love Korea. Korea has deep cultural characteristics and it seems Korean contemporary art well recognizes what is Korean art. It is intriguing that Korean art is always progressing with society. The galleries are really professional and competitive, which makes Korean art more developed. ■ with ARTINPOST
Installation view of Suzann Victor <Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre> Series Photo: ARTINPOST
Installation view of Galerie Perrotin booth Photo: ARTINPOST
Desire Obtain Cherish <Intensive Care Units> Presented by & Image Courtesy of UNIX Gallery
Installation view of Park Seung Mo <The Paradox of Illusion> in Ode To Art booth
<Gilbert & George> Presented by White Cube
Installation view of Special Exhibition Russia featuring works by AES+F Photo: ARTINPOST
Installation view of OPIM Gallery booth Photo: ARTINPOST
Richard Streitmatter-Tran Presented by CUC Gallery Photo: ARTINPOST
Installation view of Opera Gallery booth Photo: ARTINPOST
Installation view of Gordon Gallery booth Photo: ARTINPOST
Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore His Excellency Dr. Andri Hadi with Lorenzo Rudolf, watching Shintaro Miyake in action at Tomio Koyama Gallery booth
Born in 1959 in Bern, Switzerland, Lorenzo Rudolf was appointed director of Art Basel in 1991. At the iconic art event, he set up a long-term strategy and successfully oversaw a global expansion, including the addition of Art Basel Miami. After leaving Art Basel in 2000, he operated the Frankfurt Book Fair until 2003, and also launched Shanghai’s contemporary art fair SH Contemporary. He founded Art Stage Singapore in 2010 and held its first edition the following year.