The Best Booths of ART SG 2024 – celebritiestalks.com
ART SG has officially returned to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center for its second edition, and even if the exhibitor list was noticeably smaller than last year’s fair, the strong energy of 2023 was still present. Just before its 2 p.m. opening, a line had already formed in front of the entrance to its top floor. Inside, dealers seemed enthusiastic.
Several galleries, like Lehmann Maupin and White Cube, did report sales by the early evening. Thaddaeus Ropac, for its part, said it sold an Anselm Kiefer painting for 1.1 million euros, or just under $1.2 million. More than a dozen galleries also reported first-day sales of works under $100,000, with one art dealer noting the lower price point helped sell a higher volume compared to last year’s fair.
Still, several people told ARTnews the pace of buying continued to differ from fairs in other cities.
“People in Singapore take a little bit more time,” Hong Kong–based gallerist Daphne King-Yoo of Alisan Fine Arts told ARTnews. “We did the bulk [of sales last year] after the fair had closed.”
This year’s offerings include thoughtful meditations on the pain of immigration, visual tricks made using embroidery, and paintings produced via labor-intensive processes.
Below, a look at the best booths on view at ART SG, which runs through Sunday, January 21.
Ken Nwadiogbu at Retro Africa
Retro Africa’s solo presentation of Ken Nwadiogbu’s portraits of friends and family members was the clear standout in the fair’s Focus section. The London-based Nigerian artist has a background in photography and video, and it shows through in his colorful charcoal, oil, and acrylic paintings about the pain of migration. Some are imbued with a quiet sense of longing for has been lost in the process—whether for loved ones left at home or simply a pet that couldn’t make the journey. Nwadiogbu said he wanted to evoke his own immigrant experience in “a very calm, very soft, but very striking way.”
For “Journey Mercies: A Migration Symphony,” the series of works on view at the fair, Nwadiogbu’s uses moody shades of yellow and orange to evoke nostalgia. The colors are intense, mirroring the deeply felt emotions that come with building a life in a new place. His subjects gaze directly back at their viewers, urging them to understand their lives.
Far From Home, one of the works that sold on the fair’s first day, is a portrait of the artist’s cousin standing in the rain with a loyal dog. It came out of Nwadiogbu’s emotional separation from his own pet and his attempts to travel with an African passport. “We have to talk about that pain we go through,” Nwadiogbu said.
Kyungah Ham at Kukje Gallery
It would be easy to quickly walk by this Kyungah Ham work, showing a giant, glittering chandelier, and mistake it for a large print, so realistic are its details. But this piece is actually a large-scale embroidered textile made from silk thread, and its image is a reference to the state of postwar Korea, which was split in two by the United States and the Soviet Union as World War II ended. Ham’s work is made via computer designs that are then smuggled into North Korea through intermediaries based in Russia or China. Anonymous artisans are paid to do the labor-intensive stitching, and then anonymous artisans, whom she has never met or spoken to, are paid to convert them into embroideries. The works are then smuggled back out of the country through bribes and additional guile.
The piece, titled What you see is unseen / Chandeliers for Five Cities, also contains a hidden image of a young boy holding a pistol, a reference to the ongoing militarization of North Korea. The concept came after Ham viewed a documentary about the Mass Games, the tightly choreographed music, dance and gymnastics performed by thousands of people in Pyongyang. Through these motions, the performers become something a massive human billboard, with flip books held in front of their faces. Watching footage of the Mass Games, Ham saw the face of a young boy peeking through. She’s said she views that boy as being akin to the embroidery workers involved in making her art.
Kang Kang Hoon at Johyun Gallery
Much like the Ham textile at Kukje’s booth, the Kang Kang Hoon paintings brought to the fair by Johyun Gallery look a lot like photographs. The Korean artist wants to capture people and places that he witnessed, but these images are also embedded with references to the past and the future. The left portrait depicts Hoon’s daughter, while the cotton fluff symbolizes his mother, gallery director Min-Young Joo told ARTnews.
The gallery also featured strong works by Lee Bae, Park Seo-bo, Jin Meyerson, and Lee Kwang Ho.
Puja Modal at Anant Art
Anant Art, a gallery based near New Delhi, brought to the fair works by eight Indian artists, many of whom referenced the labor-intensive tradition of miniature painting, which dates back to 7th century CE. The artists shown at Anant used the technique to illustrate classical stories, modern wrestlers, and abstract words in a testament to the power of language.
One of the largest works on display was by Puja Modal. For Listening to the grasshoppers II, Modal covered a four-by-six-foot sheet of paper with an image of dense foliage painted in indigo watercolor. It’s a work that appears serene and tranquil, but also contains explicit social commentary, according to gallery founder and director Mamta Singhania. Amid all the leaves, there are men and weapons—they represent the marginalization of communities based on religion and class. There’s also a woman reading a book; she is isolated in a box due to her beliefs.
“We are dividing and separating communities from each other, and that’s what she’s trying to bring out in the work in a subtle way,” Singhania told ARTnews.
Natee Utarit at Richard Koh Fine Art
Thai artist Natee Utarit’s three oil paintings, all of which are accompanied by variations on the title The Invisible Rhyme of Romantic Disaster and the Radical, evoke feminine rage with their images of women in stylish dresses, threatening to destroy art objects in boutique hotel rooms. A model ship is shown being tossed in one image, yet the others featuring women throwing or tearing at paintings and sculptures.
The images are meant as a sarcastic reaction to the corporatization of art. “It’s not just about painting, it’s about what’s going on in the world right now,” gallerist Richard Koh told ARTnews, noting Utarit’s lack of interest in engaging with museums or collectors. “The irony is, this is a painting telling you an anti-painting story.”
Tai Shani at Gathering
Turner Prize–winning British artist Tai Shani has a solo booth with the London gallery Gathering that showcases an intriguing array of works referencing burial rites and feminine martyrs. The oil paintings and carpet included here represent abstract versions of tarot cards and visions inspired by the elaborate sets from 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. These works find a parallel between the persecution of Joan of Arc and more contemporary forms of feminist protest.
Shivani Aggarwal at Studio Art
Shivani Aggarwal’s set of wooden newspapers made of teak, titled Time and Transformation Series 2, is intentionally paradoxical: its careful handwritten text details the small radical changes that can be made through the work of common citizens, but the work remains completely static. The series was inspired by the radical shift from print newspapers to digital news consumption in India during the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We actually stopped receiving [newspapers] at home because we didn’t want them,” gallery director Ashna Singh told ARTnews.
Studio Art also featured two embroidery series by Aggrawal on canvas. The carefully stitched works give the appearance of mesh cloth, but they actually hold nothing. Instead, they act as cotton visions of emptiness and tension.
The Best Booths of ART SG 2024 – celebritiestalks.com