Despite the government’s desperate attempts to position Singapore as Southeast Asia’s arts hub, flagging figures at major shows and accusations of artificiality have put the city-state’s art scene under more scrutiny than ever
Singapore has long tried to combat its reputation as a cultural desert. An influx of state funding in the past two decades has almost singlehandedly cultivated an art scene from the top down, as the city-state has tried to locate itself as a premier destination for art in Southeast Asia and beyond. But in a bombshell interview with the South China Morning Post in January this year, Lorenzo Rudolf, the founder and president of Art Stage Singapore – long hailed as the flagship Southeast Asian contemporary arts fair – delivered a shockingly sobering assessment of the arts scene in the city-state.
“Strong economic growth has led to many new galleries and private museums opening in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Everywhere, everywhere, the art scene booms. The only place we have stagnation is Singapore,” he told the Hong Kong-based newspaper. “If the market doesn’t grow, then I will have to reflect on what I do. I sure won’t be sitting here until the end.”
And Rudolf echoed those sentiments to Southeast Asia Globe last month.
“Everybody truly thought that Singapore [could] become the centre of this entire region,” he said. “Singapore mainly concentrated on its own art scene, while in the countries around Singapore, art scenes massively grew due to economic growth and, often consequently, social liberalisation. The private sectors and collectors began to take over responsibilities to support and develop the growth of the scenes… As a result, we have this situation today that there is a danger of these art scenes around Singapore becoming more attractive internationally… We see now that it is harder to build up culture than infrastructure.”
Read Cristyn Lloyd’s complete report on SEA Globe.
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