Singapore Lures Buyers With Hirst, Romanee-Conti, Pussy Riot

Jan 15, 2014 12:48 pm ET

(Adds VIPs in second paragraph.)

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore is taking center stage on the global art circuit this week as collectors descend on the city-state for Southeast Asia’s largest art fair, auctions and a video by Russian feminist art collective Pussy Riot.

Anchoring Singapore Art Week is Art Stage, a fair featuring 130 galleries offering works by Takashi Murakami and Nam June Paik. More than 1,000 champagne-drinking VIPs got a preview of works at Marina Bay Sands Convention Center today, where traditionally some of the most important purchases are made before Art Stage opens to the public on Jan. 16. Collectors browsing the fair included Indonesian tycoon Budiardjo Tek, Swiss collector Uli Sigg and Tan Su Shan, head of consumer banking at DBS Bank Ltd.

“It’s off to a very strong start,” said Muo Zheng, manager of Taipei-based Lin & Lin Gallery who sold a Zao Wou-Ki painting for $1.2 million to a Singapore collector. “They have made more of an effort to bring in VIPs.”

In its fourth year, Art Stage plays a major part in Singapore’s quest to develop itself into a regional art hub to lure more high-net-worth individuals to settle there. Though smaller than Hong Kong’s Art Basel fair held in May, Art Stage aims at preserving its regional character in the island-state with new galleries from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos exhibiting for the first time.

It’s also a huge opportunity for Singapore-based galleries to attract a wider clientele.

“A lot of collectors are coming in from the region,” said Janice Kim, owner of Space Cottonseed, which is showing four works from Nam June Paik priced between $110,000 and $400,000. “For me this is the most important week.”

High-Net Worth

Singapore has 174,000 millionaires and neighboring Indonesia another 123,000, according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2013.

Local dealer Galerie Sogan & Art is showing works by Singaporean artist Jolene Lai, including a painting of a woman prone on a slaughtering block surrounded by animals.

Blue-chip international galleries are using Art Stage to feature Asian artists alongside more established western names. Galerie Perrotin is showing Filipino Ronald Ventura, who holds the auction record for a living Southeast Asian artist, with French artist Sophie Calle and Takashi Murakami of Japan.

Primo Marella of Milan is presenting Indonesian painter Heri Dono and London’s White Cube is featuring Zhang Huan and Liu Wei next to Damien Hirst and Quinn, as well as more conceptual pieces from Damian Ortega and Cerith Wyn Evans.

Romanee-Conti

Auction houses are taking advantage of the influx of well- heeled clients this week to hold sales.

Borobudur Fine Art Auction Pte’s Jan. 18 sale features Romanee-Conti wines estimated to sell for as much as $14,400 per bottle, jewelry, a painting by Indonesian modern master Affandi with a high estimate of $400,000 and four works by I Nyoman Masriadi.

Rival auction houses East-Ouest, Larasati and 33Auction are also holding sales.

For those with tighter budgets, Art Apart Fair will transform rooms, lobbies and corridors at the Park Royal Hotel into pop-up galleries from Jan. 17-19 to sell mostly works by lesser-known artists at prices below S$10,000 ($7,890).

On Jan. 18, at a black-tie gala dinner, Prudential Eye Awards will announce the winner of its emerging artists competition from a short list, including a video by Pussy Riot from Russia and Yang Yongliang from China.

Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina, who was released from prison on Dec. 23 under an amnesty issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin after being jailed for inciting religious hatred and hooliganism, will attend.

Art Stage runs from Jan. 16-19 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center.

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--Editors: Andreea Papuc, Christian Baumgaertel