[Interview] Douwe Cramer: The Future Of Contemporary Art Lands In Singapore

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Douwe Cramer, Show Director at Singapore Contemporary Art Show

We sat down with Douwe Cramer, Show Director at Singapore Contemporary Art Show to talk about everything from this year’s amazing (and inaugural) event to the A,B,C’s of contemporary art. This year, the stage has been set in Singapore for arguably one of the most anticipated art events in the region. With the theme “A World of Art”, the show will present more than 3,000 works of art from 65 exhibitors and installation art by 14 artists. Exhibiting galleries are from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia will turn the 6,000 square meter space at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Center into a smorgasbord of multi-sensory entertainment for all to enjoy.

Here’s what Douwe had to say about the show this year..

1. How different is the Singapore Contemporary Art Show from the Asia Contemporary Art Show held in Hong Kong?

We think about it this way – at our twice-a-year Shows in Hong Kong we curate living spaces in the luxury of a 5-star hotel. The team at the Conrad Hong Kong pulls out all the stops and the visitor experience is one of discovery, plus conversation with many artists present at the Show in a quiet and a bit more private environment.
Singapore Contemporary on the other hand will be a series of curated gallery spaces, more clean in format but no less engaging and ordered around three sections: Artist Dialogues, China Encounters and Gallery Projects. Suntec Singapore is a world-class venue and offers flexibility in space usage for public art installations, live art demonstrations, an extensive program of tours and a kid’s art workshop. These are things we cannot practically do in Hong Kong.

For The Love of God" by Damien Hirst, Pop and C…e, Booth B02
For The Love of God” by Damien Hirst, Pop and C…e, Booth B02

2. Economically, Singapore and Hong Kong are similar. How would you compare the Singapore art market to the Hong Kong art market?

Singapore and Hong Kong are both developing art markets. Apart from a group of dedicated collectors who regularly visit galleries and arts events, there are numerous successful professionals with high discretionary income and various leisure interests including art. The challenge is to raise awareness for visual art – both for personal enjoyment and for investment – among this group.

I frequently hear that the average art buyer in Singapore purchases relatively lower priced works compared to Hong Kong. But Singapore is the third wealthiest nation in the world measured by GDP with Hong Kong only in tenth place. One really significant difference is of course the booming auction market in Hong Kong with all the world’s major auction houses having twice yearly auctions for contemporary art in Hong Kong.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong act as an “arts hub” in Asia, Singapore very much for South-east Asia and Hong Kong for East Asia and China. This geographic difference does impact the range and origins of artworks that are widely available in each city.

3. Where should one start shopping for contemporary art?

Without wanting to beat my own drum – at an art show like Singapore Contemporary where there is an abundant choice of artworks in different price ranges, in many styles and from many geographic and cultural origins. There are many artists and galleries to speak with, there are other collectors to speak with. We like to create an event to see, buy and talk about art and that builds confidence.

Finding My Own" by Anya Brock, Art Front Gallery…e, Booth C09
Finding My Own” by Anya Brock, Art Front Gallery…e, Booth C09

4. Should one buy art with a specific idea of where to hang it, or is that a secondary consideration?

I think that depends. If buying for personal enjoyment it means usually that you will want to have the artwork in your home. You know probably the spaces you have in your home and visualize how a certain work would fit. Sometimes a buyer will go out with a specific idea of the space to fill with an artwork and that can work fine but then you are somewhat limiting your choice in terms of size and maybe style or color. It is all possible and a good way to look at it. If buying purely for investment, it is probably not a consideration.

5. How much research should be done prior, and how should one research?

I think you do research prior and during the process of a purchase. In our case we are providing buyers access to many of the artworks that will be at the show through our website Asia Contemporary Art Buyer . This allows collectors to come with a particular focus and better allocate their time at the show. During the buying process it pays to do some research into prices for works by the same artist, reviewing the artist biography, having a good look at the background and track record of the gallery. These days the internet can provide most information you need. And then I always recommend buyers to talk a lot to other buyers during our shows.

6. It looks like Singapore Contemporary will offer a couple of cool programs for kids. Why should parents be encouraged to bring their children to these programs and/or to view the art at SCAS? What are the benefits for teaching kids about art from an early age?

Yes, we have TWO really cool programs for kids. The idea is that if children experience art at a young age, it will enhance their creativity and hopefully be the beginning of a life-long love of art! All our programs are complimentary, and on a first-come, first-served basis.

MACEY AND SONS KIDS ART TOURS – Conducted by Little Artists Art Studio, these fun and educational tours are open to children from 5yrs to 11yrs of age. Please meet at the Macey and Sons Kids Art Tours counter right inside the main entrance at 10 minutes before the hour. Tours are limited to 15 children. Tour times are Friday January 22 – 4/5pm; Saturday January 23 – 12/1/2/3/4pm;Sunday January 24 – 12/1/2/3/4pm

MACEY AND SONS KIDS ART STUDIO IN BOOTH B12: Also operated by Little Artists Art Studio, this is a fun place for children from 3yrs to 11yrs of age to engage in supervised painting, drawing and other art projects. Experienced art teachers will coach children in the creation of a unique artwork to either display at the Show or take home. There is also a great display of artworks by talented students from the Little Artists Art Studio – drop by and take a look!

“A Scar – Time is Your Enemy” by Gao Xiao Yun, Ga…a, Booth A03

7. What about first-time buyers or new collectors — particularly ones on a more modest budget? What can they aim to do, learn or buy at SCAS? Is all of the art really $10,000 and up?

There are works below the price point of $10,000 just as there will be works above $100,000. But not all first-time collectors are on a tight budget. The reason for first time buyers to come to Singapore Contemporary is to see a very wide range of art with lots of choices. It is an environment that is much less intimidating than an art gallery for many of them, and offers opportunity to compare works, artists, styles, prices. And with our Artist Dialogues section featuring solo exhibition from an artist with the artist present at the booth throughout the show, there is a great opportunity for first-time buyers to meet and speak with some great artists directly.

8. For expats who have experienced Art Basel or other art events around the globe, how will SCAS stand out? What makes is uniquely Singaporean?

The most obvious answer is that Singapore Contemporary is “in” Singapore and makes a very large and diverse selection of art from around the world available and accessible here in Singapore. No matter how many international collectors will be coming to the show, in the end it is more than likely that 80% of all visitors will be local residents. That is the same for every art show – even Art Basel in Hong Kong. Art shows bring art to the people.

9. What are you looking forward to most in the local art scene in 2016?

It’s a fact that Singapore is acknowledged as the arts-hub in Southeast Asia with several world-class museums including the recently opened National Gallery Singapore. It has the largest choice and diversity of art works available anywhere in the region, with a healthy and diverse art ecology. And yet – sometimes it is considered a “developing” art market when compared to cities such as London, Amsterdam or New York – mostly in terms of awareness, interest and understanding of visual arts in the community. World-class institutions such as the National Gallery Singapore and large scale events such as Singapore Art Week and the principal art fairs offer broader public accessibility. Efforts are designed to engage not just art collectors, but people who do not regularly attend arts events nor art galleries. This promotes understanding of arts in the community and builds awareness and interest. With over 100 events spanning Singapore Art Week, there is the opportunity to draw many international visitors interested in art

10. In one sentence, what do you hope to achieve through the Singapore Contemporary?

Simply, that we will deliver a groundbreaking art show experience where buyers of art find what they are looking for and exhibitors extend the reach and reputation of their artists – this will set things up nicely for the next edition in 2017. Really – as an art show organizer we serve as matchmaker for buyers and sellers, a marriage of sorts. That’s our job.

Three Beggars With The Holy Grail by Iqi Qoror, Art Font Gallery, Singapore, Booth C09
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