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Posts Tagged ‘Singapore art’

Pop culture references abound in Indonesian art: curator Eva McGovern discusses Indieguerillas’ Happy Victims and the Southeast Asian art climate

Posted by artradar on June 23, 2010


INDONESIAN CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY EXHIBITION

Indieguerillas is made up of Indonesian husband-and-wife duo Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti, whose artistic skills stem from roots in the design industry. Known for their smooth blending of pop culture aesthetics, subtle social commentary and use of traditional Javanese folklore elements, Indieguerillas presented “Happy Victims“, their latest solo exhibition, at Valentine Willie Fine Art Singapore.

The title “Happy Victims” reflects the fact that consumers have willingly but unconsciously become dominated by capitalist spending customs – people no longer spend only for pure necessity, but now spend to gain symbols of status and success. Touching on this popular subject, Indieguerillas’ renderings are colourful and uplifting. A good sense of humour and playful attitude draw the viewer in to investigate the relationships between various elements in their works: sneakers, Mao’s headshot, Astro Boy, Colonel Sanders, Javanese folklore characters.

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

All Hail the Choreographer, acrylic on wood, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

The Southeast Asian art scene is both fascinating and difficult, elements which are highlighted in “Happy Victims” and can be attributed to the area’s diversity and rich cultural history. Art Radar Asia spoke with Eva McGovern, the exhibition’s curator, to talk about Indieguerillas, the show, Southeast Asian art, and her experiences working in the region.

Can you describe the process of curating Indieguerillas’ “Happy Victims”? How did you generate the idea?

As it is a solo show by Indieguerillas, the central idea of “happy victims of the capitalism and the material world” was generated by the artists themselves. The curator provides the support structure. One of my personal interests is in urban and youth culture and street style, so I got to know the two artists about 18 months ago and visited their studio. We discussed their idea together, taking inspirations from urban culture.

What’s unique about the Miko Bawono and Santi Ariestyowanti working as a duo?

Miko and Santi have worked together since 1999 and formed Indieguerillas professionally in 2002. The husband-and-wife team usually conceptualise together for the overall big picture. Then, Miko usually makes the initial design and outlines the images while Santi creates the details. They share similar interests in urban and youth culture, which is a big part of their lives. Their works are the visual output of how they live their lives basically.

What’s the unique quality of Indieguerillas’ works compared to other contemporary Indonesian art? Is it their use of youth culture?

It is actually very popular in contemporary Indonesian art creation to incorporate urban culture elements. For example, there is a huge mural tradition in Yogyakarta [which is] common and well celebrated. Younger artists are very interested in this dimension and Indonesia is a very playful place. So lots of humour [and] social comedies can be seen in contemporary Indonesian art.

There are two striking things about Indieguerillas: first, the fact that they work as a husband-and-wife team; second, their proficient experimentation with multiple medium – paintings, installation, design, etc. They benefit from their position as designers by training. Graphic design influences the way they construct their works where there is a considerable amount of experimental energy. They do some commercial work as well, and operate between the two worlds – fine art and commercial art.

Hunter-Gatherer Society III  Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art

Hunter-Gatherer Society III Javanicus Sk8erensis-Hi, mixed media, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you elaborate more on the overlapping between fine art and design manifested in their works?

While design has an imbedded sense of usefulness and fine art is not about being useful, the line between fine art and design is a very flexible one. Indieguerillas do make merchandise and T-shirts, and customised sneakers. In terms of the show [“Happy Victim”], objects are fine art. It can be a bit dangerous trying to block down Indieguerillas in any camp. In this post-modern world, anything goes really.

Design is more acceptable in a way because it can reflect the pop culture we are in. People enjoy looking at design objects, which implies that power comes with an entertaining medium, so artists can convey their messages more effectively. Indieguerillas are not making political comments but simply observations, incorporating Javanese folklore. It is about how things meet and collide together. Even if no one gets the message behind, the beautiful design with its youth finish is pleasing to look at; viewers can just get a sense of enjoyment when looking at the execution of their works. Their works become a bit more sinister as you spend more time looking at it.

By lifting and restyling the Javanese folklore and wayang (shadow puppetry) and mixing them with comical and urban objects such as briefcase and sneakers, Indieguerillas display their sense of cultural pride while connecting with the younger audience.

Across contemporary Indonesian art, is it common that the traditional elements are reinvented to adapt to the new context?

The trauma of political events is still very resonating to people. Traditional culture is still very influential and you can never really escape it. The younger generation of Indonesian artists are more focused on asking themselves about their identities: what it means to be “Indonesian”, what it means to live in the 21st century…. They try to deal with these issues in an open-ended playful way. Indonesian art has many discourses around these issues, supported by solid academic writings.

The Marionette Faithful, Screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate & digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010, Courtesy of artists and VWFA

The Marionette Faithful, screen printing on teakwood, aluminum plate and digital printing on acrylic sheet, 2010. Courtesy of artists and Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Can you share with us your views on the art scene in Southeast Asia and any regional differences you noticed, in particular, between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore?

It can be troublesome when trying to discuss generally and authoritatively such a complex region [as] Southeast Asia. If I were to make some observations, I would say:

Indonesia:

It is much bigger and has many more artists producing a huge volume of interesting art. There are many more art centres in the country too: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta. The nature of the communities in the country is very creative and art is well integrated into daily life. Art and creativity is celebrated here.

There is stronger international funding compared to Malaysia and the country’s link to Holland is still very productive in terms of arts funding, cross cultural dialogues, residencies and exhibitions. Overall, Indonesian artists have more confidence about being “artists”.

Malaysia:

Having gained its independence in 1957, the country is much influenced by being more multi-racial. Malaysia has a challenging funding structure for the art, because it is not appreciated or valued as much. Institutionally, the country does not have an intellectual voice guiding or analyzing contemporary art. There are not enough curators and writers. Commercial galleries are leading the way of what kind of art is being bought and seen.

Since the 1990s, artists turned their preoccupation to social commentary and released their frustration in their works. There are several camps of artists: market-friendly traditionalists who are locally inspired and interested in abstract expressionist and realist painting, and the more international groups doing conceptual, performative and installation based work.

Singapore:

There are a lot less artists but the funding stream is well established. The country has a set of well integrated resources, such as biennales and art fairs. It is facing a top-heavy situation: it has an internationally influenced strategy on top, while due to the strict censorship, art creation is much more challenging in terms of producing politically critical work.

What is often seen is some beautifully crafted installation [work] and engagement with international critical theory and conceptual practive. Artists could be more provocative in terms of social commentary, but they are unable or don’t want to do so in this slick and modern, and financially stable, country.

Can you share with us your personal experiences working in the region? How did you first start working in Malaysia?

I came to Malaysia in 2008. Prior to that, I worked in London at a major gallery for four years. I am half English, half Malaysian. Before coming back, I got interested in the burgeoning Southeast Asian art scene and was getting a sense of what is going on. In London, a lot of my time was devoted to facilitating other people’s programmes and I did not have time to research on topics I was interested in.

After I came back, I started writing for a lot of magazines, so I forced myself to think critically. Then I started to teach Malaysian art history in Singapore. I was invited to be part of a group curatorial show on Southeast Asian in February 2009 in Hong Kong. I also work as the Managing Editor of Arteri, an arts blog that looks at Malaysian and  Southeast Asian art. I was accepting a lot of opportunities coming my way in order to figure out what my true interests were. I will be joining Valentine Willie Fine Art to become their regional curator soon.

Back here, hierarchy is not as tight as in London or the US. One is able to connect with the artists and make tangible contributions. Unlike being a small fish in a huge over saturated pond, I feel I am part of a growing changing scene. I find it very inspiring and rewarding to work with people with shared experiences, who are committed to doing something great.

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Related Topics: Southeast Asian artists, curators, interviews

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Posted in Asian, Cartoon, Consumerism, Curators, Design, Gallery shows, Graffiti, Indonesia, Indonesian, Interviews, Malaysian, Overviews, Painting, Pop Art, Professionals, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Themes and subjects, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is Singapore threatening Hong Kong as next Asian art mecca? Wall Street Journal

Posted by artradar on November 17, 2009


SINGAPORE AND HONG KONG’S COMPETING ART MARKET

Singapore’s art scene has grown rapidly since its 1989 government mandate to recognize the “importance of culture and the art.” Thriving to a point that, according to The Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong–Asia’s epicenter of art–is beginning to take its competitor seriously.

Hong Kong’s challenging art scene

Today’s numbers would suggest that Hong Kong has nothing to worry about for competition.  Hong Kong is currently the third-largest auction market in the world with both Christie’s and Sotheby’s in its territory, and has set aside close to US$3 billion in order to create a much needed world class arts and culture development known as West Kowloon Cultural District. The project, however, has been slow to start and left many frustrated.

“The Hong Kong government first hit upon the idea in 1998 of building an integrated arts and culture neighborhood on 40 hectares of reclaimed land in the West Kowloon district. After many fits and starts, planning for the project recently picked up some momentum…Nevertheless, even if it all goes as planned, the first phase won’t be open until 2016.”

West Kowloon

One of the proposed models for the West Kowoon Cultural Centre

The West Kowloon project has been “frustrating and painful,” says Asia Art Archive’s Ms. Hsu, who is also on the advisory panel for the museum at the new West Kowloon development. “For the public it has looked like the government is stalling, but it gives me a lot of hope. The government is very concerned about getting it right.’”

Singapore makes its move

The time spent behind making Hong Kong’s “necessary cultural move” may eventually result in Singapore gaining ground in the market by the country’s pushing ahead with so many art-hub projects of their own.

“It [Singapore] invested more than US$1 billion in infrastructure, including several museums and a 4,000-seat complex of theaters, studios and concert halls called the Esplanade, which opened in 2002, and spiced up its arts programming with diversity and a regional flavor.”

singapore esplanade

The Esplanade, Singapore

The benefits of Singapore’s art initiatives are already apparent. According to Singapore’s National Arts Council “between 1997 and 2007, the ‘vibrancy’ of the local art scene, measured by the number of performances and exhibition days, quadruped to more than 26,000.”

However, Singapore is still missing a key ingredient to perhaps prosper further: a big art-auction market like Hong Kong’s.

“Some smaller art-auction houses hold sales in Singapore, but the big ones — Christie’s and Sotheby’s — have pulled out and moved their Southeast Asian art auctions to Hong Kong, the former British colony that is home to seven million people and became a Chinese territory in 1997.”

For a city, having the ingredients for a thriving art market creates a virtuous circle. The powerful marketing machines of the big auction houses, including public previews of coming sales, raises awareness and appreciation of art in the community. All this encourages local artists to create more art. And that momentum, in turn, contributes to the development of a city’s broader cultural scene, including music, theater and design.”

Singapore looks ahead

The relationship between big art-auction markets and a thriving art scene can be so entangled that it would appear difficult to navigate a new course in order to adequately compete. Singapore, it seems, is trying anyways.

“Undaunted, Singapore is diligently pushing ahead and has opened several museums and other arts venues while Hong Kong has dithered on the construction of West Kowloon. Christie’s also recently picked Singapore to be the site of a global fine-arts storage facility to open in a duty-free zone in January.”

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Posted in Advisors, Auctions, Biennials, Business of art, China, Chinese, Collectors, Fairs, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Market watch, Shanghai, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Uncategorised | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

New auction houses with new strategies open in Singapore art market

Posted by artradar on October 28, 2009


ASIAN ART MARKET TRENDS

Usually, to be a part of the bubbling Asian art market scene, buyers need to associate themselves with industry leaders Christie’s and Sotheby’s for lack of other options. In South East Asia, however, there’s a new way for collectors to discover their contemporary art. According to a recent article by the New York Times, a host of new and smaller auction houses—such as Borobudur, 33 Auction, and Larasati in Singapore—have successfully emerged to “fill in the gaps” of the market, which means they are opening their doors to a broader range of the market, from high-end collectors to first time buyers. So far, sales suggest this may be the right strategy to entice new buyers:

“Last week, sales by two auction houses in Singapore, Borobudur and 33 Auction, brought in a combined $10 million, with the larger sale, by Borobudur, easily beating its pre-sale estimate. Later this month another Singapore auctioneer, Larasati, will offer 160 lots of Asian modern and contemporary art with an estimated value of 2 million Singapore dollars, or $1.4 million.”

A.C. Andre Tananma, "Run Away" 2008. Part of Larasati's Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction in Singapore on October 25th, 2009.

A.C. Andre Tananma, "Run Away" 2008. Part of Larasati's Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Auction, Singapore, 25 October 2009.

Many of the new auctions houses have developed as off springs from established galleries, such as 33 Auction (Singapore), Maestro Auction House (Jakarta, Singapore) and Kingsley Art Auction (Beijing), as a way of broadening their offerings to current clients, while also becoming accessible to new ones:

“Like everything else, the art market is not immune from the global recession and consequently sales at most galleries have been down for the past 12 months,” said Valentine Willie of Valentine Willie Fine Art, which has galleries in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and has in the past helped Borobudur curate its auctions. “Auctions may seem a good way of clearing gallery stock and they offer the possibility for collectors of bargain hunting, especially after the boom of two years ago.”New and smaller auction houses would naturally try to fill in the gaps with more adventurous offerings and lower entry price points because, “the industry leaders, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have a somewhat limited and conservative offering of Southeast Asian art,” Mr. Willie added.”

Some auction houses are targeting the middle class crowd in particular, a demographic rarely cornered by larger and more established auction houses like Christie’s or Sotheby’s. To entice the middle class market, Singapore’s Ziani Fine Art Auction House tactic was to award cash prizes, serve wine, and even offer whiskey tastings at their September 20 debut auction:

“‘When you launch a new business you need to attract new people,” said Frank Veyder, a banker and partner in Ziani, before the auction. “We are very conscious there is a risk that people might think it’s just a fly-by-night, gimmicky house, but we’re holding this auction in a five-star location and we’re offering quality art.

“The pieces are not of the level you would see at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, but we’re not trying to play in that space,” Mr. Veyder added. “Our marketing is targeting to a wider, middle-class crowd.”‘

Though it can be said that the competition between auction houses is good for business, there are some auctioneers that are concerned that the market may have a hard time absorbing everything on offer.  Daniel Komala, chief executive of Larasati Auctioneers, explains:

“‘The art market has bottomed out; in fact, it’s fair to say that it has picked up some speed of late,” Mr. Komala said. “Having said that, the real capacity to absorb, over all, especially in Singapore, is only going to increase by 20-30 percent maximum from its rock bottom level. So, it’s wishful thinking to expect that the market will double up in capacity compared to how it performed six months ago.”

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Posted in Auctions, Business of art, Events, Market watch, Overviews, Recession, Singapore | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Singapore artist Yeo Chee Kiong’s installation wins ‘richest’ Asian art prize – Bloomberg

Posted by artradar on November 4, 2008


INSTALLATION ART PRIZE

Yeo Chee Kiong won the S$45,000 ($30,793) inaugural APB Foundation Signature Art Prize (images on website) for his installation “A Day Without a Tree,” originally shown last year at Singapore’s National Museum.

Yeo’s mixed-media work greeted visitors to the building, built in 1887, with what looked like a large puddle of white paint dripping from the walls as the columns of the four-story- high atrium melted. Yeo won the grand prize, the richest in Southeast Asia, sponsored by the Singapore Art Museum and Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd., maker of Tiger beer.

Yeo, born in 1970, said he decided to create a work based on the classical architecture because the museum was celebrating its 120th anniversary at the time of his installation.

“I tried to present something that you are not sure of,” he said in an interview at the Singapore Art Museum.

He declined to explain the work or its title.

“My position is not to tell you what it is. You have to figure that out for yourself,” he said.

Yeo was chosen from a shortlist of 12 artists from the region, including Malaysian Ahmad Fuad B. Osman, China’s Zheng Bo and India’s G.R. Iranna, who all won S$10,000 jurors’ choice awards. Mongolia’s Davaa Dorjderem won S$10,000 for the people’s choice, selected by online voters.

The award is part of a 15-year partnership between APB and the Singapore Art Museum signed a year ago. The APB Foundation has committed S$2.25 million in funding for the prize, which will be awarded every three years.

The 10 shortlisted works are on view at the Singapore Art Museum until Nov. 16.

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