Perspectives of Art Stage Singapore

19 01 2012

I dropped by the Marina Bay Sands Convention and Expo Centre on the last afternoon of the recently concluded 4 day Art Stage Singapore 2012, coming away wishing I had done so earlier, which would have allowed me a lot more time to take in what was on display at the massive art fair. The fair, touted as Asia-Pacific region’s premier art fair, did live up to the hype with some 133 galleries from 18 countries exhibiting with the works of 600 artists on display, including some notable large-scale installations. Providing a platform for networking amongst members of the Asian and International art communities, the fair saw the coming together of some high profile galleries, collectors, curators and artists and attracted a total of 31,000 visitors. Based on information received from the organisers of the fair, there were some notable sales made despite the current economic climate, making the fair a very successful one.

A visit to Art Stage Singapore 2012 offered me an interesting perspective of the Asia-Pacific's premier art fair.

Illusion and Delusion

Attraction and Distraction

Reflection

Light and Shadow

Expressions


Notable sales made during Art Stage Singapore 2012

  • Michael Schultz Gallery sold an “Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting)” by Gerhard Richter for US$1.52 million (S$2 million)
  • Haunch of Venison sold a number of Gonkar Gyatso works including the “Dissected Buddha”, 2011, for US$200,000 (S$260,000), as well as an undisclosed piece for US$400,000 (S$518,000)
  • Gajah Gallery sold two paintings by I Nyoman Masriadi for US$350,000 (S$453,000)
  • Linda Gallery sold a work by Indonesian artist Srihardi Soedarsono for US$232,000 (S$300,000)
  • De Sarthe Gallery sold a few sculptures by Bernar Venet for US$100,000 (S$130,000)
  • Galerie Perrotin sold MR’s “Desktop of My Mind”, 2011, for US$240,000 (S$311,000)
  • Galerie EIGEN + ART sold the “Nervositat” piece by Martin Eder for US$86,000 (S$112,000)
  • ESLITE Gallery sold a Wong Hoy Cheong work for US$88,500 (S$115,000)
  • Lehmann Maupin sold a neon lighted sculpture by Tracey Emin for US$70,000 (S$109,000) among others
  • Volte Gallery sold out most of its Ranbir Kaleka and Sheba Chhachhi pieces
  • OV Gallery sold three pieces from their Project Stage booth by Wang Taocheng
  • Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art sold three pieces by Shi Jianmin (China)

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Step on board the Titanic in Singapore

2 11 2011

For those, like me, who’ve wondered what it would have been like to be on board the RMS Titanic as she set sail on her ill-fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic, there is now a chance in Singapore to step right on board – at the TITANIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBITION which is currently on at the ArtScience Museum. I did just that over the weekend, having received an invitation from the kind folks of the museum for a guided tour, one which despite just arriving back jet-lagged from a trip to Europe, I couldn’t pass up on.

Visitors to the TITANIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBITION at the ArtScience Musuem get to step on board and have a feel of what it was like on the ill-fated RMS Titanic (photographs taken with the kind permission of the ArtScience Museum).

Stepping through the entrance to the exhibition at the B2 level of the museum, visitors are each provided with a boarding pass, each with the name of an actual passenger, personal information, as well as the class in which the passenger was travelling on. It is through the entrance that the visitor is greeted by the glorious bow of the ship which provides the backdrop for a photograph opportunity with ‘Captain Smith’. It is through the next part of the exhibition that I took not just a step into the world that might have existed on board what was, a century ago, the world’s largest passenger liner, but also on board for a voyage of discovery which included a step into the drawing office, shopfloors and slipway of the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast at which the mammoth liner was conceived, designed and built.

Visitors are also given a 'boarding pass' on which with the name and personal information of a passenger and can find out at the end of the exhibition about the fate of the particular passenger.

Visitors to the exhibition also have a chance to be greeted by 'Capt. Smith' and have a photograph taken with him.

One of the wonderful touches that the exhibition provides is an insight into the people behind the building of the Titanic, as well as some of the principal characters on board the vessel during the voyage. At the Construction Gallery, we learn of the conditions that existed that motivated the design of such a huge passenger liner – designed so as to compete against rival Cunard Line’s superliners Lusitania and Mauretania. The Titanic was the second of three in its class, which included the Olympic and Britannic (the Britannic was converted into a Hospital Ship by the Royal Navy and never saw service in its intended role). We are introduced to Lord Pirrie, Chairman of Harland and Wolff and Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of White Star Line, as well as to the Head Designer and General Manager, Alexander Carlisle, who led the design team, whom we were to learn had his heart broken by the tragedy – something that I could identify with having spent most of my own career in the drawing office of a shipyard.

The Drawing Office of Harland and Wolff at the time of the design of the Titanic.

On the building berth, the difficult working environment and conditions that the shipyard workers endured are brought to light – we learn of the four-men teams responsible for driving the 3 million rivets – the glue that holds the steel plates together in days that preceded the advent of welding as a means to connect steel, who worked from the break of day to late in the evening with only half an hour’s break for lunch.

We learn of the hardship endured by the four men riveting teams who put long hours in to drive the 3 million rivets that held the Titanic together.

The Titanic after her launch.

The next section of the exhibition is where one steps on board, through doors and a passageway that the first class passenger would have passed through – all recreated to allow a feel of life onboard from the luxury and opulence that the well-heeled enjoyed to the conditions faced by the thrid class passengers made up mainly of immigrants seeking a passage to the New World, as well as that in the bolier room. The highlight of the recreated spaces would be the Verandah Café and perhaps the Promenade where one could lean over the bulwark and stare into the night sky, as well as the Grand Staircase.

A lighted panel that resembles a door panel that may have been fitted in the first class public areas of the Titanic.

A first class cabin recreated for the exhibition.

A recreated passageway through the first class area.

A replica of the Grand Staircase in the first class area which is 27 feet high.

The boiler room is also recreated.

A spanner in the works - an artifact from the wreck.

Another artifact brought up from the wreck - a wash basin.

A photograph of the Titanic's boilers lying in the workshop prior to installation.

Next, in the Iceberg Gallery, visitors can interact with an Iceberg Wall which allows visitors to experience the freezing temperatures on that passengers would have encountered on the frigid night in the North Atlantic when the Titanic sank, by putting their palms on the frozen wall.

Visitors can put their hands on an 'iceberg' to have a feel of how it felt on the night of the tragedy.

A palm print left on the 'iceberg'

The main draw of the exhibition, which has been visited by more than 25 million people over 15 years worldwide, is of course the artifacts recovered from the wreck site. A total of 275 are on display, including 14 that have not previously been exhibited, from the 5,550 objects that have so far been recovered from the wreck. What perhaps catches the attention and provokes a deep sense of tragedy are personal objects that have been recovered which are the only living memories of lives that may have been lost on the fateful night. These include the marbles of a child and a pair of spectacles.

Child's marbles.

A pair of spectacles.

The deadlight of a porthole.

A baggage tag - not wanted tags were for pieces of baggage not required by the passenger during the voyage.

At the end of the exhibition, a Memorial Wall confronts the visitor. Lists of names or survivors and those who sadly perished – passengers categorised by the class they travelled in, as well as that of the crew are displayed and it is here where one can match the names on the boarding passes given at the entrance to the names on the wall to discover the fate of their passenger. Sadly the name of the passenger that was on the pass that I was holding was on the list of those who died. There is also uniquely at this edition of the exhibition, a Singapore 1912 gallery which showcases how news of the tragedy reached Singapore and with photographs of what Singapore would have been like at the time of the sinking.

The writing on the wall - name lists on the Memorial Wall provide information on the fate of the passengers and crew. Visitors are able to establish if the passenger who's name appears on the boarding passes they are given at the entrance to the exhibition survived.

Visitors checking the list of names on the Memorial Wall.

There was also a treat that awaited the participants of the guided visit in the form of a meet-up with ‘Captain Smith’, who shared not just his experiences playing the role for RMS Titanic Inc for the exhibition, but also of the opportunity he had going on a dive in the confines of a submersible, two and a half miles underwater to wreck site. One of the things that he shared that caught my eye was the effect the pressure at that depth had on a styrofoam cup – out of ‘Captain Smith’s’ pocket came a tiny cup with the silhouette of the Titanic drawn on it which had as he put it, ‘had its air sucked out of it’ – reduced to a small fraction of its original size, that was carried on the pressure side of the submersible. Amazing – as was the overall experience of the exhibition which is well worth visiting. The exhibition will be held at the ArtScience Musuem until the 29th of April and will mark the 100th Anniversry of the tragedy in April 2012.

Comparison of a styrofoam cup carried on the pressure side of the submersible which had 'its air sucked out of it' compared to one in its original condition.


Information on the TITANIC: THE ARTIFACT EXHIBITION including ticket prices and opening hours can be found at http://titanic.sg/.






A tweetup to explore the mind of the genius that is Salvador Dalí

30 05 2011

If you have ever wondered how a mind of a artistic genius works, you would be able to take a walk through the mind of one, in the form of the Dalí: Mind of a Genius – The Exhibition, now running at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. The exhibition which opened on 14 May, will run up until 30 October 2011, and transports the visitor into the world of Salvador Dalí, the world as he saw it that is manifested in the somewhat bizarre surrealist expressions of his inner workings that he has made his mark on the world with.

Step right into the inner workings of the great surrealist artist Salvador Dalí's mind at the ArtScience Musuem in Marina Bay Sands.

I have long had my own fascination with the artist, drawn to his work after stumbling on a striking and haunting expression of a religious zeal he had at the point of the painting rediscovered when wandering around Glasgow’s west end almost a quarter of a century ago. That painting, Christ of St. John of the Cross, still captivates me to this day. It is however, the depictions of melting time, a reoccurring theme on many of his artworks that has been the greater source of fascination. Having had an opportunity to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the following summer, I was able to understand a little more of the background and interpretation of Dalí’s own fascination with the depiction of time in a fluid and non-linear state, not the hard deterministic version of time that most of us would have.

Dalí is known for his bizarre interpretation of the world around him which is expressed by depictions of everyday objects in a ways that seem beyond human comprehension.

I had the opportunity at a tweetup organised by the good people of the ArtScience Museum on Saturday to reacquaint myself with the works of Dalí, and to explore the inner workings of his mind. It is in the latter, that the curators of the exhibition have done an excellent job in bringing out the influences, inspirations and the perspective that Dalí had in giving us his wonderful works. In walking through the themed areas of the exhibition Femininity and Sensuality; Religion and Mythology; and Dreams and Fantasy, we are transported into what some would see as an insane mind that sees the world in the way he did. It is in this that we understand the artist’s mind further and see the genius of it. Dalí as with Oscar Levant who is attributed with the well used quote “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity”, is one who seems to have erased the line where genius starts and insanity ends.

The exhibition explores several themes in Dalí's work including Dreams and Fantasy.

Throughout the guided exploration of Dalí’s mind, we are constantly reminded of the background to the influences on his thoughts – a repressed sexuality stemming from an upbringing largely influenced by his strict widower father an atheist, who in stark contrast to Dalí’s staunchly Catholic mother – suppressed all form of expression in Dalí. It was through Gala, Dalí’s would be wife that freed him from the repressed sexuality and besides depicting her, his ideal of womanhood, in many works, he sought to express his view of femininity and sexuality in many ways. Amongst the influences Dalí had were some of the thinkers of the time, Einstein for one, the Theory of Relativity being a source of inspiration for the stretching of time and Sigmund Freud, who provided a basis for the understanding of symbols in dreams as symbols of a repressed sexuality that Dalí seemed to be obsessed with.

Dalí's exploration of sensuality and femininity includes Woman Aflame which includes plenty of the symbolism that is found in his work which includes drawers signifying secrets, revealed by them being opened, and the use of clutches to represent death and resurrection.

Space Venus - also contains much symbolism: a melted clock which tells us that beauty is finite, the body split at the midriff representing death and the egg, the symbol of life representing renewal in death.

Anthropomorphic Cabinet with drawers again ... this time on a female form that perhaps deceives us into seeing a masculine one who appears almost as if she is writhing in pain.

Dalí who returned to Catholicism later in life, becoming a staunch follower of the faith, also shows religious influences in his works and this can be explored in the Religion and Mythology themed area. Both mythical figures and religious symbols can be found in sculptures such as Adam and Eve, St. George and the Dragon, Unicorn and Vision of the Angel. The last of the three themed areas, Dreams and Fantasy, which features works such as furniture in the form of Mae West Lips Sofa, Glasswork, and Sculptures such as Alice in Wonderland, was perhaps my favourite. It is in some of the works here that the quirkiness of Dalí comes to the fore. This is perhaps summed up by at quote we see at the exit of the exhibition “I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster, I am never served a cooked telephone”.

St. George and the Dragon again explores sexuality in a depiction of the legendary slaying of the dragon by St. George. The stallion - a symbol of power and masculinity mounts a dragon whose wings as seen through the fore legs of the stallion resemble flames - the flames of passion.

Unicorn has some sexual connotations. Possibly influenced by Sigmund Freud's interpretation of images in dreams and their hidden sexual meanings.

Lady Godiva with Butterflies - butterflies symbolise the soul.

Vision of the Angel explores the role that religion plays in society.

Mae West Lips.

Alice in Wonderland.

I was enthralled enough to return once more to the ten galleries which feature in total over 250 of Dalí works which come from a collection of the Stratton Foundation, the most striking of which are the sculptures which, full of symbolism which the exhibition does attempt to explain in detail, providing a perspective on Dalí and the thoughts behind his lifetime of work that would be otherwise be hard to fully appreciate. It is for this that the exhibition is well worth a visit, giving us not just an opportunity to look at an amazing collection of Dalí works, but also a rare opportunity to appreciate the mind of one that was certainly a creative genius.

A nice touch added by the curators - a reflection of clocks distorted by their reflection on convex and concave mirrors at the exit from the exhibition.





From one river to another: Faces of the Congo

8 04 2011

I took the opportunity to visit the Congo River, Arts of Central Africa exhibition during one of the free admission weekends to the Asian Civilisations Museum, to look at something that has fascinated me since my younger days, masks … Masks of course feature quite a fair bit even in the cultures that surround us, being used widely in the retelling of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, in its various forms across South East Asia. It was not so much in the stories of the Ramayana, in which my experiences related mainly to the retelling of it in the form of shadow puppetry, but in the many occasions during which I accompanied my grandmother to the street operas in Singapore that first fed that fascination I have had with masks – the toy vendor who sold masks and mock paper swords being a popular stop for me. What helped to further feed that fascination could of course be those plastic masks that made us children think we could be those characters on the television that we were so taken with – Ultraman being one of the more popular ones in my time. My father himself had been one that often made masks to keep my sister and me entertained, crafting simple ones out of pieces of cardboard boxes and sometimes having a hand at the more elaborate ones with paper-mâché.

Fascinating masks from the Congo River ... on display at the ACM up till 10 April 2011.

The collection includes an array of masks from the different areas through which the Congo River passes through.

Enough about rambling on on the origins of my fascination. What is really interesting about the masks from the Congo River area is that they are all carved or sculptured out of naturally occurring materials available to the many communities along the river who through the connection with the river, share similar traditions and beliefs – many for the purpose of rituals, and besides having an visual quality, also takes on a spiritual quality. The collection on display also includes funerary and reliquary figures and all have a similarly haunting look about them … there is a little section that is also devoted to the inspiration that African sculpture provided to European artists with a focus on the works of Pablo Picasso who, if I may quote from the exhibition brochure, “was strongly influenced very much by African art as he developed his Modernist style”. The exhibition is certainly one not to be missed … and as it ends this weekend … be sure to catch it!

... as well as Reliquary figures ....