Singapore emerging as a hub for Asian contemporary art


The Prudential Eye Awards 2016 celebrates emerging Asian contemporary artists and was part of the Singapore Art Week 2016 (16-24 January). (Photo: Prudential Eye Awards)

By Bryan Kwa

Singapore is emerging as a hub for Asian contemporary artists as more of them shift their focus to the region, according to a London-based art curator.

Niru Ratnam, director of Prudential Eye Programme, told Yahoo Singapore that the Prudential Eye Awards 2016, held in conjunction with the recently concluded Singapore Art Week, underlined the growing importance of Singapore as a world-class venue for contemporary Asian art.

“The Awards brings together artists from across Asia. For instance, this year we have artists from China, Bangladesh, Japan and Cambodia, among other countries, so you really have to choose somewhere that has a regional significance as Singapore does,” said Ratnam.

More infrastructure and spaces in Singapore have also been put in place to support the growth of the regional arts scene, he added, citing the new National Gallery Singapore and Gillman Barracks.

“It’s super-important to have a combination of commercial galleries, such as the ones in Gillman Barracks, for example, with non-commercial spaces such as the National Gallery or non-commercial ventures such as the Prudential Eye Awards. Artists need both sorts of spaces in order to thrive.”

Complementing the hardware development is the comprehensive approach by Singapore’s authorities to promote arts education, said Thai artist Sakarin Krue-On, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Awards.

Such a strategy will boost the understanding and appreciation of Asian contemporary art, further embellishing Singapore’s reputation as an arts hub, he added.

The shifting trends of arts appreciation in Asia are also bolstering Singapore’s aim to be the foremost venue to showcase regional contemporary works.

Douwe Cramer, show director of the inaugural Singapore Contemporary Art Show, which ended on Sunday (24 January), said higher disposable income, rising popularity of art investment and stronger official support have fuelled the growth of the Asian arts market in recent years.

“In Hong Kong, we have expats who are more interested in buying Chinese art. In South-East Asia, we have expats who are interested in buying South-East Asian art. We see interest from locals too,” Cramer told Yahoo Singapore.

Asian artists have also risen in stature among art lovers and investors due to their globalised outlook, said Ratnam. They no longer need to seek appreciation for their works from the traditional arts capitals like New York, London and Paris as this can be achieved in regional hubs like Singapore, he added.

“Now Asian contemporary artists are confident enough not to necessarily need that validation. They confidently combine an international language of contemporary art with local, specific nuances,” said Ratnam.

Singapore’s growing reputation as a hub for Asian contemporary arts has allowed local artists to exhibit their works to a wider audience. Among them is Robert Zhao, who was nominated for the Best Emerging Artist Using Photography Award at the Prudential Eye Awards.

“It’s a great time to be an artist in Singapore now and I enjoy a lot of arts that is happening in Singapore,” said Zhao.

The Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition 2016 showcases 15 emerging contemporary artists from Asia. It will be held until 27 March 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum.

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