Art in Singapore and other parts of the world is facing an immediate danger. Danger, not in terms of creativity, quantity, or quality, but of sales. Sales of art exhibits that are showcased in different art festivals that run in the Lion City. The art fraternity is accusing recession and authenticity for this dramatic drop in sales. However, some organizations back home believe that the art fair model is to be blamed. For what it’s worth, we think the idea of observing and understanding art has not really transcended into the idea of owning them, which is what is endangering the art world.
Art in the Time of Recession
The year 2016 was relatively good for art in Singapore, for festivals like Art Stage Singapore, Singapore Art Week (SAW), and Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) to name a few observed a wide range of exhibits and events from different parts of the world. For instance, the seventh edition of Art Stage saw participation from over 27 countries, making it one of the biggest and widely-attended festivals in the country till date. However, large turnout does not always mean a shoot in the sales.
Singapore’s Sluggish Economy
In countries like Nigeria where art is bought just for pleasure, recession plays a vital role in terms of sales. Despite huge number of footfalls in art festivals and auction events, the country’s art ministry reported a slump in the overall sales. However, in Singapore, the scene is slightly different. Although recession has not really hit the country yet, signs of a bearish economy have been showing up, especially in the business directly associated with the labor market, which the art world is a part of. According to the government, recession is inevitable as the country’s economy has performed terribly over the last few years. The causes are many, but the art fraternity is more interested in the hanging future of art in Singapore.
Artsy.com says that most sales that happened during the past three months of 2017 were due to foreign buyers. Singaporeans are not buying sculptures and paintings, which makes experts make an unfavourable forecast of the industry in the coming years. According to government reports, the country’s annual GDP growth is forecast to be around 1.5 percent, down from 1.8 in September 2016. In addition to sectors like construction and finance, the industry might sustain some impact.
Art in Singapore – Model Revamp?
Many art historians and current festival directors believe that the current model of festivals has to go. And a new model has to be embraced if the industry hopes to be on its feet by the start of 2018. Founded of Art Stage Singapore, Lorenzo Rudolf, is of the opinion that the times are changing both economically and politically, and if the industry is to survive, it has to change it direction and approach.
The root of the problem lies in the market’s immaturity. A lot of native buyers are still trying to observe and understand art, which makes them sceptical to shell out. Moreover, they are not well-versed with the pricing of the exhibits that are showcased in these festivals.
Perhaps, if the industry collaborates and raises awareness about art and how it is still a type of business, we could observe a shift in the trend. “Developing a market needs time. You need to build credible institutions with clear missions. A pool of educated collectors who are interested in building legacies rather than investment portfolios. And knowledgeable journalists who help the public to see art in complex and subtle ways,” says Boon Hui Tan, the director of Asia Society Museum in New York.
But, for now, we can assume that the industry in Singapore is facing a slump in the near future, if not an immediate one.
The Art World at Large
According to The Guardian, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s, have made extensive changes in their business models. Two of world’s largest auctioneers had to go down the road in order to survive. Lack of quality work, issues with seller-guarantee systems, and overhead costs are some of the problems cited by auction houses and art festivals. Additionally, forgery cases have marred the international market. This puts potential buyers in a stew, making them reluctant to buy new art. This issue with authenticity that arthouses are failing to solve is a bigger problem at the international level. Most art collectors die by their art’s authenticity and verifying it is in the best interest of the organization. If sellers fail to verify art’s genuineness, then it affects credibility as well as the market’s stance.
With President Trump showing no love for art, the art world at large is still unsure about the future. Independent curators opine that if the economy does not face collapse, then the industry is here to stay. And it is up to the individual organizations such as the National Arts Council in Singapore to take action.
The future of art in Singapore may not be explicitly clear, but one thing is evident. It is the country’s slugging economy that has a real chance of impacting the art industry. It could mean the number of festivals and the intensity going down for worse. Or, it may motivate art organizations to prep up their model that makes the whole business more lucrative.
At ArtKlan, we would like to request our readers to start experimenting with art purchases. The next time you visit an art festival event at Marina Bay Sands, why not try buying that beautiful exhibit? For the future of art in Singapore rests in your hands and yours only. We will try to create a short guide introducing you on how to buy art. But for now, let’s get together and appreciate the creativity that we currently have.