With the whole world opening up again post-Covid, we’re pleased to report that one of our favourite art events, the Affordable Art Fair, is finally back after a three-year hiatus. Online viewing rooms held the fort during the pandemic, and the metaverse opened up a whole new plane of virtual art appreciation, but few things beat the pure sensorial pleasure that one feels when looking at art in a physical presentation.
The emotions, the joy, the adrenaline rush and the excitement of closing a good deal – get ready to feel all this and more when the Affordable Art Fair kicks off this weekend from 18 to 20 November at the F1 Pit Building, bringing together 80 local and international galleries from 21 countries.
Here are some of our top picks of things to do during the fair.
1.Start your own Vogel-inspired art collection
‘Affordable’ art often has the (unfairly-earned) bad reputation of being somewhat subpar in quality. In a hyper-capitalist urban environment like Singapore, we often conflate value with price. It’s an unfortunate assumption to make, that cheaper or more affordable works are not necessarily ‘good’ works, and anecdotes throughout history have challenged this assumption over and over again.
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection is an enduring example in support of the notion that one does not need to have a huge repository of funds to collect good and important art. If you didn’t already know, the Vogels worked as a reference librarian (Dorothy) and postal carrier (Herbert) and are cited as having “[given] up vacations and creature comforts in order to devote Herbert’s entire salary to acquiring works by contemporary artists. They began collecting shortly after their wedding in 1962 and from that point forward were committed to discovering new work by up-and-coming artists.”
Over a timespan of 40 years, the Vogels amassed a collection of more than 4,000 important pieces of art and objects, many of which were eventually donated to major institutions.
We love how the Affordable Art Fair channels similar vibes of openness and egalitarianism in its commitment towards the education of its visitors and patrons, and its accessible price points.
How does one find good and affordable art? Well, the fair helpfully provides clear guides for newbies interested in buying art — here’s how to get started, how to decide on what you like, and how to collect art like an expert. You can even hear first-hand, from collectors themselves.
The Affordable Art Fair also makes clear in its participant inclusion policy that only living artists are to be shown at the fair. This may seem like a minor point, but it’s an outlook that underscores the fair’s deep commitment to supporting the practices of artists who contribute to the cultural fabric of our present-day society. Know that when you buy something from the Affordable Art Fair, you’re also playing an active part in keeping artistic communities alive and thriving, both in the here and now, and for future generations to come.
Happy visitors at the Affordable Art Fair’s 2019 edition. Image courtesy of the Affordable Art Fair
2. Learn a new skill, with family, friends or on your own
This year the Affordable Art Fair invites you to “release your inner artist” as it offers an extensive range of complimentary and paid workshops by leading art teaching studio Visual Arts Centre. The mediums taught include Chinese ink, watercolour, acrylic, oils and pencil sketching, amongst others. The full timetable of workshops can be found here and there’s a delightful array of immersive activities to choose from. Right on the heels of Deepavali for example, you’ll be able to learn how to draw and design rangolis. You’ll also get the opportunity to attend a workshop on creating your own Singapore shophouse postcard, and then step out directly into the fair to view the works of talented artists such as Nathalie Laoue:
3. Get an affordable piece of Singapore’s art history
Astonishing value can be found at the Affordable Art Fair, if you know where to look.
We recall, for example, attainably-priced Goh Beng Kwan works being sold at a previous edition of the fair by well-known gallerist Marjorie Chu of Art Forum. Fast forward some years later and you might have seen news of Goh’s major exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore, which shone a spotlight on his important works from the 1950s to the 1980s. Chu offers this piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to buy, just get started.”
“Pick works that ‘speak’ to you, then come to me to discuss, even if the work is presented by other booths,” she adds cheekily.
Digital artist Jonathan Leong, also known as ZXEROKOOL, also had early beginnings at the Affordable Art Fair, selling prints of his kitschy-cool artworks some years ago, at relatively low price points. Today, he’s busy blowing up the world of NFTs with critically-acclaimed works and shows, and getting top billing in mainstream media. Sure, it takes some knowledge to be able to spot the next up-and-coming, or underrated art world star, but that’s where the Affordable Art Fair steps in with its educational initiatives — see point 1 above!
What’s making our inner art history geek quiver with excitement in this year’s lineup? Why it’s none other than Cheo Chai Hiang and Lim Tze Peng.
The historians amongst us might remember that in 1972, Cheo Chai Hiang’s controversial artwork proposal 5’ x 5’ (Singapore River) was submitted to an annual exhibition of the Modern Art Society and firmly rejected.
As art historian Jeffrey Say explains in his article Groundbreaking: The Origins of Contemporary Art in Singapore:
“The proposal contained a set of instructions directing the exhibitors to draw a square measuring five feet by five feet straddling the wall and the floor. Cheo’s work was an example of conceptual art, in which the idea or the concept was more important than the actual execution or aesthetics. At one level, the work was a parody of the cliched representations of the Singapore River popular among painters then. On another level, it was a critical work meant to provoke discourse about the general state of art in Singapore, which had hitherto been dominated by international abstraction. Given its iconoclastic nature, 5′ x 5′ (Singapore River) was not selected for the 1972 Modern Art Society exhibition.”
Cheo’s artwork was criticised as being poorly thought-out and the debate that ensued between him and other prominent artists of the day is well-noted by scholars as being a turning point in the emergence of conceptual art theories in Singapore.
At this year’s Affordable Art Fair, you’ll get the chance to own a part of Cheo’s magnificent oeuvre as he presents his Non-wearable Clog series of works with the rather gloriously-named gallery Mr Lim’s Shop of Visual Treasures:
Says gallery owner Lim Chiao Woon, “The clogs are representations of self, traditions and journeys. In their various forms, the clogs are brilliant and concise expressions of the artist’s wit and wisdom. Each beautifully hand-rendered. Each a striking commentary and a potent source of inspiration. This is a rare chance to own a piece of Singapore art history.”
“We believe great art should be accessible to all. Not just the exclusive few. The goal of my gallery is to ‘humidify the very dry art scene’ – exclusivity and aloofness hurt us all. I hope to expose Chai’s work to more folks – to have them in more homes, to generate more discussions and enjoyment,” Lim explains.
You might also want to keep an eye out for the art of Singapore pioneer artist Lim Tze Peng, most recently spotted at the Christie’s preview at The Arts House in Singapore, for its glitzy upcoming Hong Kong Autumn Auction. Works by the hardest working artist in town and national treasure (he’s over 100 years old!) will be presented at the Affordable Art Fair by Artredot Pte Ltd.
4. Have some Friday night fun, for a good cause
On Friday 18 November, the Affordable Art Fair’s highly popular Arty-Licious Evening will return from 6pm to 9pm. Targeting the end-of-week after-work crowd, the evening marries food and drink with a bevy of art-related activities Most importantly perhaps, Arty-Licious Evening is in support of the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) and $2 from every ticket sold will be donated to SCS in support of cancer patients.
From coaster-making workshops to performance art, from Adam and Eve live model drawing to augmented reality (AR) digital art installations, it’s a festival of delights for a good cause, full of down-to-earth vibes of collegial fun and fraternity. Sign up here for tickets.
We hope you’ve cleared your schedule for the weekend because this is one art fair that you won’t want to miss.
Get your tickets here and look forward to a fulfilling and exciting event that won’t break the bank and most importantly, renders valuable support to artists and their communities.
This article is produced in partnership with the Affordable Art Fair. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.