Sometimes, a journey planned spontaneously turns out more interesting than one crafted around a carefully drawn up itinerary. About two weeks ago, this is exactly what happened to me when a last-minute trip to the Lion City yielded a surprising bonanza of memorable exploits.
The Singapore Biennale was on, and for that weekend of Oct. 9 to 13, so was Art Singapore, the annual contemporary arts fair. To coincide with both: the Christie’s Asian/ Southeast Asian Fall Preview and two auctions, Borobodur’s and Larasati’s. There was no way I could see everything in a day and a half and tend to business too. But I did manage to squeeze in what I could, plus some serendipitous extras!
RONALD VENTURA’S MAPPING THE CORPOREAL
As a corollary event to the Biennale, Ronald Ventura exhibits at the NUS (National University of Singapore) Museum, a brick-and-glass edifice on a grassy hill inside the university complex. For those who follow Ronald’s career, the show springs interesting surprises. Whatever else one may think about the guy, one cannot deny his immense talent. Definitely worth going beyond the beaten track for.
Mapping the Corporeal runs unti 16 Nov 2008
As the financial markets collapsed, collapsed, and collapsed some more, only the Southeast Asians looked forward to any sales for this art fair week end. The seemingly invulnerable Chinese and Indian artists mirrored Sotheby’s results that previous week, their works remaining largely unsold. Pity, as this fair had a more polished feel to it than Art Beijing
(my only other point of comparison, I must add), with participants obviously putting more thought into curating their spaces. Manila-based galleries The Drawing Room, with canvases of Marina Cruz, Don Salubayba, Alfredo Aquilizan, Alvin Gregorio and Nikulas Lebajo, and Silver Lens Gallery , with works of Christina Dy, Rachel Rillo, Emmanuel Santos, Mariano Ching, and Ben Cab, did the Pinoys
proud with both the calibre and commercial appeal of their pieces. Other participants that had Filipino talent were Taksu Gallery of Singapore and KL, featuring Alfredo Esquillo, Jose John Santos III, Lynyrd Paras, Ronald Ventura; Osage Gallery of HK and Sinapore showed Charlie Co drawings; Art Forum Singapore had Ian Quirante and Argie Bandoy.
I caught up with old friends over coffee, exchanged views with industry insiders, and yes, enjoyed the art too.
For more information on ARTSingapore 2008 visit www.artsingapore.net
SINGAPORE BIENNALE 08
I expected the whole city to be abuzz with Biennale fever, but the two-month event did not even seem to register to most Singaporeans’ consciousness. It took me 40 minutes to locate one venue. The taxi driver had no clue. Nor did any of the passersby who stopped to answer my queries. Finally, hot and sweaty, I made it to City Hall, one of three Biennale sites. I navigated queues of schoolchildren and climbed to the courtyard for Leeroy New’s installation of aliens, Teratoma II, Digmaan ng mga Mundo.
Perhaps it was the heat, or the unusual number of video installations that I sat through, or maybe one shouldn’t attempt to see the whole biennale in half a day, but when I arrived at
the second venue, South Beach Development Project, I just wanted to find the spaces of Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan’s Address (Project Another Country) and the Terrible Landscape digital prints of Lena Cobangbang then quickly hotfoot it back to the art fair’s champagne bar!
The Singapore Biennale is on until 16 Nov 2008. Visit www.singaporebiennale.org
CHRISTIE’S FALL AUCTION PREVIEW
I arrived as cocktails were in full swing, even sharing the elevator with a tv crew filming a Caucasian couple, an older gentleman and his gorgeous, glamorous, gregarious blond date, as they made their way around the pieces on display. Trusty camera in hand, I managed to capture most of the Philippine art up for grabs until a lady very politely asked if I had a press card. Uh… no? Well, no photos allowed then! Oops!
(click on the images to enlarge!)
Christie’s Fall Auction of Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, 30 Nov 2008 in Hong Kong
WAITING FOR A TAXI WITH NATEE AND DINNER WITH BEN
I needed a taxi fast. Already late for dinner, I dawdled too long at Christie’s. Unfortunately, Friday night rush hour and the preview’s warehouse venue meant either a long walk or a long wait. I decided to try for the main road, and so did two guys who had come down with me. To my thrill and surprise, one of them turned out to be Natee Utarit, the Thai artist whose stark images I have always admired (until then I had always thought Natee a she!). With him, Numthong Sae Tang, director of Numthong Gallery in Bangkok. What else could this baduy Pinay fan do but ask to take a pic!
The three of us looked helplessly at the massive jam on the road, nary a taxi in sight, when a car came upon us at the curb. The two men inside recognized Natee and Numthong and offered to drop us off in Raffles City, where taxis abound. After hesitating for two seconds, I got in anyway. Hell, this was Singapore after all! No stranger could possibly get away with my murder.
On the slow crawl back to the center of town, Natee showed photos from his Iphone, his pieces for an upcoming show in Beijing. The two Singaporeans turned out to be avid collectors of Southeast Asian, even Filipino, art. Amazingly, they had eight Borlongan canvases between them, all early works. Also, “…a couple of Ronald Venturas and Winner Jumalons.” Now what does one say to that?
The dinner that I could not miss had super couple Ben Cab and Annie Sarthou as guests of honor. I made it just as the pasta came out. What better way to end this whirlwind of a trip than with great food and wine, great laughter, great art, and the company of a National Artist?
The next morning, I took SQ’s first flight out, and slept all the way home.