Lorenzo Rudolf, the founder and director of Art Stage Singapore, is helping transform the exhibition industry in Southeast Asia
By Jemma Galvin
We Are Asia: This is the message Art Stage Singapore wants to send to the world. Running from January 16 to 19 at the world-famous Marina Bay Sands resort, the international art fair’s mission is to support galleries and artists from Asia in reaching out to an international audience. It is also dedicated to presenting Asian art in the correct context, according to its founder and director Lorenzo Rudolf.
“There are a lot of brilliant artists in Southeast Asia,” the bespectacled Swiss said. “In some markets such as Indonesia, the knowledge and purchasing power of collectors is impressive. However, the lack of public museums and the immature market structure has created some hurdles in the career development of artists who have no local representation.”
That’s where Art Stage steps in. This year, Rudolf and his team will feature the Southeast Asia Platform where artists from throughout the region will showcase a range of new projects.
Singapore’s unique position in the region – in terms of culture, locations and infrastructure – makes it ripe for becoming Asia’s new art hub. Along with being at the crossroads of East and West, Rudolf said that Singapore is the “leading Asian headquarters for private wealth management service providers” and that “the government has a solid vision of how the city should grow in becoming the leading art hub in Asia”.
China and India had their moment in the sun several years ago, said Rudolf, but now it’s Southeast Asia’s turn. Previously, the region lacked the necessary infrastructure, but that is no longer the case.
“Before you create your product you need to analyse your market really well,” said Rudolf. “To transform a trade fair into a popular social and cultural event, you need to understand what people are looking for: They are looking for a brand.”
Creating a lifestyle brand is an area Rudolf is familiar with. In launching Art Basel Miami in 2002, he created the biggest art event in the US. In fact, its popularity is so great, some have criticised it for losing sight of the main focus – the art. However, it is just this kind of lifestyle brand that Rudolf believes will infiltrate the Southeast Asian art industry, too.
“Art is becoming more and more of a lifestyle product [in the region]. Owning a piece of high-ticket art is certainly a status symbol,” he said.
By the time Rudolf left Art Basel in 2000, he had more than 700 galleries on the waiting list to take part in the fair. One of his main triumphs in elevating Basel to its current heights, and one he has also applied to Art Stage Singapore, has been creating a strong relationship with corporate sponsors. Through such relationships, Rudolf said Art Stage can focus on developing quality content, instead of being distracted by selling square-metres to exhibitors.
“We have created a self-sustainable business model through corporate sponsorship. Our partners see the fair as a unique networking platform to meet potential clients and nurture existing ones,” he said.
Furthermore, Art Stage Singapore is a 100% private company with just two shareholders – Rudolf being one – ensuring progress is focused and specialised.
“We are not interested in growing too big, too quick,” Rudolf said. “It is more important to deliver a high quality of service and content. That is the way to stand out.
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