S.E.A. Focus Shows the Region’s Finest

Building upon Singapore’s position as a Southeast Asian art hub
By Toby Wu

Agus Suwage, ‘Imagine #3’, 2017, acrylic and embroidery on canvas, 120 x 150cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Nadi Gallery.

Agus Suwage, ‘Imagine #3’, 2017, acrylic and embroidery on canvas, 120 x 150cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Nadi Gallery.

S.E.A. Focus is a new boutique art fair in Singapore aimed at raising awareness of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art. The fair will be held at Singapore’s visual arts hub, Gillman Barracks from 23 to 27 January 2019, with United Overseas Bank Limited as lead partner and sponsor. Given its location, S.E.A. Focus visitors will be able to discover or revisit galleries within Gillman Barracks as well as the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.

An initiative by STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, S.E.A. Focus is helmed by STPI Executive Director Emi Eu and Audrey Yeo, who runs Yeo Workshop. “It is our hope that S.E.A. Focus will seed interest and foster a desire amongst local and regional audiences to learn more about Singapore and our region’s art and cultural environment, for a deeper connection with the rest of the art world,” says Eu. “It will take time to foster this growth and we endeavour to build a strong and fertile foundation through our inaugural edition.”

Cheong Soo Pieng, ‘Landscape No. 3’, 1965, oil on canvas, 71.5 x 107cm. Image courtesy of the artist and artcommune gallery.

Cheong Soo Pieng, ‘Landscape No. 3’, 1965, oil on canvas, 71.5 x 107cm. Image courtesy of the artist and artcommune gallery.

The line-up of twenty-six international and local galleries was chosen after a review process which included input from an advisory committee made up of collectors Jim Amberson and Lu Xun, curator Kwok Kian Chow and Director of Museum MACAN Aaron Seeto. 12 galleries participating in the fair will be from Singapore, includingArt-2 Gallery, artcommune gallery and Art Seasons. Other participating Southeast Asian galleries include Nadi Gallery (Jakarta), Galerie Quynh (Ho Chi Minh City) and Gallery VER (Bangkok), with galleries such as RUCI Art Space (Jakarta) making their Singapore art fair debut.

Commenting on the participation of Singaporean galleries, Eu says, “The strong response we have received from Singapore-based and international galleries which now call Singapore home is testament to Singapore’s established position as the region’s arts hub.”  

With their combined experience in the gallery sector, Eu and Yeo envision S.E.A. Focus as an innovative way to support the industry. The fair features a variety of programmes aimed at a wide audience. Eu notes that consistency in programming and quality would be paramount in future editions of the fair to reap the rewards. “The essential factor for any art fair is the quality of the content and how it relates to the audience,” says Eu. “Active participation from all segments of arts landscape will enable this, from public to school students; collectors/buyers to visitors; artists and galleries and finally institutions. We all must come together to achieve this.”

This is evidenced by an extensive #SEAspotlight programme, with speakers such as Tim Etchells, Tan Boon Hui and Jam Acuzar who will address pertinent topics facing the contemporary art world. Other programmes include #SEAcity, a city-wide programme of exhibitions and events hosted and curated by partnering institutions, and #SEAcommunity, an educational programme with workshops designed for young families, school groups and children to actively participate in S.E.A. Focus.

Yeo Kaa, ‘Separation Anxiety’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 152 x 122cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

Yeo Kaa, ‘Separation Anxiety’, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 152 x 122cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

S.E.A. Focus will also feature new commissions ranging from influential artist Manuel Ocampo to new talent Faris Nakamura. Amongst the 18 Singaporean artists in the showcase Jeremy Sharma and Ruben Pang. Other local talents presented include a site-specific durational performance by Jason Lim and a special collaboration by promising talents Priyageetha Dia and Jamie Teo.

UOB is lead partner and sponsor of the art fair, in its continued support of art in Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia, which it has sustained through the annual UOB Painting of the Year competition in addition to related visual arts programmes, partnerships and community outreach initiatives.

S.E.A. Focus is supported by the National Arts Council (NAC), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), in conjunction with Singapore Art Week 2019.

A&M is proud to be a media partner of S.E.A. Focus.

This article was updated on 15 January 2019.