Art Stage Singapore: Your Crash Course in Southeast Asian Art

“Southeast Asian art, which for the past decade has been gradually gathering momentum, is ready to make a breakthrough on the world stage,” says Lorenzo Rudolf, founder and director of Art Stage Singapore and former director of Art Basel. Given the growing interest in the region, the fair has dedicated one of eight regional platforms solely to Southeast Asian art, offering an overview of associated regional art scenes—including Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Thailand—in the largest showcase of Southeast Asian contemporary art to date. 

To curate the section, the fair worked with experts from the respective countries to choose projects that best characterized their locales. “Southeast Asia is a very interesting region,” Rudolf told Artsy. “It is fragmented as each country carries their own specific cultural identity, yet they can also [be] perceived as an unbelievable strong entity in terms of artistic creativity. Through Art Stage, these emerging art scenes have the opportunity to speak to not only the global audience but also their neighboring countries.”

Highlights from the Southeast Asia Platform include:

Singapore: Michael Lee’s Skeletal Retreat No. 2, is part of a series of a site-specific tree house installations, painted in chartreuse green and mounted overhead, around architectural columns instead of trees. Distilled to a simple three-dimensional framework, the structures call the viewer to question the house’s functionality and final destination, as well as issues of privacy and the environment. 

Cambodia: The Buddhist Bug by Anida Yoeu Ali is a bright orange tubular sculpture that can be stretched to be 30 meters in length or scrunched up into a ball; created out of the artist’s inner struggle between Islam and Buddhism, the Bug has been placed in public spaces to stir up questions of belonging and alienation.

Indonesia: Joko Dwi Avianto’s The Continuous Gate is a large-scale, site-specific installation made from bamboo, the natural resource ubiquitous to landscapes across Asia that is slowly approaching extinction in Indonesia due to industrialization. Avianto pushes bamboo’s material boundaries to create a remarkable, wave-like sculpture that reaches above viewers heads. View Avianto’s past work, The Sacred Platform, as you wait for Continuous Gate to be unveiled.

Laos: Phasao Lao, the shaman of his clan in Luang Prabang, works with his wife, artist Tcheu Sion, to create vibrant appliqué tapestries depicting their dreams and preoccupations. Delicately created in a manner tied to folk traditions the works are powerful in their spiritual imagery.

Malaysia: Described as an archipelago of books, Book Land is a sculptural installation that artist Haslin Ismail created from his personal library. Ismail uses illustrations and typography to convey the beauty that books possess not only in terms of literary value, but visually as well.

Myanmar: An installation of video, sculpture, and painting by artists Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, Some Pieces of White was created to celebrate General Aung San, an integral player in Myanmar’s journey to independence, who was assassinated before autonomy was achieved.

Philippines: Nikki Luna presents Survival of the Prettiest, a resin deer head covered with floral fabric, with real antlers, placed within a lightbox. Luna comically comments on vanity and gender roles by combining the antlers, associated with dominant males, onto a delicate, feminine deer head.

Thailand: Derived from a larger project, From Periderm to Core, Manit Kantasak’s Milky Way is an installation based on the process of exposing wood’s essential qualities by peeling back its layers to expose sapwood. Kantasak works at this process in a meditative state, then captures the resulting pieces of wood in jars, that he hangs together in a constellation of sorts.

Must-see Southeast Asian galleries at Art Stage Singapore include: 

JavaArts, whitesp-ce Gallery, Numthong Gallery, DCA Bangkok, G13 Gallery, Linda Gallery, Nadi Gallery, Project Space Luang Prabang, Mizuma Art Gallery, 11.12 Gallery, 2902 Gallery, 7Adam Gallery, Art Seasons Gallery, Bruno Art Group, Equator Art Projects, Fost Gallery, Gajah Gallery, Galerie Sogan & Art, Galeries Bartoux Singapore, Ikkan Art Gallery, Ipreciation, MAD Museum of Art & Design, Ode to Art, Ota Fine Arts, Richard Koh Fine Art, Space Cottonseed, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Theo Art Space, The Drawing Room, Art Plural Gallery, Silverlens, ARNDT, Opera Gallery, Galerie Michael Janssen, Yavuz Fine Art, Lisson Gallery, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Tin-Aw Art Gallery, Artinformal.

Additional image: Joko Dwi Avianto, Sacred Platform, 2013, installation in progress on the site of Ratu Boko Temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, courtesy of the artist and Art Stage Singapore.

Explore Art Stage Singapore on Artsy.