Art What! Arts Museums Preview

Art What!: S.E.A. Focus 2021 offers borderless experience of the best contemporary Southeast Asian art to art lovers around the globe

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Rirkrit Tiravanija, untitled 2016 (nothing), 2016. Saffron dyed cotton, thread, metal grommets. Dimensions variable. © Rirkrit Tiravanija. Photo by Jens Ziehe, courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

S.E.A. Focus, the ‘meeting point for contemporary art in Southeast Asia’, returns this January, presenting a diverse range of engaging programmes that facilitates cultural exchanges that celebrate, promote and provoke dialogue about Southeast Asian art amongst collectors, artists, galleries and the public. An initiative led by STPI – Creative Workshop and Gallery and supported by the National Arts Council, S.E.A. Focus is an anchor event of the annual Singapore Art Week. This third edition returns as a progressive physical and online showcase with its twinned offerings, S.E.A. Focus Digital and S.E.A. Focus Curated. This provides a new integrated experience for local and international audiences to encounter and deepen their appreciation of Southeast Asian art.

Audiences can look forward to an exciting blend of digital and in-person art experiences including hyper–horizon, the physical exhibition of S.E.A. Focus Curated. The show at Tanjong Distripark will present a curated selection of works as a seamless exhibition experience, unlike the typical art fair presentation with segregated booths. This unconventional presentation encourages collectors and audiences to explore and uncover fresh perspectives of Southeast Asian art in a manner that is both inviting and accessible.

Ashley Yeo, Marigold, 2019. Hand-cut paper, 5 x 15 x 15 cm. © Ashley Yeo. Photo courtesy of the artist and Mizuma Gallery.

Audiences can also anticipate intimate tours of artists’ studios and renowned art spaces around the region such as artists Faris Nakamura and Melissa Tan’s studios in Singapore, Korakrit Arunanondchai’s studio in Bangkok, and Museum MACAN in Jakarta; and illuminating conversations on critical issues within the international art community featuring prominent personalities such as Don & Mera Rubell, and Prof. Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Bangkok Art Biennale. S.E.A. Focus is delighted to have leading resource of art and culture, Frieze on board as Exclusive Media Partner, who will be co-presenting a talk segment as part of S.E.A. Focus’ public programmes.

Project director of S.E.A. Focus and executive director of STPI Emi Eu says: “In such a critical time, I am truly grateful that we have been able to organise the third edition of S.E.A. Focus in this meaningful hybrid format. The knowledge that audiences, artists and other stakeholders on a global level are able to experience and appreciate the digital and in-person offerings brings me great joy and encouragement. This dynamic showcase would not have been possible without the collaborative spirit of the participating galleries and artists, as well as the dedication and commitment of my team; I owe a great debt of gratitude to them. We will continue to work hard on realising the project in its entirety.”

Kristoffer Ardeña, Ghost Painting (Cracked Category): National Bookstore, 2020. Elastomeric paint on canvas, 176 x 306 cm. Photo courtesy of the artist and Tropical Futures Institute.

27 leading local and international art galleries, including Lehmann Maupin (New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, London) and Edouard Malingue Gallery (Hong Kong, Shanghai), which will be taking part for the first time, will be presenting works by artists connected to the Southeast Asian region. This year’s edition is notable for bringing together emerging artists from Singapore such as Jamie Tan and Jamie Teo, Ian Tee, and Ashley Yeo alongside established artists, such as art and design collective PHUNK, Jimmy Ong and Ho Tzu Nyen. Other notable artists from the region who will be presenting their works include Indonesian artist Syaiful Garibaldi, Thai video artist Kawita Vatanajyankur, Vietnamese artist Hà Ninh Pham who explores the concept of territory, and up-and-coming Filipino artist Pow Martinez, as well as London-based Malaysian artist Mandy El-Sayegh.

Audiences can look forward to encountering a plethora of works by participating artists that encompasses diverse forms, mediums, genres, and countries in the Southeast Asian region either in-person at hyper-horizon, or through the S.E.A. Focus Digital online platform staged exclusively with Artsy, a leading global online fine art marketplace and Main Online Partner of S.E.A. Focus 2021. From site-specific installations to miniscule portraits, the array of artworks on display will appeal to all art enthusiasts – both new and seasoned collectors alike.

Dusadee Huntrakul, Monument for Mothers, Monument for Regenerative Labor Practice, Monument for Regenerative Agriculture, Monument for Waste Management and Consumption, Monument for Biodiversity, 2020, Bronze, 420 x 7.5 cm; 26.5 x 10.5 cm; 19.4 x 9.5 cm; 28 x 10.8 cm; 22.5 x 6.2 cm. Edition of 3. Photo courtesy of the artist and BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY.

Among the major presentations at hyper–horizon this year, audiences will be greeted with Thai contemporary artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s monumental, site-specific tapestry installation, “untitled 2016 (nothing) “. Other artwork highlights include Ho Tzu Nyen’s “The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia”, a major video work which will debut in its entirety at S.E.A. Focus; PHUNK’s “Control Chaos”, a large-scale painting produced for the 25th year anniversary of the art-and-design collective; performance artist Ana Prvacki’s video trilogy that tackles issues related to the pandemic, with a dose of humor and irony; Indonesian artist Iwan Effendi’s installation “The Visitor” comprising 12 puppets that will greet guests as they tour the exhibition; and Hà Ninh Pham’s “Institute of Distance”, an amalgamation of art and technology that takes the form of a digital game and intricate drawing.

In addition to the digital platform and curated showcase, S.E.A. Focus 2021 will offer a series of VIP programmes and public talks that will be available both in-person and online, providing audiences a truly dynamic platform to connect and engage with artists, galleries, fellow collectors and enthusiasts.

Tromarama, Remind me later, 2019. Single-channel video, sound, 4 min 59 sec. Sound by Riar Rizaldi. Photo courtesy of the artists and Edouard Malingue Gallery

VIP guests will enjoy exclusive access to the preview of hyper-horizon, as well as advanced screenings of webinars by participating galleries on the opening weekend for S.E.A. Focus 2021. Prior to the preview, guests will be treated to a raw and unfiltered behind-the-scenes glimpse into the daily life and work of participating artists as part of a special 24-hour countdown video available on the S.E.A. Focus VIP Portal. Throughout the event’s run, guests will also be able to travel around Southeast Asia virtually for exclusive studio visits of local and international artists, as well as guided tours around local and international art spaces such as CosmicWander at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Manila, as well as Primz Gallery and the Singapore Management University’s art collection. Other in-person activities for VIP guests include themed tours for collectors in partnership with organisations such as Straits Clan and Art Galleries Association Singapore (AGAS). The latter will see leading galleries in the country host a series of meaningful experiences in their spaces aiming to connect and provide resources for young or aspiring collectors.

Mulyana, Coral Island Harmony #5, 2016. Synthetic yarn, synthetic cotton, plastic web. 200 x 200 x 38 cm. Photo courtesy of Art Porters Gallery

S.E.A. Focus’ thought leadership platform, SEASpotlight, will return with a series of talks and panel discussions by prominent art personalities from all over the world, focusing on topics that explore the value of art in our society, especially in these times; Indonesian collector Wiyu Wahono and tech artist Eugene Soh will make their personal predictions on art-to-come in an increasingly digitised world in the talk titled “Digital Horizons”; Phillips Auction’s Sandy Ma, Gajah Gallery’s Jasdeep Sandhu, and notable collector and member of the S.E.A. Focus Advisory Committee Jim Amberson will discuss the value of art in the panel “How much for that banana ducttaped to the wall?”

Art collector Michelangelo Samson, artist Jackson Tan from the collective PHUNK, and visual artist and lecturer Ginette Chittick will muse on what it means to be a collector and supporter of creative culture beyond the conventional definition of art collecting in “Off the Walls”; the renowned Rubell family, ranked amongst the world’s Top 200 art collectors, will share insights on their art collecting practice and journey in a highly-anticipated talk segment; while frieze Magazine will be partnering S.E.A. Focus in presenting “Bye-Bye Biennial? Large-scale exhibitions in the post-pandemic world”, a provocative talk that questions the value of large-scale exhibitions and imagines the future of exhibition-making.

S.E.A. Focus 2021 runs from 22nd to 31st January January 2021, with 20th & 21st January as VIP Preview days. S.E.A. Focus Curated tickets are available for purchase on SISTIC. For more information, visit their  website here.

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