Magnus Renfrew: “Singapore is actually the natural center of the Indo-Pacific region” – January 4, 2023 – Le Journal des Arts

country. Magnus Renfrew, co-founder of the new Art SG exhibition, has been a key player in the development of the Asian art market for the past fifteen years. At the helm of Art Assembly, which runs six fairs across the Indo-Pacific from New Delhi to Sydney, he first trained at Bonhams from 1999-2006 before moving to Shanghai to partner with the Pearl Lam gallery. It was in Hong Kong that he founded Art HK in 2008, which would become Art Basel Hong Kong after it was taken over by the MCH group in 2012. within two years. Since then, Magnus Renfrew has created Taipei Dangdai, a contemporary art fair that opened in 2019 on the island of Taiwan. A few days before the opening of “Art SG”, which is scheduled for January 11 and brings together more than one hundred and fifty galleries from about thirty countries, he Art magazine market overview.

In 2017, you published Uncharted Territory: Culture and Commerce in the Hong Kong Art World, a book about the rise of Hong Kong’s art market. What about five years from now?

In the current context, which is still very much marked by the pandemic and political changes, it is difficult to make a decision about Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong has always known how to reinvent itself. Even if the city is undeniably in transition, its potential cannot be underestimated. While some Hong Kongers have chosen to leave the region, others are looking forward to new opportunities. In addition, auction houses continue to grow there as they increase their investment in real estate.

Doesn’t this transitional phase of Hong Kong leave more room for other countries in Asia?

In this respect, I put Taiwan and South Korea on an equal level. These two markets are among the oldest and most active contemporary art markets outside of Asia. Taiwanese and South Korean collectors continue to buy at the highest level. The other three natural platforms of the Asian market are Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Given the challenges Hong Kong and Shanghai are currently facing, Singapore should play a role as a hub for Southeast Asia. Art fairs thrive best in natural centers based on their catchment area.

What are Singapore’s strengths to ensure the success of Art SG?

I have observed a shift from the Asia Pacific to the Indo-Pacific over the past five years. Singapore is actually the natural center of the Indo-Pacific region. Connecting North Asia and South Asia, there is a real opportunity for Singapore to become a meeting point for the entire region, from India to Australia. Singapore is also the only place in Asia that can be considered both neutral and multicultural. Everyone feels comfortable there. Chinese is widely spoken there as well as English. Despite the old adage of Hong Kong as the meeting point of East and West, I think Singapore offers a 360-degree perspective in terms of ‘connection’. In addition, Singapore attracts large capital inflows from wealthy Asians, particularly the Chinese and Indonesians. So the number family offices [bureau de gestion de patrimoine] it has more than doubled in the last eighteen months. However, the strategic level of assets for such financial structures is around $100 million…

How do you retrospectively analyze the failure of Art Stage Singapore, whose 2019 edition was canceled at the last minute?

had a problem timing. Competition that began in 2011 intensified dramatically in the 2010s, particularly due to the rise of Hong Kong. It was also my role at the head of Art HK: between 2010 and 2011 to ensure the rise of the Hong Kong exhibition, going from a hundred and fifty to over two hundred and fifty galleries. Besides, Singapore still seemed too far south. on time. Subsequently, the Singapore Art Stage sort of self-destructed, leaving a broken image of the art market in Singapore that we had to rebuild to arrive at the current consensus.

What are the success factors of an art exhibition?

The three core values ​​for all our fairs are quality, geographic diversity and accessibility. So we bet on representation to differentiate ourselves internationally, with 50% of SG Art galleries coming from Asia. Our ambition is to expand the audience for non-Western works. The West is only part of the world and other voices deserve to be heard and taken seriously. In this regard, I was surprised to see so few Asian galleries at Frieze Seoul (September 2-5, 2022). This is not my view of things. It is the largest art fair in Asia in the last decade and one of the largest ever, along with Frieze New York in 2012.

Do you consider the diversity of the artists you exhibit in addition to the geographic origins of the galleries?

We don’t have quotas for artists, but we do consider weight in terms of square footage because Asian galleries generally have smaller booths than Western galleries. In addition, different sectors of the fair are subject to different criteria for better representation. The Futures section, dedicated to galleries under six years old, brings together about ten mainly Asian galleries. And we are subsidizing the cost of these stands by about 25% off.

Do you receive funding from the Singapore government like Art Stage used to?

The Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Economic Development Board have provided support on several levels. In addition to financial support, they have been valuable partners in the marketing and promotion of Art SG. The pregnancy of the fair was quite long [son lancement a été plusieurs fois retardé]but we had their unwavering support throughout the process.

Are we now safe from the new “justice fatigue”?

Westerners are often the ones who think there are too many art exhibitions. Southeast Asia has a population of 675 million and includes some of the fastest growing economies in the world. A region the size of Europe really needs an art fair to match.

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