Art Apart Fair: Supporting Local, Celebrating Diversity

PHOTO: Courtesy of Art Apart Fair | Photo from last year’s fair

This year’s fair, the largest ensemble of fresh & emerging Singaporean artists features 40 local artists and final-year NAFA students.

Hotel-based boutique art fair, Art Apart Fair returns with its 7th edition turning the spotlight on local artists, featuring 20 final-year students from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. The fair was held in its ‘home ground’ at PARKROYAL on Pickering from 22 to 24 January 2016 with an entry fee of $10.

Other participating artists hail from Iceland, Japan, Korea, America, France, Thailand, and Malaysia.

IMG_5551-2

PHOTO: Courtesy of Art Apart Fair | Turnout from last year’s fair

IMG_6827-2

PHOTO: Courtesy of Art Apart Fair | Photo of last year’s fair

While ‘rival fairs’ like Art Stage and Singapore Contemporary Art Show the new kid on the block sought to excite visitors with its impressive assembly of artworks by emerging and established artists from the region and beyond, Art Apart Fair would have none of that.

Artworks from local and foreign artists were housed in hotel suites on the 14th floor; promising a good sky view, intimacy and allowing visitors to exercise their imagination on how these artworks would look like on the walls of their own homes.

While international artists and big names like Yayoi Kusama were also represented there, the highlight was without a doubt, on our local Singaporean artists. I was delighted to find emerging artists Andy Yang and Valerie Ng’s works on display. Visitors and art connoisseurs can find artworks priced anywhere from S$300 to $50,000 with the majority between S$2,000 to $3,000.

IMG_0096

Artworks by Andy Yang | Acrylic on Canvas

 

valng

Screengrab from valng.com | Rocks Water Marks 1, 2015 | Watercolour & Pencil on Paper 31 x 23 cm

What I love about this year’s Art Apart Fair was meeting the young artists from NAFA and seeing them in action. Members of the public can also support these budding artists by ‘adopting’ an artist through Art Apart Fair’s Adopt-an-Artist initiative. The initiative allows these Patrons of the Arts to financially support the budding Singaporean artists’ ventures into residencies, art exchange programmes, and other exhibition.

IMG_0101

Final-year NAFA diploma student Casey Tan sharing the inspiration behind his work with fair visitors

IMG_0085

Final-year NAFA diploma student Ang Kian Hoe doing an acrylic painting of Arnold Schwarzenegger live at the Art Apart Fair

IMG_0128.jpg

Final-year NAFA student Geraldine Lim doing an alla prima painting of the Capitol Theatre front

image1

PHOTO: Courtesy of Chiew Niing | Titled Big Girls Cry (2015), oil on board by final-year NAFA diploma student Chiew Niing

IMG_0137

(From left) Final-year NAFA diploma students Yang Xiao Yun, Geraldine Lim, Chiew Niing

Unlike the bigger art shows, hotel-based fair such as Art Apart Fair presents visitors with the rare opportunity to engage the local and international artists in longer dialogue and deeper conversations. I met Icelandic artist Sossa Björndottir from Iceland with whom I enjoyed a hearty conversation with and whose artwork I warmed up to. It is Björndottir’s first time (and first exhibition) in Singapore and she told me she loves our local cuisines.

Gifted with the palette knife, Björndottir paintings transports viewers into her world back in Iceland – the source of her inspiration. Partnering with Icelandic poet Anton Helgi Jonsson, Björndottir creates artworks that are both whimsical and tranquil. Learn more about Björndottir and her works here.

IMG_0118

Overall, I had a great time at Art Apart Fair. While you won’t find hundreds of top international galleries and artists represented here nor ‘showstopper’ artworks found in Art Stage et cetera, Art Apart Fair allows you to breathe, relax, and connect with these artworks at your own pace.

Perhaps even more supportive of the local arts scene than the anchor exhibition of Singapore Art Week, I like the idea that the head honcho, fair director Rosalind Lim decided to make this edition all about supporting and giving fresh and emerging local artists extra exposure to the commercial arts world. All these are invaluable to the artists’ development – which in turn improves the local arts scene in the long run.

I was also surprised that I would discover other international artists to which I will be an instant fan of – such as Sossa Björndottir and Suzume Uchida to name a few.

The not-so-good: What I didn’t really like about the fair was the presentation of the artworks. For many of the artists sharing a hotel suite, visibility was priority. As a result, one finds artworks on the beds, pillows, everywhere. While there is a space restrain, I do wish that there is tighter quality control on the part of the curatorial team to up the already-pleasant viewing experience at Art Apart Fair. The curatorial team can also afford to be more picky with their choice of artworks to be displayed at the fair.

Nevertheless, I would like to raise a toast to Rosalind and her amazing team for their dedication to the local arts scene but it seems that they have their hands full with the 1st edition of Art Apart Fair New York (Oct 2016) and 2nd edition of Art Apart Fair London (Oct 2017). Congratulations on breaking through to foreign markets, you guys deserve every credit and success. RW

Disclaimer: Reuel Writes attended the Art Apart Fair on media pass. However, Reuel Writes retains full editorial direction of this blog entry.

The Emperor’s New Clothes: A Treat For All Ages

W!LD RICE wraps up its ImagiNATION season with The Emperor’s New Clothes starring Lim Kay Siu, Benjamin Kheng and Sezairi Sezali.

Pantomimes are always fun to watch, especially a W!LD RICE’s production. Directed by Pam Oei, The Emperor’s New Clothes is W!LD RICE’s fourth and final production under its 15th anniversary theme; ‘ImagiNATION’.

The Emperor's New Clothes by W!LD RICE pic 1

PHOTO: W!LD RICE by Albert Lim KS

 

Enter the dystopian yet colourful kingdom ruled by Emperor Henry Lim Bay Kun. Emperor LBK is one egoistic, narcissistic ruler and has sanctioned the 49th NDP (National Day Parade New Dress Parade) in celebration of his good rule and well, new dress.

The music is playing and the little cheerleaders (First Kids!) are putting out their best performance for the Emperor. We didn’t have to wait too long to see the eye candies; Khairul No Surname (Singapore Idol’s Sezairi Sezali) and Nathan No Surname (Benjamin Kheng from The Sam Willows) on stage. They are the orphan-turned-tailors behind the cheerleaders’ costumes.

Our Emperor (Lim Kay Siu) makes his appearance, all bald and pompous. Much like our own NDP, the New Dress Parade also features performances by the children depicting how Emperor LBK brought the fishing village from ‘third world to first’ (sounds familiar?) and saved the country from the tyranny of an evil villain quite literally by the sound of music.

The Emperor's New Clothes by W!LD RICE pic 5

PHOTO: W!LD RICE by Albert Lim KS

 

Midway into the NDP, a child performer (Anne-Sophie Cazaubon) performs a violin and vocal solo, drawing the applause from everyone, except the emperor who thought that she was “stealing my thunder”. She was imprisoned for ‘possession of drugs’.

Right after the 49th NDP performance, the emperor calls for his ministers to begin preparations for next year’s 50th Golden Jubilee NDP and his new dress (Singapore’s NDP preparation typically begins 8 months before, so it ain’t so different huh).

The national budget is blown (once again) by this year’s extravagrant tailored dress and next year’s NDP could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In spite of that, the ministers are chastised by the emperor to make it happen since they are the “highest paid ministers in the world”. Desperate, the ministers found their answer in cheap and exploitable local tailors Khairul and Nathan, owners of KnN tailors.

The Emperor's New Clothes by W!LD RICE pic 2

PHOTO: W!LD RICE by Albert Lim KS

 

The ‘brothers from another mother/father’ rallied and broke out into song and dance, celebrating their big break. They impressed the emperor with their speed tailoring and was advised by the Emperor to rebrand themselves as ‘KnN Costume Custom Bespoke’, KnNCCB for short (Laughs).

But all is not as it seems. The two discovers that the fashionista emperor that they adore can’t tell dog hair from fur and have been imprisoning citizens for unjust reasons. The KNNCCB tailors then decided to expose him with a dress made from a material so fine and exquisite that only the ‘most intelligent, clever and competent’ can see it.

Their plan almost go awry when Empress Janet (Audrey Luo) demands the tailors to try on the cloth (Kheng almost strips, don’t funk with our hearts damn it). A year later, the ‘big reveal’ was made ‘right in our faces’ and just like the original tale, everyone plays along until an innocent boy points out that Emperor LBK is really butt naked; further inspiring the ‘naked as my butt’ song.

But this is after all a pantomime for all ages and must end well. In the end, redemption and reconciliation was found with the emperor and his subjects.

The Emperor's New Clothes by W!LD RICE pic 3

PHOTO: W!LD RICE by Albert Lim KS

 

A world of difference from their previous production ‘Another Country’ (read my review here), The Emperor’s New Clothes features a gorgeous palace set by set designer Eucien Chia, and visually delectable costumes designed by Thailand’s Saksit Pisalaupongs and Phisit Jongnarangsin from the Tube Gallery.

The music was equally good too. Trust composer Julian Wong to come out with catchy vanilla tunes like the “There’s a Festival” NDP opening song, Khai and Nat’s “Brother from Another Mother/Father” bromance duet, and more.

As expected of a W!LD RICE’s production, no source material is off limits when it comes to scripting. Young playwright Joel Tan is the brains behind the witty dramatised musical.  Throughout the pantomime, the characters were on round robin; taking digs at the Motherland with witty one-liners and humourous satire often referenced to that of Singapore’s style of governance.

In spite of these, I found Oei’s musical a tad too lukewarm for my liking. In one scene where the tailors were explaining a certain fabric material woven and “washed by virgin’s tears”, one of the kids in the act asked “What’s a virgin?” The reply he got was, “Er.. Olive oil.” Great save there even if it was an intended reply.

While I get that W!LD RICE always seeks to challenge perspectives and status quo against the current political and socio-cultural narrative, perhaps The Emperor’s New Clothes is not be the right stage to do so. Pantomimes may be fun to watch, creating one that’s entertaining across all ages is a huge artistic challenge. Often, sacrifices have to be made to accommodate everyone and the result is a toothless, half-pass-six attempt for entertainment.

The kids from First Stage! were exceptional in their song and dance, perhaps too exceptional. In several scenes, Oei had the kids playing the younger version of the main characters, which were for me delightful at first, but distracting towards the end. I found myself watching the younger Khai and Nat dancing rather than the actual tailors Sezali and Kheng.

The Emperor's New Clothes by W!LD RICE pic 4

PHOTO: W!LD RICE by Albert Lim KS

 

Making their debut in a W!LD RICE production, watching Sezali and Kheng perform was as interesting as watching paint dry. Don’t get me wrong, both are immensely talented and delivered their lines well. Perhaps it was the kids overshadowing their performances, or the ‘cooling effect’ of having two equally talented artistes with similar stage persona performing side-by-side, I was left disappointed (because I was really looking forward to Kheng and Sezali’s debut performance).

On the other hand, it was the supporting characters; Empress Jeanette (Audrey Luo), and the ministers (Siti Khalijah Zainal and Benjamin Wong) who I felt shone in their roles. Audrey did a spectacular job as Empress Jeanette. I love her bilingual and very humourous dialogue delivered through expert acting. I love the charisma of Zainal, come what may she always dazzles in the roles given to her.

Ultimately, W!LD RICE should be credited for giving young artists and creatives a stage to execute their craft. During curtain call, artistic director Ivan Heng tells us that the talented cast is ‘all Singaporean’, which was poignant.

One idea that I really like from the musical was the ‘air-con dome city’ idea so that we can wear ‘fall and winter collection clothes’ anytime. The playwright must had heard the call of every Singaporean and incorporated it into the script. I bet the dome keeps the haze out too.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is not W!LD RICE’s best work nor the kind the theatre behemoth is known for, but an entertaining act nevertheless. Support local and catch The Emperor’s New Clothes at the Drama Centre Theatre. RW

Many thanks to W!LD RICE for the media invite.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Drama Centre Theatre

Opens 20 November to 12 December 2015

Following our smash-hit production ofMonkey Goes West, W!LD RICE puts a Singaporean spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless tale about the ultimate fashion victim. Directed by Pam Oei, The Emperor’s New Clothes is a brand-new musical with a razor-sharp script by Joel Tan and a sparkling score by Julian Wong. Its stellar cast includes Lim Kay Siu as the Emperor, Benjamin Kheng of The Sam Willows, Singapore Idol’s Sezairi and Siti Khalijah Zainal – all playing musical instruments live on stage!

Ticket Pricing: $45 – $80

Web Link: The Emperor’s New Clothes