Sneak peek of the ‘garden’ built on marble slabs that visitors can explore, created by acclaimed Vietnamese-born Danish artist, Danh Vo. Credit: Darren Soh

Hungry for art experiences, or searching for a fresh perspective at the start of the year? You’ll find all that and more at this year’s impressive S.E.A. Focus showcase located at Tanjong Pagar Distripark. The unassuming industrial space, marked by textured manila ropes, resides some of the best of Southeast Asian contemporary art. The works are of varying shapes and sizes, each with a story to tell.

Themed “a world, anew”, the anchor event of Singapore Art Week celebrates renowned and emerging contemporary artists from this region. For returning enthusiasts to the event, the art presentations this year are bolder and larger with collaborations across industries and sites.

For art lovers, art-curious, or those simply seeking new experiences, the exciting 10-day line-up includes special showcases and digital presentations featuring art from the region that will make for unique and unforgettable experiences.

Here are three highlights to keep a lookout for.

DIRTY DISHES AS WORKS OF ART, ANYONE?

Imagine visiting an exhibition one day seeing artist-made dinnerware displayed pristine, only to return another day to see them used and ‘dirtied’. This is the work of German sculptor Tobias Rehberger and renowned Thai artist Rikrit Tiravanija – a name that would be familiar to enthusiasts of Southeast Asian contemporary art.

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Credit:STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery

For the first time in Singapore, rarely-seen Super 8 films by renowned Thai artist Rikrit Tiravanija will be screened at The Projector.  

Tiravanija is best known for his intimate, participatory installations that centre on communal traditions, such as cooking meals. At S.E.A. Focus, get a ‘taste’ of Tiravanija’s work in a special collaborative exhibition titled “Dirty Dishes”.

Dinnerware crafted by Tiravanija and Rehberger will be used at a special private dinner hosted at Michelin-starred restaurant Burnt Ends. This cross-industry collaboration with Berlin-based gallery Neugerriemschneider and the restaurant sees these dinnerware returned uniquely ‘dirtied’ for display at S.E.A. Focus.

Has the value of the dinnerware changed now that they have been soiled? Is there new meaning layered on the bowls that wasn’t there before?

For those perplexed by how a work like this could be considered art, S.E.A. Focus invites you to learn more about “relational aesthetics”, a participatory art movement Tiravanija is mostly associated with. 

TIP: If you consider yourself more of a film buff or are keen to learn more about the artist’s earlier works, head down to The Projector. Tiravanija’s rarely-seen Super 8 films made when he was studying at the Ontario College of Art & Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will be screened at the popular local indie cinema.

Credit:Rikrit Tiravanija

For the first time in Singapore, Tiravanija’s rarely-seen Super 8 films will be screened at The Projector.

His works are part of the OFF Focus Fringe Film Programme of S.E.A. Focus, and will be the first time the Thai artist’s Super 8 films will be screened in Singapore. Tiravanija will also be present at a special Artist Talk after the screening.

Tickets for the Fringe Film Programme are priced at $8 and available for purchase here.  

UNVEILING THE MEANINGS OF OBJECTS

Take a look around you and the objects in your space. What are they? Do they have a personal meaning for you? Are they functional for work? Internationally recognised Vietnamese-born Danish artist Danh Vo’s work often takes the form of objects and images with meaning that can change with context.

At S.E.A. Focus this year, you are invited to explore a uniquely designed garden built on marble slabs, specially created by the contemporary artist in his signature conceptual style. Stepping into this uniquely experiential public space, visitors are invited to contemplate and confront aspects of life, and how their own stories could alter their perception of the work.

TIP: Consider taking your contemplation one step further by exploring the works of emerging artists in the region, such as Ivan David Ng (Singapore), Ari Bayuaji (Indonesia), Christina Lopez (Philippines), Thun Dina (Cambodia) and Supawich Weesapen (Thailand). 

Ivan David Ng’s paintings, for instance, delve into what it means to exist as a human being wedged between land (the terrestrial) and sky (the celestial). The works he will be showcasing at S.E.A. Focus will draw on the sun and moon as symbols of change and continuity. 

Ng says: “The paintings seek to unpack the saying that ‘change is the only constant’ while simultaneously drawing out the unexpected beauty in a world saturated with change.”

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Credit:Richard Koh Fine Art and Mizuma Gallery

Emerging Southeast Asian artists Ivan David Ng (left) from Singapore and Ari Bayuaji from Indonesia, will unveil their latest works at S.E.A. Focus this year. 

Also worth checking out is the “Dream Catcher” piece by Indonesian artist Ari Bayuaji. Inspired by the sight of plastic ropes he found tangled along mangrove trees along Bali’s coastline, Bayuaji and his assistants wove the entire art piece with plastic threads as part of his “Weaving the Ocean” project to make a statement about sustainability, as well as highlight the resilience of the Balinese people.

“In nature, we can find hope for a better future. The interweaving of our culture and nature in a harmonious manner is one of the most hopeful things human beings can do,” Bayuaji says. 

“As S.E.A. Focus brings together artists from one of the world’s most diverse regions, viewers can expect a feast of ideas, walking away with a deeper sense of the spirit and future of the region.”

Singaporean artist Ivan David Ng, who is showing at S.E.A. Focus this year

EXPERIENCE AND COLLECT DIGITAL ART

For those interested in NFTs, the dedicated showcase at S.E.A. Focus, Living System: An NFT Show, will be a uniquely interactive and experiential introduction to this visual and auditory art format. 

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Credit:Darren Soh

The Living System: An NFT Show showcase features exclusive digital artwork by six leading Southeast Asian artists.

In partnership with Tezos blockchain, visitors can look forward to exclusive works from six leading artists from across the region. Bjorn Calleja (Philippines), Cwndien & the late Orkibal (Malaysia), Reza Hasni (Singapore), and Ykha Amelz & Discokid909 (Indonesia) have been commissioned to create three artworks each.

TIP: Onsite visitors can claim a coveted edition of one of the showcased artworks as a digital souvenir via akaSwap, an NFT platform built on Tezos. Your NFT can be claimed and stored in a Tezos blockchain wallet that can be easily created in real time. 

These exciting highlights only hint at what you can expect from the showcase. All in all, S.E.A. Focus will feature works from a curated selection of 25 galleries and over 50 artists from around the world, with plenty to explore.

HOW TO TAKE A PIECE OF ART HOME WITH YOU

From paintings to large-scale installations, the diverse variety of art at S.E.A. Focus will appeal to visitors of all tastes, from veteran collectors looking to expand their collections to new collectors just starting out.

Unable to attend the exhibition in person, or wish to revisit the artworks you saw? Until Jan 31, you can find, save and directly purchase pieces from the showcase via Artsy, one of the world’s largest online art marketplaces. You may even use Artsy’s AR mobile tool to digitally preview artworks on your walls at home. 

S.E.A. Focus, the anchor event at Singapore Art Week 2023, is happening from January 6 to January 15 at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Rd, Singapore 089065. Tickets are on sale at $10 via www.seafocus.sg. Each ticket is valid for multiple entries. Click here for more information on programmes, artists and ticketing.


BROUGHT TO YOU BY S.E.A. FOCUS