S.E.A. Focus Fair In Singapore Shines A Spotlight On Southeast Asian Contemporary Art


As part of Singapore Art Week, the fourth edition of S.E.A. Focus opens as a showcase of contemporary art from Southeast Asia. Running until January 23, 2022, it brings together more than 150 artworks by 50 artists presented by 24 galleries such as Edouard Malingue Gallery, Gajah Gallery, neugerriemschneider, Silverlens, STPI, Sullivan+Strumpf and Wei-Ling Gallery. I sit down with Emi Eu, Project Director of S.E.A. Focus and Executive Director of STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery, to learn how the world’s first boutique fair dedicated exclusively to Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art aims to foster a deeper appreciation of today’s art and artists from the region.

What are the highlights of S.E.A. Focus 2022?

When S.E.A. Focus launched in 2019, we aimed to be the definitive platform to augment, elevate and nurture art galleries and artists in Southeast Asia. Since then, as the anchor event for Singapore Art Week, S.E.A. Focus has become the platform for Southeast Asian contemporary art. As Singapore Art Week celebrates its 10th year in 2022, all parties including S.E.A. Focus are collaborating with the National Arts Council to provide a robust calendar of programs catered to all audiences. The 2022 edition of S.E.A. Focus is centered around a curatorial theme, “chance… constellations”, which explores shared histories, geographies and converging cultures connecting the artistic community in this region. This further translates into a curated selection of Southeast Asian contemporary art in a seamless exhibition space at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

Alongside this, S.E.A. Focus 2022 will present an exciting program of engaging and insightful talks by industry leaders, offering thoughtful perspectives and vision into the future of Southeast Asian contemporary art. S.E.A. Focus prides itself on partnerships with like-minded collaborators, and our 2022 edition sees the debut of our Official Fringe Partner, Projector X, a pop-up screening room at Riverside Point in Clarke Quay, which will host a selection of compelling artist-made short films, animations and video works. We also have, for the second year running, a partnership with Artsy, a leading global online fine art marketplace that allows visitors from anywhere in the world to virtually experience S.E.A. Focus 2022 and connect directly with participating galleries.

How did COVID-19 impact the staging of the 2022 show?

Living in a brave new world where COVID-19 has changed the way we fundamentally lead our lives has meant that we cannot ignore the online realm, more than ever. It is crucial that we connect virtually as well as in real life. New digital art trends such as NFTs are hence part of S.E.A. Focus 2022’s programming, and we will also offer a 3D virtual tour of our exhibition space so audiences anywhere can experience the world of Southeast Asian contemporary art through our lens.

What is the value of Southeast Asia’s contemporary artists?

Global attention on Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore, continues to grow and interest in contemporary art in this region is similarly increasing. The growing and engaging contemporary art scene in Southeast Asia reflects a multitude of cultures, languages and religions of the region. Definitive by its history of geopolitical coordinates, the Southeast Asian region leaves its footprint on the global platform for art collectors and galleries alike. On top of that, they are also contributing to research-led, historical art projects that bring forth the historical, cultural and sociopolitical backgrounds of art from every country, thus making way for the rich narrative of Southeast Asia to be told. The beauty of contemporary art from Southeast Asia also stems from the shared idea of multicultural cosmopolitanism that has long characterized most parts of the world. In a way, audiences abroad will be drawn away from national or culturally-specific concerns and be pulled towards the shared idea in today’s multicultural world.

Will intimate boutique art fairs like S.E.A. Focus thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic as opposed to larger art fairs like Art SG?

The entire Southeast Asian contemporary art market, even when combined, is still rather small. Part of the reason S.E.A. Focus exists is to be a catalyst for the Southeast Asian contemporary art scene, to shine a light on our talents and artistic expressions to the world at large. Hence, part of our mission at S.E.A. Focus is really to drive awareness of the contemporary art scene in Southeast Asia, whatever its size.

Are you expecting a mainly Singapore-based in-person audience at S.E.A. Focus 2022, similar to last year’s edition?

In 2021, S.E.A. Focus presented a hybrid of in-person and digital programming that was well-received by local, regional and international audiences. Our 2022 edition will also adopt this format. Keeping in mind ongoing restrictions around the world, we want to offer local audiences a chance to appreciate and understand the narrative of this vibrant scene, and our international audiences to appreciate our pieces safely and virtually. As travel borders start to reopen with Vaccinated Travel Lanes, we hope to welcome overseas visitors to S.E.A. Focus 2022.



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