Full disclosure: While it may come as a bit of a shock, I’m no art expert.
I am extremely fond of art though. Art tells me that there are people who spend significant amounts of time by themselves, holed up in a studio, to paint, sculpt, or simply to chat for hours with their friends on WhatsApp. That is what I call productive.
There is no right or wrong with art, but there are a lot of interesting characters in art spaces, and some of them can be so wrong they’re right. It’s a beautifully grey world we live in.
So I checked out the fifth installation of the Affordable Art Fair Singapore, held at the F1 Pit Building from November 21 – 23, and my, what a spectacle. There were wooden bow-ties, oversized floral shirts with pink shorts, flower crowns, army boots with baby-doll dresses, and dip-dyed hair that looks like ice-kachang. And those were just the art fans.
If you enjoy scratching your chin while gazing deeply into black space, you’d love art fairs like this one. True story: I saw a guy staring into the corner of a wall but when I asked him why, he said he was appreciating a painting with his “peripheral vision”.
Which meant that he preferred to look at the painting while not looking at it. Which was so
weird deep on so many levels. That was also the moment I backed slowly away and asked for more champagne, because I couldn’t expose my cultural ignorance by exchanging another word with him.
How could I fake it? I had no artistic language or vocabulary to speak of, much less a compulsion to examine for more than three minutes paintings that looked like Jackson Pollock raging against the canvas (ie, messy strings of paint over messier strings of paint over even messier strings of paint… you get it).
I could not tell the nuanced difference between some of the surrealistic and metaphysical paintings from those saucer-eyed Precious Memories dolls in gift card shops at heartland malls.
Oh but maybe I do.
Saucer-eyed Precious Memories dolls, $19.90 each.
Saucer-eyed Affordable Art Fair Doll, $1999.99 each.
But here’s How You Can Have An Intelligent Sounding Conversation With The Art Lover Standing Next To You:
(Imagine you’re both looking at a painting of a grizzly bear catching salmon in the river. Imagine OKAY?!)
DON’T SAY: “That is an awesome picture of a grizzly bear catching salmon.”
Art lovers around you will sniff you out as an imposter. They will hiss at you, push their black-framed spectacles up their noses, and curse your family for generations. Some might even say, “Excuse me, good sir, but were you raised by wolves?”
Instead, YOU SAY: “The tension between the omnivore and the simplistic linearity of nature highlights the surrealistic life-cycle of contrast in the lines, causing a disruptive viewing experience that can only be perceived through the struggle of control.”
But seriously, gone are the days when fine art meant paintings after paintings of Rubenesque, women dangling ripe fruits into their gaping mouths. These gloriously naked and doughy women made me want to back up, do a short run-up, and hop into their folds of flesh. I imagine them to feel like a bouncy castle at a kid’s birthday party.
That was art to me, at least before I discovered bubble tea and the World Wrestling Federation.
But back to the Affordable Art Fair. The fair may be called Affordable Art Fair, but they may be stretching the term “affordable”.
The fair showcased 108 galleries from all over the world featuring 950 artists, and perhaps I didn’t scrutinize the labels enough, but I didn’t see a single piece that was price-tagged $100 (their supposed starting point), but they’re quick to highlight in the news release that “75% of the works displayed cost under $7,500!”
That is it. I’m gonna start swiping my credit card till the magnetic strip smoked!
What is that? A painting of a sweating mule? Only $5,555? I’ll take it.
Look at this lovely limited A4 print of a dead tree! It’s in black and white, which means I need it. What a steal for $750!
Is that a 40cm-tall sculpture of an upright toad? $6,188? Can you say, bargain? Wrap it up please. It’s less than $7,500!
What about that chaotic assemblage of a half-eaten sandwich? No? It’s your lunch? How about I pay you $2,088 for it? I have no idea what buyer’s remorse is, because everything is so affordable at the art fair.
The Affordable Art Fair is happening from Nov 20 – 23 at the F1 Pit Building, at 1 Republic Boulevard, Singapore 038975. Open daily from noon till 6pm (Friday), 11am till 8pm (Saturday) and 11am till 6pm (Sunday). Admission at the door from $15.