2012 is shaping up to be a promising year for the Singapore's arts scene, with arguably the biggest and most popular art event, Art Stage Singapore, kick-starting things with a slew of big-name exhibitors from 18 countries. Presenters will showcase everything from performances and interactive projects to spectacular large-scale installations. Not content to only shake things up during Art Stage, one of the presenters is here to stay.
Meet Sundaram Tagore, a New York-based gallerist, art historian and now award-winning director. A descendent of influential Indian poet and the first non-Westerner recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature Rabindranath Tagore, Tagore has carved out an astonishing career for himself in the arts world, opening his first globalisation-focused eponymous art gallery in New York City in 1999, before expanding to Beverly Hills, then Hong Kong in 2007.
His mission? To promote East-West dialogue through curated works, film, poetry, talks and much more through his roster of artists from all around the world.
Tagore is also a regular participant in major art fairs around the world, and recently premiered his documentary "The Poetics of Color: Natvar Bhavsar An Artist’s Journey" on the life and work of noted Indian painter Natvar Bhavsar.
"It's useless to emulate another Western art fair," says Tagore of why he prefers Art Stage Singapore’s format. "When you focus on Asia, even the Western art collectors are interested -- Art Stage has that freshness."
He’s in town for the fair where his gallery will showcase the works of numerous important artists, as well as a focus on works of world-renowned photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Robert Polidori and Edward Burtynsky.
The globe-trotting art gallerist, who has lived in a dozen cities around the world, will soon be relocating to Singapore from Hong Kong in preparation for the opening of his new art gallery in April. He's reluctant to reveal more details about the new space, only say that they're still "fine-tuning the details".
So why was Hong Kong first, and not Singapore?
"It was actually the Hong Kong government [Invest Hong Kong] who came to me and said 'We'll do everything for you to come and locate your gallery here'," he explains. "I had a very welcoming client base in Hong Kong from the participation in the art fairs there, and we became the first international gallery to locate in Hong Kong in 2007."
As for the move, Tagore is extremely optimistic about the Singapore art market’s potential following the massive investment into infrastructure such as the ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay Sands Theatre by the government, and a growing group of international collectors with an eye for art and serious cash to burn.
"I see the future here," he says. "People are very welcoming and earnest, and, the fact that it's a blank slate as opposed to already conditioned, you can really engage people in a cultural discourse."
"Based on the current planning," he continues, "if it's executed and managed properly, Singapore would become an absolute major artistic hub."
Next page: read on for a Q&A with Tagore who shares about how he sees Singapore developing as an art hub, and more.