Art SG 2024: what to see at Southeast Asia’s biggest art fair

Art SG returns for its second year with a rich international roster of artists and galleries

Photography on show during Art SG 2024
This Constant Burning in the Air, by Matthieu Gafsou
(Image credit: Matthieu Gafsou)

Singapore’s art fair season took a hit when its tentpole event Art Stage was shuttered in 2019. But as with nature, it didn’t take long for the vacuum to be filled, and Art SG debuted in 2023, billing itself as Southeast Asia’s biggest international art fair. 

It says something about Art SG’s ambition that in only the second year of the event, held again in the cavernous exhibition halls of the Marina Bay Sands, its curators have managed to notch an impressive line-up of both regional and global artists and galleries – there are more than 110 galleries from 33 countries, not least, Sullivan+Strumpf, Neugerriemschneider, Waddington Custot, DAG and Gagosian. 

Wendy Xu, White Cube’s Asia General Manager, says Art SG is an important meeting place for both existing and new clients from Southeast Asia, adding that ‘Singapore is also the gateway to reaching many clients from North Asia, including China and Korea, who spend time here over the Lunar New Year period due to the warmer weather’.

The Art SG 2024 programme is a sweeping canvas that gathers ten young galleries that are under ten years old (watch out for Lisbon’s Artemis Gallery, and Bangkok’s Warin Lab Contemporary), and large-scale, site-specific installations (Gordon Cheung’s ghostly mixed-media installation of bamboo and newspaper, Home, 2024, is a mesmeric joy), alongside a film fest collaboration with the local ArtScience Museum, and talks focused on Southeast Asian contemporary culture in the context of the global art landscape. 

To be frank, it’s a lot to cram into three days, but happily, the Wallpaper* team scoured the fair during the vernissage, sorting through, and critiquing the best of the best before doors opened to the public. Herewith, our top picks. 

What to see at Art SG 2024

Journey Mercies: A Migration Symphony (2023), by Ken Nwadiogbu

Colourful art

(Image credit: Ken Nwadiogbu 'Speak Less, See More' (2023))

The Global South, which encompasses both Africa and Asia, represents a rich tapestry of diverse cultures and artistic expressions, says Dolly Kola-Balogun, explaining how Ken Nwadiogbu’s solo show at Art SG is part of a broader push by her Nigerian-based gallery Retro Africa ‘to bridge cultural gaps, highlighting the shared experiences, narratives, and artistic nuances that connect us’. Ablaze with primary colours, Nwadiogbu’s abstract pieces are an intense meditation on the dynamism of migration.

Art SG Film

film still

(Image credit: Songs for Dying, Co-commissioned by the 13th Gwangju Biennale, Han Nefkens Foundation and Kunsthall Trondheim. Courtesy Korakrit Arunanondchai, BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY, Bangkok, Carlos/Ishikawa, London, C L E A R I N G New York / Brussels.)

Held at the adjoining ArtScience Museum, this year’s satellite event examines the body – human and animal, physical and spiritual – through the lens of a coterie of 17 Asian artists and filmmakers. If you had to pick one film to watch, choose Korakrit Arunanondchai’s Songs for Dying (2021), a dreamy political elegy that threads together Thailand’s youth protests with the healing powers of a Korean shaman. 

This Constant Burning in the Air, by Matthieu Gafsou

Viewing art is an activity that’s always made so much more enjoyable if accompanied by a flute, or two, of champagne. At the Ruinart Art Lounge, bubbles form the figurative backdrop for Swiss photographer Matthieu Gafsou’s enquiry into the nexus between the Arcadian landscape of Champagne, and biodiversity and the environment. To drive home the point, some photographs are stained with crude oil to create the impression of the titular burning air.

Fossil Folly (group of 2) II (2023) by Mona Hatoum

SG week

(Image credit: © Mona Hatoum. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis). Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.)

London gallery White Cube shows up at this year’s Art SG, with works by a heavyweight roster of artists, among them, Tracey Emin’s Move Me (2015) neon installations, Andreas Gursky’s Dior Homme (2004) photograph, and Georg Baselitz’s Walla Walla (2020) bronze diptych. A highlight of the presentation is Mona Hatoum's Fossil Folly (group of 2) II (2023)’, a recent piece where old oil barrels leaking plants trenchantly questions the ecological impact of our oil dependency.

Amber Aura (2011) by Eng Tow

SG Art

(Image credit: Eng Tow, Amber Aura, 2011, Chinese ink, acrylic, cast paper collage on washi ground, H155 x W105 cm (frame), Image Courtesy of the Artist and FOST Gallery)

Eng Tow’s appearance at Art SG is a timely reminder of her importance in the pantheon of Singaporean artists, since the Royal College of Art alum came to prominence in the 1980s for her use of textiles as an art-making medium. ‘I’ve always been struck by the nuanced lyricism of her works even though they span a range of media from textiles to paper to sculpture,’ says Fost Gallery owner Stephanie Fong, who is presenting two of Tow’s works. 

Art SG takes place 19 – 21 January 2024 

Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.