Art Stage Singapore director Lorenzo Rudolf dispels a myth or two
“NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND will ask me what Swiss art is,” declared Lorenzo Rudolf as he politely swirled his cup of coffee. In the middle of his narration about the industry, Rudolf comments on the beauty of art in a globalized setting: “You have a collector from the Mongolian Republic now instead of perhaps a well-educated professor from Brooklyn.” Further proof to his seeming argument for globalization, Rudolf cites the local landscape as an example: compared to artists having to fly to New York or London to pursue a career in the arts, nowadays, these folks stay and enjoy the avenue that is the Internet.
A known curator, art fair organizer, and founder of Art Stage Singapore, Rudolf ’s popularity may very well be credited to his previous post as one of the main men at Art Basel for a decade. “My luck was,” reveals the art architect in a hushed manner, “I was the first one in this art world that came from a totally different background. I had all the crazy ideas because I had never done any of this before.” Citing his distance from the industry he now finds himself in, Rudolf intimates his current balance—a combination of his education and his passion.
With a lineage of lawyers, Rudolf initially agreed to the rehearsal of law until he unearthed his early affinity for art, having been a painter growing up. “I would do installations, acrylic on canvas, even oil, but I just admitted to myself that there are just more, better artists than me.”
Of course, a more obvious remnant of his painting career was his decision to take the helm at Art Basel in 1991. For years, the former artist and current art curator was tasked with orchestrating a fair that would later on prove itself iconic in the art scene. “It came to the point where people would ask other artists why they weren’t at Basel,” reveals Rudolf, testament to the fair’s popularity. As attendance grew in numbers and even became imperative, the curator spurred a sudden resonance with the publishing industry when he accepted an offer to cradle the Frankfurt Book Fair. In 2010, Rudolf decided to venture into the art terrain in Singapore and founded Art Stage.
“An art fair isn’t like any trade show,” explains Rudolf. Promptly dispelling the myth of the starving artist, the art organizer narrates the art fair’s need to strike a relationship with similar industries for profit. There is the luxury industry, there is the banking industry, says the curator. Another myth easily shattered? An art fair as a market place. “While it is an agora, an art fair is still responsible for more than buying and selling,” explains Rudolf. Curators and organizers are tasked with building the market for the art that they are selling at art fairs. “It’s a beautiful thing,” admits the director of being part of a movement that helped realize the potential of the Asian market.
“Sure, it’s much less developed and way more chaotic,” says Rudolf, “but you’re growing something—you’re doing something in Singapore, which is fast becoming a hub of a region.”
Asked what he thought of the looming demise of the print industry, Rudolf smirks and raises his chin slightly. “Why are you asking that?” Two seconds of silence into what probably should have been an avenue to justify the query, he laughs and allows his earlier ideas to resurface. “The beauty with art is that it’s personal; it’s not just Asian art or European or Western art. No one calls art from Switzerland, Swiss art. It is, at the core of it, art. There’s a need to overcome these nationalisms.” And perhaps that’s the very thing that populates the print and publishing industry: the language relies heavily on its geographical locations, while art, well, Rudolf ’s idealized art remains appreciated, free from any language barrier.
“I would do installations, acrylic on canvas, even oil, but I just admitted to myself that there are just more, better artists than me.”