Singapore's premier fair for international contemporary art kicked off last night with unusually buoyant sales for home-grown artists. More than 7,000 people from all over the world were invited to the preview for Art Stage Singapore last evening.

The ticketed fair at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre opens to the public today and runs till Sunday. More than 158 galleries from here and overseas are represented in this fourth edition of the annual fair.

Within hours of the opening yesterday, one of Singapore's hottest young painters, Ruben Pang, 24, sold all nine of his works. Priced between $3,000 and $9,000, they were sold by Singapore's Chan Hampe Galleries.

Another emerging artist Sarah Choo, 23, represented by gallerist Vera Wijaya of Galerie Sogan & Art, also sold all her photography works within hours of the fair's opening. She sold five photography works, priced at $6,500 each.

Both artists drew mainly Singapore-based buyers, the galleries said.

Veteran artist Milenko Prvacki's large 300 x 400cm acrylic on linen piece, Crossroad, was the top-selling artwork yesterday by a local artist, at $120,000.

Other home-grown artists whose works sold quickly were the late painter Chua Ek Kay and sculptor Han Sai Por.

Two of their works, priced at $5,200 and $20,000 respectively, were among the first pieces to be sold by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, which had a booth selling Singaporean and international works.

Visitors have given the fair the thumbs-up for its range and depth. Singapore art collector Terence Lim called the fair "impressive and welcoming". The medical doctor, in his 30s, said there were a lot of works to see. "Not just decorative artworks but really challenging pieces."

Prominent collectors from around the world, such as American Dorothy Vogel, French couple Dominique and Sylvain Levy, Chinese-Indonesian Budi Tek and Swiss Uli Sigg, a well-known collector of Chinese contemporary art, were spotted browsing at Art Stage yesterday.

Among the most expensive works for sale is German contemporary great Gerhard Richter's 200 x 140cm Abstraktes Bild (Wvz. Nr. 503, 1982). Its dealer is Germany's Michael Schultz Gallery. The richly textured abstract canvas, done in yellows, reds and greens, is priced at $14.45 million. The piece has not sold yet.

Other big names showing are Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama, avant-garde Indian artists Jitish Kallat and Mithu Sen, and leading Chinese contemporary artist Gu Wenda.

The fair, which has not disclosed its budget, is backed by the Government in its bid to make Singapore a top arts city. Agencies include the Economic Development Board, Singapore Tourism Board, National Heritage Board and the National Arts Council.

Art Stage is headed by Swiss curator Lorenzo Rudolf, who was behind Switzerland's Art Basel, one of the world's top art shows.

Last year, the Singapore fair drew a record 40,500 visitors who bought $33 day-passes. The organisers are targeting similar numbers this year. At the same time, the fair has successfully created platforms for Asian and local talent.

A new feature this year is eight platforms representing different regions and countries such as India, Japan and South-east Asia, with art selected not by commercial galleries but by curators from these places. The platforms take up about 2,000 sq m, or 20 per cent, of the fair.