Guess how many art galleries there are in Singapore? We did some digging and discovered over 85 spaces of all shapes and sizes representing an astounding array of both local and overseas artists. Add to that regular exhibitions and art shows, and there’s plenty of temptation to buy something for yourself. But where do you start? Three knowledgeable women talked to us about how to build your own unique art collection. The good news is that you don’t have to be super-rich to do so.
Director of the Affordable Art Fair (AAF), Singapore
Camilla says there is a vibrant and growing art market in Singapore. There are a multitude of opportunities both for first-time and mature collectors at quality gallery exhibitions, museum programmes run by the Singapore Art Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and annual, high-profile shows such as Art Stage Singapore and the AAF.
For novices who are just beginning to think about acquiring art, she offers some advice. “People collect art for a variety of reasons but we have a mantra at AAF: buy for love and not for money! Art speaks to the individual, and this is the beauty of buying something that engages your eye, your heart and enhances your environment. While the investment angle is a plus, it should not be the driving force behind your purchase.”
However, Camilla says quality is important and where you buy from is critical. Always buy from a reputable source to ensure the artwork is original, not a reproduction, and valued correctly.
When it started in 2011, the AAF broke down barriers and made art more accessible to those with smaller budgets. Camilla says the proportion of first-time buyers at the 2011 Fair was 70 percent, demonstrating a thirst for contemporary art in particular. While galleries are where the action is on a day-to-day basis, it’s clear that a fair is a great way for collectors of all kinds to compare art styles, artists and prices under one roof.
Regardless of where you buy your art, the experts’ advice is not to buy too much, too quickly. Take your time to build a quality collection and don’t rush into a purchase that you may regret later. You’ll be looking at it for a long time.
“I had not bought sculpture until the Fair last year. I had appreciated and studied the medium of sculpture at university level and was delighted when galleries bought sculpture to show at the Fair, but I had never looked at it from a ‘taking it home’ point of view. But I now have two at home – one by Claire Malet and another by Linda Blackstone – and I can see them being added to in years to come.”
11.12 Gallery’s unusual name was drawn from the common birthday shared by founder Alex Sharova and his son, a memorable day for the family. Launched last year, the gallery exhibits contemporary art sourced from Russia.
Alex and his wife Elvira run another gallery in their native Moscow and ran a gallery in the US for several years. Their move to Singapore was born out of a desire for a lifestyle change. “We wanted the whole new experience that Asia offers, so we decided to take a huge leap. It is an exciting time of experimentation for us,” says Elvira. “Singapore is a cosmopolitan city and there is potential for Russian art, as there are many people with vastly different tastes and appreciation for art.”
The first piece of art the couple bought for themselves was Seascape [insert image Elvira] by Alexey Alpatov, which is hanging in their Moscow apartment. Alex had a strong interest in art and, after his first meeting with Alexey, he offered to represent the artist who was then largely unknown. “It was altruistic; I just wanted to help this great painter and also to break out of my groundhog day existence,” said Alex.
This collaboration continues to the present day, with Alexey painting and Alex managing. Over the years, Alex has taken on more and more Russian artists and his hobby has become a business.
This year, 11.12 Gallery will bring in new Russian artists including Studio 30, a collaboration between two artists whose work focuses on contemporary urban societies, and the ethereal brass sculptures of Olga Muravina. They will also introduce Alexander Zhernokluev and his series of Red Sailors paintings, and the sculptures of Sergei Sobolev.
Elvira’s tips for collecting
1. Look for art pieces that stir the emotions, and so are unforgettable.
2. Go with your instinct. Listen to your heart and how you feel.
3. Research. Search for information about the artist, the inspiration behind the art and where they have exhibited.
Elvira’s top picks
“Alexey Morosov is an established sculptor and this would be a good investment. I like this particular piece because it marries classic tradition with modern times very well.”
The Lady with an Ermine
“I have always enjoyed Max Bashev’s vision of classical works. He contextualises the pieces to craft a message within and it is up for interpretation by each individual.”
“The sheer magnitude of this Alexey Alpatov painting makes one feel small. It’s a great landscape piece and its photographic precision is beautiful to look at.”
36 Armenian Street, #04-02
Ode to Art
“I believe that art is very personal. It is always best to start collecting artworks that appeal to you on an aesthetic and emotional level,” advises Jazz Chong, a leading light in Singapore’s art scene. She owns well-established gallery Ode to Art and represents a diverse collection of artists.
“Of course, many collectors prefer artists who have some degree of investment value, so mid-career artists are a good choice. Once you find an artist whose works connect with you, then you can grow with the artist while growing your collection,” she recommends.
Jazz says that a lot of attention has recently been given to blue-chip artists like Latin-American Fernando Botero and Singaporean Lim Tze Peng. “Many new collectors,” she adds, “are leaning towards more approachable art like Kracov’s 3D butterfly steel art which instantly brightens up the atmosphere in the house, as well as the mood of the people living in it.” She is also seeing a trend towards buying online, and the increased acceptance of digital and interactive art, which she says is an exciting time for artists and art lovers alike.
Jazz has built up relationships with many of the local and international artists she represents. It’s this insider information that helps her recommend art to her clients and provide a full background on the pieces they are purchasing. “I experience glimpses of the artists’ worlds, so I find that it is easier to understand, appreciate, and connect with them.”
One of the biggest questions, though, is the practical side of caring for art in Singapore’s humid climate. Jazz advises collectors to firstly understand the medium of an artwork as this dictates the best way to preserve it. “For example, an ink on paper artwork should use acid-free framing to prolong the life of the paper. For oil on canvas, basic stretching of the canvas will allow the painting to breathe. There are also temperature-controlled storage facilities available here,” she says.
Art lovers have a lot to look forward to this year as Jazz is looking at bringing Dedy Sufriadi’s graffiti art, Hong Zhu An’s globally collected ink on rice paper paintings, and Fernando Botero’s famous paintings and drawings to her gallery.
Jazz’s top picks
Charcoal-and-oil painting of a typically massive man and woman by Fernando Botero, who is one of the most successful Latin American artists alive
Jelly Baby Family
By Italian sculptor Mauro Perucchetti. These are made of pigmented urethane resin and are universally loved
One of Lee Jung Woong’s famous series, Brush – eye-catching and classic work
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