Words Rossara Jamil
Photos Albert Tan
Who are some of the notable artists in Singapore?
There are so many that it’s almost impossible to name even a few. Whether or not they stay artists 10 years from now, it’s still a big question mark. Especially in Singapore, when trying to make a living by working as an artist is not easy. You can win a prize today, but it’s only the first step. It’s an everlasting marathon. You just have to keep on running and be noticeable among thousands and millions of other runners. As for the more established ones, we can name a few because they are making so much progress. There are Donna Ong and Jane Lee. Surprisingly, the female artists are the frontrunners, for a change, and I’m happy for Singapore.
Tell us about an art trend to watch.
If you watch the works at ArtStage, the main shift to me is that everyone is going back to basics. It goes back to visual, rather than performance art. It’s more about painting and sculptures. It’s less conceptual. It’s only normal because, at the end of the day, you want to see something with skill and the human touch. But when you look at winners of the Turner Prize, it’s typically awarded for works that are very unfamiliar to the layman and even the expert. At the end of the day, however, what critics like is very different from what collectors like.
The return to skill is also reflective of the general mood.
The way I see is that when you buy art, it is a bit more serious than buying home décor; you would like to get to know the person who created it. If you were told that the piece is produced in multiples, it would put you off. You would want to see that the artwork reflects the individuality of its creator. And that you can connect with it in individual ways. The big word is that the artwork speaks to you. You’d want to see skill, exclusivity, the human touch and the soul of the artist.
As for South East Asia, which countries are going strong or coming up?
Looking at the demographics of the Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia, by its sheer volume, is right at the top. It’s followed by the Philippines. Singapore and Malaysia are doing well. Then there’s Vietnam, and the most recent, Myanmar. Myanmar art is shaping the market. When it comes to buying and selling art, though, Indonesia still leads because of the diversity of the art.
What are your top tips for those looking to invest in art?
Look at quality. Find out about quality by looking at more things. It’s only through looking and talking to people that you could define quality. There’s also rarity. Size also matters. It’s always difficult to deal with big canvases. You cannot just blow things up and translate everything by size. Look also at the condition of the artworks too because artworks travel a lot. Last but not least, it’s the track record of the artist.
How do you determine the track record of the artist?
The more established the artist is, the more important the shows and events he would be participating in. Who collects his work also matters. Also, the art world is cruel. I always say this to artists, young or established: the storm will come so enjoy it while you can. What differentiates the good artists from so-so ones is the ability to reinvent themselves and get back on their feet.