Man and woman standing next to each other

Chong Huai Seng is one of Singapore’s most respected collectors. He and his daughter Ning Chong, a first mover in art investment advisory, speak with LUX Leaders and Philanthropists Editor Samantha Welsh about the future of art as an investment of passion

When international banker Chong Huai Seng started buying art in the 1980s, he could not have imagined growing a collection that would catalyse a forum for South East Asia’s prominent collectors, artists and experts; nor that in co-founding a gallery The Culture Story with his daughter, Ning Chong, she herself would see a gap for a specialist art investment advisory and would go on to found the Family Office for Art (FOfA). Father and daughter share their approach and insights into dealing with passion assets such as art

When did your collecting journey start?

Mr Huai Seng Chong: My collecting journey started in the mid 80’s when I was a stock broker and I used to travel to London frequently for business trips. I loved traipsing around Mayfair, dipping in and out of galleries. I started buying British sculpture and Russian paintings, very unusual because most people start buying art from their own country. I was merely responding to what I like, my daughter likes to call it “retail therapy” at a time before the internet, and all you had, was to trust your instinct and sensibilities.

Nina Chong: About seven years ago, I introduced some governance to my father’s art collection, cataloguing and art collection management and to assess the strengths of the collection and where we should focus our future acquisitions. With that, we are able to identify themes within the collection, and Dad always enjoys selecting and curating the pieces which we put up in our private gallery The Culture Story. Personally I started my own collection a mere two – three years ago. I realised I had a point of view, which was different from my father’s and there were certain artists and themes which resonated more strongly with me, as a new mother, as an entrepreneur.

Man and woman standing next to each other

Mr Huai Seng Chong and his daughter Ms Ning Chong are two of Singapore’s most respected collectors.

How did you decide a career as an art professional was for you?

CHS: Art collecting started as a hobby for me, almost forty years ago! I never thought this is something I would continue to do, and now this hobby has turned into a business venture between me and my daughter. This is something we did not plan to do, but I’m happy that we are on this adventure together.

NC: When I was young, I was surrounded by works of art and as a family we used to follow my Dad to visit galleries on the weekend. It was only after graduation, when I didn’t want to pursue banking or finance that my father nudged me to consider the art world. I did my own research, including a few internships in London before I decided that I would commit and pursue a career in the arts. It took me a long time to get to where I am, looking back it has been very rewarding to work in different areas such as art fairs, auction house, galleries to government policy work, it has given me a very comprehensive overview of the art ecosystem.

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What was the vision behind The Culture Story?

CHS: We started The Culture Story in June 2017 as a private gallery, like Gertrude Stein salon’s setting in her Paris apartment in the 1920s where artists, poets, writers, thinkers would get together and make merry. For us, we wanted to create a cosy environment where we can share works from our family collection, and encourage other collectors to collaborate with us. By organising exhibitions and hosting talks with artists, collectors and art world professionals, The Culture Story aims to promote greater understanding and discourse around art and foster connoisseurship.

How has the mission and collection evolved?

CHS: We are still very much following the mission we set out for The Culture Story at the beginning. The Singapore art scene has matured significantly and we are at a stage where other art collectors are open to collaborate with us. They are happy to share work(s) from their private collection, especially when they encounter feedback from members of the public, students or other art collectors and professionals.

Images hanging inside an art gallery

“Collecting Bodies: a short story about art and nudity in Asia” with works on loan from 10 art collectors

NC: We try to focus on a few themes amongst our family collection. Recently, we have loaned some of our works to museums for various exhibitions. One in particular is an early Kim Lim sculpture which is currently on view at the Hepworth Wakefield Museum in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Later this year, the entire exhibition will travel to the National Gallery Singapore for her long-await retrospective exhibition.

We also loaned paintings by Futura and Timothy Curtis to Art Science Museum in Singapore for an exhibition called Sneakertopia, which celebrated everything related to the rise of street culture and pop art, and the phenomena of sneaker culture.

Man standing next to a sculpture

Kim Lim at Hepworth: the first major museum exhibition of Lim’s work since 1999, offering unparalleled insight into the artist’s life and work.

Artsworks shown in a room

Futura and Timothy Curtis at the Art Science Museum

Where has your acquisition strategy been particularly effective in nurturing innovative artists?

CHS: I like to support Singapore’s young and emerging artists. There is one artist in particular Hilmi Johandi whom I spotted almost fifteen years ago at the Affordable Art Fair in Singapore in 2011, today he is represented by OTA Fine Art, one of Japan’s leading contemporary art galleries who also represents Yayoi Kusama. I commissioned Hilmi to create a family portrait for us. Since then I support his practice by buying a work from every new series.

Colourful art painting

Hilmi Johandi works primarily with painting and explores interventions with new media that are associated within the domain of framing, fragmentation and compression

What is it about the Asian art market and intergenerational wealth transfer that created demand for the Family Office for Art (FOFA)?

NC: The South East Asian art market is still a young one, over the two decades we have seen significant progress with the emergence of galleries, art fairs, biennales, dealers and private museums etc.

Two years ago, I identified a gap in the industry, and I felt there were many things I could offer and help other collectors, the same way I used my skills and experience to maintain my father’s art collection. Most wealthy families have their financial assets and businesses handled by their private banker or family office, more often than not, the soft assets such as art and collectibles are overlooked or neglected. However these “passion assets” are very much part of the principle’s estate and his/her legacy. I’ve been studying this space for some time and I’ve learnt that with a proper system in place, it is a significant step towards protecting and enhancing the art collection’s commercial and cultural value.

At FOFA, we understand that dealing with passion assets such as art can be emotional and sentimental, and more often than not, it would require some degree of family involvement. These types of discussions and conversations are not unfamiliar to us and may take a long time to materialise, so our approach is to take a long term view and invest in these relationships.

Read more: Yulia Iosilzon’s groundbreaking new show in London

Based in Singapore, we are well-positioned to meet and serve Asian collectors in the region. Over the next decade and even in present times, it has been said that there will be unprecedented levels of wealth transfer in Asia. Given our first mover advantage and as we continue to grow and widen our international network, FOFA is ready to help families look after and manage their passions or alternative assets such as fine art and collectibles.

 

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Reading time: 6 min
A girl with dark hair wearing a black dress and black boots sitting on a chair with a green painting behind her
A girl with dark hair wearing a black dress and black boots sitting on a chair with a green painting behind her

Millie Jason Foster, co-founder of Gillian Jason Gallery

Whilst art has often been perceived as a feminine subject, particularly in schools, men are disproportionately more successful than women in the arts. Here, Candice Tucker speaks with  Millie Jason Foster, who along with her mother Elli, founded Gillian Jason Gallery to promote female-identifying artists from across the generations

LUX: What is the role of education in encouraging female artists?
Millie Jason Foster: I think that like most careers, but also like most people who are interested in exploration, education is really important. I think that when it comes to education in the arts, it’s an essential space to experiment and to learn. We have artists that we represent who have been painting for a long time and then have decided to go back and do a Masters and it’s that space of exploration on a residency or doing a Masters that their practice really takes off. They’re not just working in a vacuum in their own studio; they begin to be able to have a dialogue with other artists and see the world in a different way.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Despite the fact art is pushed as a feminine subject in schools and most art students are female, the majority of longstanding successful artists are men. Why do you think this is?
MJ: It’s like that across a lot of industries. My background is in finance and investment banking, and you can see the same there. A lot of people at the younger or junior entry levels of the finance industry are women, and then as you get higher and higher up the ranks, there are fewer of us, and it’s really the same in the art world. 65 per cent of women take up art school positions, but in the marketplace, it’s 65 percent of male representation and I’m hoping that that will change over time, but that’s why the gallery exists and what our mission stands for.

I also think that there’s a history of art being a very male-dominated industry, and I think that takes time to change. Even looking at the Royal Academy, they didn’t let women in in the same capacity as men for a very long time, and that is a long-standing British institution for the art world. Only having men means that all those ripple effects go down the line even to today. Only today we had the first all-female retrospective with Marina Abramović. So, the tides are changing, but I think it takes a lot of time to alter such a dense patriarchal system.

Green and pink paintings on white walls with white seats in the room on the wooden flloor

Gillian Jason Gallery was founded in 1982 by Gillian Jason and later relaunched by her daughter and granddaughter Elli and Millie Jason Foster

LUX: Do you think the Gillian Jason Gallery, which operates from a feminist perspective, provokes a different kind of collecting?
MJ: I hope that we do but not necessarily a feminist stance on collecting. I think that we showcase the best of art by women, no matter what the theme or the concept of the artist might be. So, although it might be feminist art to do with female issues, it also might be to do with sustainability, other cultural issues, race or gender or anything at all. What we’re really looking for is something that is visually resonant, but also intellectually important and that needs to have some weight to it. What we’re looking at is trying to define the best of art by women in the marketplace. We want to present the best quality art, but also with a sustainable look at careers because we’re looking at creating career longevity for every artist that we work with. We hope that collectors will come back to us time and time again to support those artists.

LUX: How do you bring in issues around sustainability into the gallery?
MJ: That comes in lots of different ways. In our office on, an operational level, which aren’t always that interesting but really are important for us, we have put all our catalogues online and created QR codes, in order to save paper and reduce waste and plastic. In terms of sustainability in our approach, we work with a lot of female artists who tackle ingenious and intellectual themes. For example, we worked with an artist called Julia Bennett at the beginning of this year. She focuses on solely making canvases out of mycelium. She’s looking at how art can be created and then returned to the ground when we’re done with it.

LUX: You have set up a network for young collectors called New Vanguard Collectors. What are the biggest challenges for young collectors?
MJ: I think there are two challenges for young collectors. One is access, and two is understanding. I’ll start with understanding actually, because with understanding, it’s about trying to gauge what you want to buy and why. My background is in a corporate job and I found that I have a lot of corporate friends who are now earning a lot more money but they don’t know where they want to spend it or how. They’re coming to me and asking, “Where do I start?” It’s the same with anyone who doesn’t work in finance, where do I start? What do I invest in? What do I look at? And if you flip it on its head from that perspective, I think it can be really daunting.

A mother wearing a trench coat hugging her daughter who is wearing a black short sleeve dress

Directors of Gillian Jason Gallery, Elli Jason Foster (left) and Millie and Jason Foster (right)

The point of New Vanguard is to help collectors explore the art world more, because collecting can be an investment but also a hobby. I think combining the two today is important for young collectors because we don’t have that much spare cash for anything so if you’re going to invest in something, you have to love it. You have to understand that you want to support the artist and what you’re paying towards it, but you also want to know that in five years time the work is at least going to be what you paid for it, if not more. I think that recognising the need to change collections over time is important, the same way we change our wardrobes, or we develop who we are in a five-year period. I think there has to be a nod to investment and sustainability that way.

Secondly then, access. New collectors don’t get a look in at art fairs or with other large galleries because they haven’t got a roster of other amazing art works that a gallery will say, “Yes, I’ll give you a piece that you love.” So, access is a really big sticking point and with New Vanguard I want to make sure that I help collectors acquire the art that they want to collect, whether it’s with my gallery or another one, because I can assist with access in the art world.

LUX: Gillian Jason Gallery has been around since the 1980s. How has the focus on female artists changed since then?
MJ: My grandmother started the gallery in the 1980s, and her background was a ballet dancer, and my grandfather was an actor, so they came from very theatrical backgrounds. When she stopped dancing, she decided to open a gallery on the ground floor of her townhouse in Camden. At the time, Gillian really became a frontrunner in modern British art, and was a very formidable dealer in that sector, but all along her career championing modern British art, there was always a focus on women. For example, she would always focus on the wife of the famous artist, who was also an artist in her own right. She would do a duo show between David Bomberg and his wife Lillian Holt, and she helped Lillian Holt have one of her pieces acquired by the Tate. Gillian always had this legacy of really focusing on art by women. So, when it came to taking over the gallery a few years ago, in 2019, we decided to take her legacy and found a gallery that solely represents art by women. We were the first to do it.

abstract colourful art works on a white walls

Works by Berenice Sydney, exhibited at Gillian Jason Gallery

LUX: Have you noticed a drastic change in the representation of female artists since you started?
MJ: No, and it’s been nearly half a decade. I have noticed that more people are waving the flag of supporting art by women, but not necessarily putting their money where their mouth is. At art fairs a third of representation is women and I don’t even want to talk about the prices because it doesn’t even match any of the men. Even at auction, in the top ten, I think there’s two female artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Jenny Saville, and they don’t make the top five. Those kind of shifts still haven’t moved, and there are extraordinary female artists that just aren’t hitting any of the pricing that male artists are, and I think it’s going to be a long struggle to try and change that outlook.

Read more: Francis Sultana: The life of a leader in design

LUX: What’s the benefit of being a purely female or all female identifying gallery?
MJ: I love having an identifiable mission, and it really helps focus on the best of art by women. It shows collectors that we’re looking for the best of art by women, and it shows artists that we’re looking for the best of art by women. Having that strong network is really important to us, because it means that we’ve founded a community where everyone talks to each other about how they can best support one another. There’s no competition. It’s all about collaboration. We get calls from collectors sometimes saying, “I found this new, incredible female artist, I think you should work with her.” And the same with our artists. We put them all in touch to try and understand best practices. I think that community and safe space is really important, and there have always been safe spaces for art by women and I think that GJG allows that to continue.

LUX: Do you think there will be a point where it won’t be necessary for Gillian Jason Gallery to exist and do you hope that this will be the case?
MJ: I hope that there will be a time where it’s not necessary for Gillian Jason Gallery to only support art by women, and that time will exist when there is a minimum of 50/50 in the art market in terms of representation and pricing for women and men, but I don’t think I’ll see that in my lifetime.

Find out more: gillianjason.com

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Reading time: 9 min
A woman wearing a blue jumper with her arms folded standing in front of colourful paintings
A woman wearing a blue jumper with her arms folded standing in front of colourful paintingsBernadine Bröcker Wieder is the CEO of Arcual, a blockchain software created by an art focused ecosystem for the art world. Here Wieder speaks to LUX’s Leader and Philanthropist Editor, Samantha Welsh, about buying and selling art on the blockchain and the effect it will have on the next generation of art collectors

LUX: How has your experience as an artist and art historian shaped your values?
Bernadine Bröcker Wieder: I am always thinking about the future and often thinking with artists in mind, as I originally trained as a classical artist, before managing an Impressionist and Modern gallery in London. I love exceptions to the rules and creativity. When you are building technology but thinking about how it might be used in the future, the tech has to be capable of being customised, upgraded and scalable. You cannot employ a one size fits all approach to anything in life yet technology is about binaries.

Given my background working with museums with my first venture, Vastari, I learned about ethics. Museums built international standards throughout the world to attempt to uphold a neutrality to preserve our culture and knowledge. This is so difficult to do, and there has been heated debate about what ethical behaviour looks like this century, taking into account our evolving thinking around sustainability and inclusion.

Additionally, I believe in the importance of giving back. I am excited to see how Arcual develops its next features with museums and other non-profit organisations in mind. For example, can we facilitate resale royalties receivable for those non-profit institutions that commission artworks from artists so as to help ongoing funding of those institutions?

colourful vases on a shelf in the middle of a room

Athene Galiciadis, Empty Sculptures, 2023, courtesy of von Bartha Gallery Copenhagen

LUX: How did your understanding of sales dynamics inspire you to test a new approach to managing exhibitions?
BBW: People often go into the world of art and tech because they identify problems that can be solved. I noticed that museum exhibitions often showed the same works over and over again from the same group of lenders, and excluded privately owned works, so with my first venture, I built a matchmaking service for collectors and museums. Having a museum show can greatly impact the perceived value of a work of art, so opening-up that value creation to a greater pool of lenders seemed sensible.

As Vastari grew, we received feedback from the museums that they also wanted matchmaking services for touring exhibitions so we evolved to include this in our offering. So much of the sales process is about listening to what the customer really needs and how to solve for that.

At Arcual, I know that our offering will continue to change and evolve based on the feedback we receive, and that’s what is beautiful about technology – it is iterative.

A picture of white flowers hanging from a branch

Detail from Nocturne by Phoebe Cummings, 2016

LUX: How did this change definitions of art and art communities?
BBW: At Vastari, I learned the benefits of involving various different stakeholders in the art ecosystem, and the importance of being involved with associations. We became a member of the International Council of Museums, the American Alliance of Museums, and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries. These associations were instrumental to our technological innovation becoming aligned and involved with, rather than trying to go against, the status quo.

I am personally a member of many communities, from AWITA and PAIAM to The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars and Sandbox. These communities shape the way I see the world and connect to it, and help me interact with others with different opinions or viewpoints to my own.

black and white faces on circles stacked together on a wall

Bon appétit IV, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Sabrina Amrani

LUX: New technologies are often seen as ‘taking out the middleman’ and an opportunity for direct engagement between artists and collectors. What do you think will be the impact of blockchain on art world infrastructures and relationships?
BBW: Technology can certainly be considered as a disintermediation tool, but you are still using a technology platform to connect. That can be Facebook, Youtube, TikTok, Docusign or OpenSea. We are trusting new technology-based middlemen to transact even if these platforms are perceived to be neutral.

So it’s about looking deeper at the new middleman, and whether you trust them. With blockchain you can at least make sure that your data is not held hostage by one organisation. At Arcual, we are founded by a collaboration between the LUMA Foundation, MCH Group (the parent company of Art Basel) and BCG X.

So, going back to the idea of taking-out the middleman in the art world, many think the future is about artists selling directly to collectors. I believe that there is a reason why the gallery or dealer historically played an important role in that relationship. So our system is about collaboration, as opposed to competing and ‘cutting-out’; more about reinforcing why that relationship exists in the first place. For example, Arcual generates digital certificates of authenticity for artworks with dual signatories, signed by both the artist and the gallery for added trust, before an artwork’s provenance is logged into the blockchain.

colourful blue and yellow paintings hung on a wall

Fiona Rae, Faerie gives delight and hurts not, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris Brussels

In the coming months, we will also launch an expanded digital Certificate of Authenticity feature, which can contain attachments, be personalised and much more. The expanded CoA enables artists and galleries to build out and affirm the authenticity of an artwork, acting as a kind of digital dossier, which strengthens the connection and makes it more valuable for a collector.

As a technology provider, Arcual aims to bring value with the features we build and also uphold the existing value that different parties bring to the ecosystem.

LUX: What does the Arcual team look like and how do you all bring your strengths?
BBW: Arcual has developed a unified team with such a strong sense of purpose since I joined as CEO, just over a year ago. With 34 talents across 17 different nationalities and growing, based in Zurich, London and Berlin, we work collaboratively towards one mission, that of empowering the art ecosystem to embrace innovation, for a more equal future.

LUX: How is blockchain disrupting how the art market functions?
BBW: Blockchain engenders trust through its checks and balances, ensuring that information is encrypted, secured, and timestamped. The fact that it processes automatically according to the terms of an agreement can ensure that all parties in a transaction are protected.

zoomed in flowers made of clay

Phoebe Cummings (clay) detail (2)

Arcual’s blockchain aims to work with and for, as opposed to against, existing art world structures. Later this year our whitepaper outlines our approach to privacy and governance, that we maintain rights of privacy but the transparency of the transaction can offer parties confidence.

Our backers stand for quality, and for championing sustainable growth in the future of the art market. We are one company, but our shareholders form a decentralised governance, and there will be a gradual process of decentralisation of the technology and governance in line with blockchain principles.

LUX: Why is this significant for next gen emerging artists?
BBW: Arcual has been purpose-built to offer artists greater participation in their own careers. Our agreements, certificates and smart contract terms are approved by artists. This is significant because it gives artists an opportunity to codify their preferences for the future conservation, care and installation of their work. For gallerists, the 2023 Art Market Report (AMR) showed that finding and engaging new artists is a key priority, particularly for primary market art dealers. In 2022, sales from the single highest-selling artist accounted for an average of 31% of sales for galleries, while their top three artists accounted for just over half of sales.

Galleries that use Arcual’s blockchain technology are committed to empowering artists from the very beginning of their careers. This is an important message and attractive offer for engaging the next generation of artists.

red cloth on the floor

Lea Porsager, Mandorla breaks Open, 2023

LUX: How will these changes affect collectors?
BBW: As Arcual helps engage new artists, it also engages new collectors. The AMR also flagged that ‘blockchain is helping to lower barriers to entry into the market, enabling new collectors to enter [which is] essential to its long-term health”. With the failure of some internet-based businesses, the uncertainty of social media pages’ longevity, potential internet disruption, and with the inherent risks associated with only having paper certificates, it is the availability and security of information stored on the blockchain which is attracting younger generations and new collectors.

LUX: Please sketch how ledger principles apply to art transacting and smart contracts?
BBW: Ledgers basically help everyone to understand what has been agreed and that these terms have not been changed until that is added to the ledger. Arcual’s smart contract terms and ownership agreements offer a chain of ownership and digital certificate of authenticity that is protected on the blockchain and can be harnessed for future secondary market sales and acquisitions.

LUX: What is next for Arcual and how can the community get involved?
BBW: In June, Arcual will be an official partner for Zurich Art Weekend, hosting a panel discussion with some exciting speakers around how technology is impacting power dynamics in the art world.

During Art Basel in Basel, I’m thrilled that Arcual will have a booth in the Collectors Lounge for which we have commissioned a unique sculptural artwork by British artist Phoebe Cummings to spark conversations around our new Digital Dossier feature. We will also take part in events and talks around the fair, including the Conversations series panel around blockchain, ownership and copyright.

Find out more: www.arcual.art

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Reading time: 8 min
Two men playing with a basket ball standing next to a van filled with basket balls
Two men playing with a basket ball standing next to a van filled with basket balls

The 2023 edition of Art Dubai will feature 24 Dubai-based galleries, the largest number the fair has ever had, reflecting the continued growth of Dubai’s artistic ecosystem and its increasing reputation as a global creative and cultural hub

The most significant art fair in the Middle East opened today with a focus on artists from South Asia. LUX reports on the multi-sensory experience that Art Dubai is currently offering to its visitors

Art Dubai has traditionally bee a blend of art from the Middle East from surrounding regions and the rest of the world. This year the focus is firmly on South Asia, specifically countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose thriving contemporary art scene is informed by ancient cultural and craft influences as well as much more modern societal conversations and clashes.

A woman looking at a red and pink light installation

Art Dubai is featuring over 130 contemporary, modern and digital gallery presentations from six continents

“South Asian artists are receiving reinvigorated attention on the world scene due to a new generation of collectors, artists and galleries. Many of the most interesting artists from the region have been creating significant works for years or even decades, as the recent Pop South Asia exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation, hosted by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, demonstrated. Although there is a current growing interest in South Asian art, it is also important for collectors to understand the cultural and historical nuances that inform it.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“People in these countries have been creating notable art works in a variety of mediums for a very long time and we should be careful to avoid a simplistic western-orientalist perspective that it is just being ‘discovered'”, says Durjoy Rahman, LUX partner, philanthropist and founder of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

A man looking at three squares of art in blue, yellow and purple

The 2023 fair includes over 30 first-time participants and more than 60% of the gallery programme is drawn from the Global South

Rahman’s foundation supports both the Sharjah Art Foundation and Art Dubai.

The programme is unlike other art fairs, delivering daily performances and food-based experiences spanning Dubai to South Asia.

Read more: Rana Begum and Durjoy Rahman on South Asian art’s global ascendancy

People in costumes standing on a stage holding bowls of food

The focus on the Global South has been heightened by a new commissioned performance programme in partnership with leading South Asian galleries and institutions

The themes explored at the fair include those of community, celebration, hope and connection. Among the significant galleries involved in the South Asian focus at Art Dubai are Galleria Continua, Efie Gallery and Unit London.

Art Dubai is open from Wednesday 1st-Sunday 5th March 2023

Find out more: artdubai.ae

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Reading time: 2 min
A girl posing in an art gallery and a man taking a photo on his IPhone
A girl posing in an art gallery and a man taking a photo on his IPhone

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

Kamiar Maleki entered the art world at a young age and quickly became a leading curator and collector. Now Director of Volta Art Fairs, he speaks to Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh, about the opportunities Volta is creating for new galleries and artists, ahead of the opening of the fair in New York on 18 May
A man wearing a suit, white shirt and green tie

Kamiar Maleki. Photo by Kenneth Nars

LUX: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you spent your formative years?
Kamiar Maleki: I was born in Iran in 1978 to a family of politicians, military generals, and diplomats. We escaped Iran in early 1979 before the revolution. My formative years came thereafter, spent between France, USA, Germany, and the UK.

LUX: How did your appreciation for art become a compulsion to discover and collect?
KM: My appreciation for art started in Germany. I remember seeing sculptures by Niki De Saint Phalle in the squares of Germany and was mesmerised by them. We also spent much time in Vienna, where my parents exposed us to galleries, museums, and the theatre. My love of art transitioned from a love of sculpture to painting and then well beyond.

The compulsion to collect came after college. As a gift, my father gave my brother and I funds with which to begin our collections. These funds came with a condition. We were advised to extensively research and pitch to him the merit of works we wanted to acquire. If we wanted to sell anything, we had to follow the same philosophy and were required to reinvest the proceeds back into art. This activity functioned as our own personal art fund in a way. I was lucky to discover some gems early on during this period, from Ged Quinn to Oscar Murillo. The discovery of new talent became a compulsion — I truly loved meeting, supporting, and cultivating fresh talent.

two people looking at abstract art on the wall

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

LUX: Over time have you evolved personal guiding principles?
KM: Absolutely. The more art you see, the more you read, the broader the mindset becomes. Your ideas change as well as your tastes. You learn to hone your eye.

LUX: Is there a conversation to be had about how we buy and show art?
KM: Yes, I believe progress is always centered on continuing to question existing models. Whether through my curatorial work or my involvement in the market, I have a practical understanding of how connoisseurs and collectors discover new artists:

The art world is a social market and it operates cyclically, like a traveling nexus. If you’re setting out to expose seasoned collectors to new talent, you need proximity, both geographically and ideologically, to the key players of the art market.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Six years ago, I curated my first show on how one buys, sells and researches art on platforms like Instagram, having bought my first piece on Instagram over seven years ago. Just last summer, I curated the very first art-in-residency program to create NFTs by collaborating with different industries, across the music industry, digital art and traditional art.

It is the responsibility of the curator or director to vet quality and content, to ensure that what you present resonates across audiences. Through exposure and education, there exists the possibility to reinvigorate how we transact.

A woman staring at a black piece of art of coming out of the wall

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

LUX: What was the pull for you to work for Will Ramsay of Ramsay Fairs to lead Volta Art Fair?
KM: I identified in Volta — and by extension Ramsay Fairs — a fair model that mirrored my approach to the art market. I gravitate towards discovery and towards support of galleries, artists, and platforms that posit new and fresh ideas. I see profound opportunity in the role Volta plays as a complement to the entrenched fairs in the art market’s capitals.

LUX: ‘From adversity comes opportunity!’  During the two years of the pandemic you have rebuilt and reset your pillars to ‘Discover. Connect. Collect’.  What does this entail?
KM: I am confident that after the statewide pause in New York and several challenging years globally, VOLTA can reestablish its foothold as a strong emerging- to mid-market platform at the heart of New York’s fair season.

With the May art fair calendar in New York undergoing significant transitions in the past few years, we’re energised by the chance to align Volta with Frieze Art Fair. We have the opportunity to expose new and established collectors to a distinct roster of new and returning galleries unique to Volta. Despite the challenges we faced these past years, those galleries that have emerged have done so with a newfound commitment to their program — and we have as well.

LUX: At a personal level, you mentor artists and gallerists; how do you manage this day to day?
KM: In all honesty, it has become a bit more difficult, as I am committed to fulfilling my role as director of Volta which requires a lot of travel and long hours. I’ve reframed my responsibilities to strengthen the fair’s program and to create a platform that supports our gallery network. In focusing my attention on supporting the galleries, the artists are supported by extension.

A woman showing people an art work of flowers painted on a canvas

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

LUX: How is Volta positioned for multi-media presentation, viewing rooms and so on?
KM: We leverage our website, the Volta Voices blog, and social media as a tool to communicate the highlights of our fair program, but we remain committed now more than ever to the in-person experience. When you navigate a fair comprised of legacy, blue-chip galleries, you’re often confronted by artworks and artists with whom you are already familiar. Our gallery roster is more experimental and less universally recognised — and that for us is very exciting! The experience of seeing the work in person and dialoguing with the gallery or artist directly at Volta is what marks that critical point of discovery and therefore distinguishes us.

Read more: 6 Questions: Bettina Korek, Serpentine Galleries

LUX: At the same time, Volta has upscaled experiential engagement, leasing a 40,000 flagship for Frieze NY.  What are you showcasing this year?
KM: At the heart of Volta New York’s program, and taking up the majority of our real estate, is a dynamic roster of over 50 galleries, some of which join us for the first time, others who previously exhibited with Volta in 2014, or 2019, and have since returned to us. Having these galleries join us on our journey has been critical to our success and therefore they are the focal point of this year’s program.

Beyond our exciting roster of exhibitors, we are welcoming several new programming partners to activate the space. For instance, we will be co-presenting the Volta Spotlight Prize with an exciting NFT platform with whom we’ve partnered. Given that we are able to congregate in person again, we’re also quite looking forward to the return of our full-service café and lounge.

A mother and child standing in front of a wall installation

VOLTA Art Fair. New York City. Photo: David Willems

LUX: How are you finding young artists are reacting to new realities, disruption and distortion?
KM: Beyond the logistical challenges, I see a renewed fervour to create and a strengthen commitment to their practice. So many artists were unable to visit their studios, to source materials, and to exhibit their work. It led to a need to innovate and adapt, hence the proliferation of digital media and new modes of creation. Now I think this digital sensibility or lens has infiltrated the market. Yet, there is still a deep desire to return to experiences, to in-person connection, to tactility.

LUX: Through ‘Volta Voices’ how are you championing emerging talent?
KM: VOLTA Voices is our online editorial platform that features a series of interviews with vanguards of the contemporary art world and friends of Volta , past, present and future. We pride ourselves on welcoming cutting edge, pioneering galleries to Volta. By extension, we see Volta Voices as yet another platform for our exhibitors to communicate their unique vision and that of their artists.

LUX: What advice will you give your children when they embark on their collecting journey?
KM: Stay curious. Don’t let the market dictate where you seek out new artists. Follow what speaks to you, ask lots of questions, and be willing to discover.

Find out more: voltaartfairs.com

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Reading time: 7 min
collage of artworks
artwork installation

Todd Gray, Sumptuous Memories of Plundering Kings, 2021. Courtesy the artist and David Lewis.

woman in black top

Magali Arriola

As Art Basel Miami Beach returns for its first in-person iteration since 2019 this week, so does Meridians, the only large-scale project space at the fair. Showcasing 16 larger-than-life works by a roster of international artists which challenge class, race, and power structures, Meridians reimagines the constraints of the traditional art fair format. Ahead of its opening, curator Magalí Arriola (also Director of Museo Tamayo, Mexico City) speaks to LUX about her curation process and how large-scale art is as much a question of temporality as spatiality

1. Tell us about your curation process for Meridians. How did you go about selecting the artists and artworks?

There was a long process of selection behind Meridians. As its curator, I did a lot of reaching out to the galleries and then worked closely with a committee to do the final selection. This year, however, felt a little different from 2019 since, because of the lockdown, many artists didn’t meet the conditions to produce large-scale works.

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2. What new opportunity does Meridians seek to present artists?

Just like the 2019 iteration, this second instalment provides galleries with a unique opportunity to present ambitious art projects that go beyond the limits of the conventional art fair layout.

large scale textile artwork

Jacqueline de Jong, De achterkant van het bestaan (The backside of existence, 1992). Courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery

3. How do you think experiencing art through a large-scale format affects our relationship with the pieces?

I don’t think scale changes the way we experience art, nor the quality of that experience. I’d like to think that what a sector such as Meridians does is allow us to revisit the notion of scale not only in terms of space but, as some of the works we’re presenting are time-based pieces like video and performance, also in terms of time.

Read more: Legendary Designer Christian Louboutin on Passion & Solidarity

4. Meridians combines the work of emerging and established artists. Why is this hybridity important to you?

Forming a dialogue between emerging and established artists is something that has always been important to me, as it demonstrates that many of the challenges we’re facing today are old challenges that we haven’t resolved. This intergenerational crisscrossing points to the different processes and strategies used by artists for an examination of contemporary thought and experience, as they engage many of the concerns that impact our society and undoubtedly contribute to reassess our current realities.

sculptural artwork

Yinka Shonibare CBE, Moving Up, 2021 © Yinka Shonibare CBE 2021. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York. Photo by Stephen White & Co.

5. Many of the works in Meridians challenge class, race, and power structures. Which single piece challenged you most and why?

Maxwell Alexandre’s work stands out as a piece that reflects on racial representation and social conflict. He is presenting a new painting from ‘Pardo é Papel’, a series that dates back to 2017. It originates from a group of self-portraits that the artist created on brown kraft paper, referencing its early use by Brazil’s administration to generate birth certificates and identity cards for Black people as a way to veil their skin colour. In his practice, Alexandre depicts daily life in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Brazil, seeking to empower his country’s population and resist discrimination.

6. This December marks the first in-person edition of Art Basel Miami Beach since 2019. In what ways do you expect the fair to have evolved since then?

I don’t expect Art Basel Miami Beach to have evolved; I think it is we, as people, who will hopefully have changed, having had the opportunity these whole two years to reflect on many of the social challenges that the globalised world faced during 2020. This, I hope, might have led us to develop a larger and stronger sense of community.

Find out more: artbasel.com

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painter in the studio
painter in the studio

Georg Karl Pfahler in his studio, 1965

Our contributing editor and columnist Sophie Neuendorf caught up with renowned Mayfair gallerist Simon Lee to discuss the Asian art market, NFTs and the enduring influence of Georg Karl Pfahler

Sophie Neuendorf

Simon Lee has always been at the forefront of artistic movements and changes in taste, showing emerging and established artists that represent the zeitgeist and rapidly gain popularity. Now, he’s presenting the first ever exhibition of German hard-edge painter GK Pfahler (1946-2002) in Asia.

Pfahler’s dogged pursuit of the hard-edge style make him one of the most unique German artists of the last half century. Throughout his career, his work remained steadfastly focused on the interplay of space, shape and colour. At the same time, his paintings contain traces of pop and minimal art, unifying two of the most prevalent styles of the 1960s.

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During his lifetime, Pfahler exhibited alongside artists such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Kenneth Noland in shows such as “Signale” at the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland and  went on to represent Germany alongside Gunther Uecker and Heinz Mack at the Venice Biennale in 1970. In the decades that followed, Pfahler continued to experiment with the constraints and boundaries of painting and today, his work remains more relevant and perhaps, even more cutting-edge than much of the contemporary art being shown and hyped.

Sophie Neuendorf: 2021 has been quite a tumultuous year for most galleries. How do you feel about the changes we have experienced within the art business?
Simon Lee: The pandemic has given rise to some fundamental shifts in the way art is mediated and bought. Online sales have greatly expanded the reach of the art market and we have seen a corresponding shift in taste and commercial success.

Sophie Neuendorf: Recent reports suggest that Asia is a force to be reckoned with in terms of creativity and sales, even post-pandemic. What insights can you reveal from your years of experience in Hong Kong?
Simon Lee: Asia has seen tremendous developments across many industries over recent years and I think that the overall growth in the economy, alongside technological advancements and adaptation has contributed to the flourishing creativity seen in the art world. There has been a huge increase in young collectors and the interest in art of this young and active group of people has risen exponentially as their taste becomes increasingly sophisticated and international. The pandemic inevitably provided people with more time on the internet and social media platforms to discover new artists and experience art in a different way.

graphic painting

Sophie Neuendorf: You’re opening a show of German artist Georg Karl Pfahler in Hong Kong this month. What motivated you to choose a hard-edge painter for Asian collectors?
Simon Lee: It’s very exciting to be presenting Pfahler’s work for the first time in Asia and to introduce him as part of the gallery programme with his inaugural exhibition in the Hong Kong space. The language of abstraction and colour in Pfahler’s work is of historical importance but it also feels very contemporary and is something that Asian collectors engage with well. Pfahler is a very well-known artist in Germany but hasn’t had much exposure in other parts of the world so it’s a privilege to give the opportunity for an Asian audience to discover his work.

Read more: Shiny Surfaces, Lawsuits & Pink Inflatable Rabbits – In Conversation with Jeff Koons

Sophie Neuendorf: Pfahler was, and continues to be, an inspiration for many artists as a pioneering hard-edge painter. When was the first time you experienced one of his works and how does it feel to represent the estate?
Simon Lee: Pfahler’s work has had a lingering presence in my career dating back to the 80s and 90s, when I spent a lot of time in Germany and first discovered his work. Over the years I saw his works pass through auction houses and when the opportunity came along to view his work again, I found them very compelling and relative to the gallery programme. It’s a pleasure to be working with the estate and I’ve been particularly impressed with how organised they are. There are fascinating archival materials and historical documents, which we are excited to share with a wider audience across our platforms and publications.

Sophie Neuendorf: Are you planning a London show of Pfahler as well?
Simon Lee: Yes, we look forward to presenting a more comprehensive survey show next Spring in the London space.

Sophie Neuendorf: If you could juxtapose Pfahler with any two other artists who would you choose?
Simon Lee: Looking at our programme, I would say Angela Bulloch and Sarah Crowner. Pfahler, Bulloch, and Crowner’s practices all present similar investigations into colour, shape and space. There are spatial and architectural elements in all their works. Crowner embraces the idea of painting as object and her works embody the experience of architecture and space both within themselves and their display, especially her tile works that echo Pfahler’s experiments with environments and art, and which embrace the spectator. Bulloch’s work also engages with architecture, colour, and mathematics, her stylised geometry recourse some aspects of Pfahler’s hard-edge sensibility.

blue abstract painting

Sophie Neuendorf: Richter, Uecker, Mack, Pfahler… Germany is known for producing a plethora of important and popular artists. How do you feel the German market will develop over the near future?
Simon Lee: The German market is constantly evolving. It’s a large nation with many talented artists and many young artists that are gaining a lot of attention. There’s a great tradition of German modern and contemporary art which has transcended national boundaries so I’m sure the market will reflect this. The art market has become truly global, reinforced by digital communication but there are certainly many talented German artists playing a role at the forefront of this market.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s Spectacular New Photography Exhibition Opens At Linley In London

Sophie Neuendorf: NFTs are all the rage right now. Will you enter the market?
Simon Lee: We’re certainly exploring the opportunities that exist in this sector and market. There seems to be a growing recognition of the fact that NFTs will be a feature of an emerging mainstream market.

Sophie Neuendorf: How do you choose the artists you represent? Is it a gut feeling or more analytical?
Simon Lee: It’s neither one nor the other but a combination of many factors that play a role in selecting our artists. Certain people carry more weight than others with their recommendations but, it’s most important to consider the overall gallery programme and the connection to our other artists. I look at both our established artists and emerging artists to see how their practices and works link together. It’s interesting to me to observe this in artists that are at different points of their career.

Sophie Neuendorf: If you could have dinner with any 3 artists, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Simon Lee: I’ve dined with many great living artists and sadly some dead ones as well, but of those who I’ve never met and are no longer with us, I would say Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Titian as I love Italian food. Other scenarios would have to include Rothko, de Kooning, and Pollock or Cézanne, Monet, and Kandinsky.

“Georg Karl Pfahler” runs until 8 January 2022 at Simon Lee Hong Kong.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

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Reading time: 6 min
art gallery exterior
art gallery exterior

Pace Gallery’s new space in Palm Beach, Florida

As part on an ongoing monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President Sophie Neuendorf discusses the cultural shifts caused by the pandemic and forecasts the future shape of the art industry

Sophie Neuendorf

Prior to the pandemic, city life was often synonymous with a thriving arts and culture scene. Most of the world’s major cities offered a plethora of  national and international galleries and museums to tempt tourists and locals alike, alongside the global rota of art fairs and biennials. It was an exciting ecosystem that was supported by constant stream of international art lovers and collectors.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

However, as James Tarmy recently wrote in Bloomberg, the pandemic has radically changed the status quo and has been vastly more painful to museums and nonprofit art organisations than to commercial galleries. The main reason for the disparity, he explained, is that “buying art is mostly a private activity; seeing art is much more communal.” His article reveals that sales have remained surprisingly robust at multiple levels of the market, from modestly sized dealers like James Fuentes and François Ghebaly to blue-chip galleries like David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth. The rapid pivot to online sales are largely responsible last year’s robust sales, with $10.1 Billion spent on fine art sales in 2020 (Source: artnet Price Database). Private sales have also proved resilient— perhaps not surprising, given that the collective wealth of America’s 651 billionaires, for example, has increased by $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic. Strong interest from millennials, who squirrelled away vast amounts of disposable income amidst the lockdown, and robust activity from Asia are further fuelling demand.

When it comes to projecting the art industry’s timeline for full re-emergence from lockdown, it would be wise to note not only the rate of vaccination as a benchmark, but also the psychological impact and cultural shift initiated by the pandemic. For example, countryside living is having a renaissance, fuelled by remote working. While previous generations were drawn to cities for work and leisure alike, the restrictions of our global lockdown have bought about a counter-reaction to city life. A shift to working from home, zoom calls, and decreased business travel support this change. But what does this cultural shift mean for the art industry? How will galleries, museums, and institutions respond to collectors’ migration away from the world’s major cities?

rural art gallery

Hauser and Wirth Somerset

As restrictions in movement and social distancing measures continue, more and more galleries, artist residencies, and institutions are finding homes in coastal towns and the countryside, opening up spacious, Covid-19 friendly spaces to attract collectors in a safe space.

Read more: Philip Hewat-Jaboor on discovering art through materials

Last summer, already saw an increase in pop up gallery spaces in popular destinations such as the Hamptons, Aspen, St Moritz, and Mallorca. Hauser & Wirth was ahead of the trend with its opening of H&W Somerset and this summer will see the launch of a new space in Menorca, and  in Monaco. Similarly, Pace Gallery is expanding within Seoul, as Asia is recovering more rapidly from the pandemic in comparison to European countries. The gallery is also catering to its Western clients who are migrating to coastal towns, by opening up spaces in East Hampton and Palm Beach.

As more and more galleries are responding to the “new normal,” a hybrid model will most likely develop. Taking advantage of the increased collector confidence in online transactions, galleries as well as auction houses will be able to connect with their clients online, while also opening up Covid-friendly spaces in more rural locations.

rural art gallery

Hauser and Wirth Menorca is scheduled to open in July 2021

The drama of quarantine also opened up previously unlikely collaborations between fairs, dealers, auction houses, and even luxury brands. For example, Bulgari sponsored Sotheby’s Old Master Week in January, outfitting the auctioneer and staff in the brand’s jewels. I suspect we’ll be seeing many more partnerships of this kind as well as auction-art-fair hybrids like Christie’s recent project with the 1:54 contemporary African art fair or Johann König’s ‘Messe’ in St Agnes.

The incredible innovations rapidly developed during the pandemic—from live-streamed sales to a rolling battery of online offerings—are here to stay. Industry insiders and experts are predicting a surge of post-lockdown activity, but physical openings and exhibitions will continue to be complemented by online sales. The art industry has definitely changed, but I’m hopeful for what comes next.

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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women looking at art
women looking at art

Masterpiece London, 2019. Photograph by Ben Fisher. Courtesy of Masterpiece

In his first column for LUX, art collector, advisor and chairman of Masterpiece London Philip Hewat-Jaboor discusses the joys of discovering art and design objects through their materials
portrait of a man in black and white

Philip Hewat-Jaboor. Photograph by Danny Evans

I’m always intrigued to discover what brings people to works of art, and what sets their collecting in motion. Over the years, one of the most beguiling ways I’ve found to draw people in, is to look at an artwork’s materials and explore how it has been made. What does the texture and surface of the materials tell us? What meaning and significance do those materials hold? What cultural and historical value do they have? Whether it’s precious stones, marble, porcelain, pigment or wood, it’s interesting to think about how the artist has transformed a raw material into something full-formed and to look for the beauty in that process. Materials transcend disciplines, cross continents, and evolve through time and when it comes to beginning your own collection, it’s a brilliant place to start.

Personally, I’m obsessed by coloured ornamental stones, and by that I mean the stones that were first quarried by the Romans in Egypt and other parts of the Roman Empire, which became incredibly prized as both building materials and materials for making works of art. I take great pleasure in looking at how these materials are used and reused over the course of history. For example, you might be looking at a 18th century vase made out of Egyptian porphyry (my favourite material) but whilst it’s an 18th century object, it was probably made out of a 2nd or 3rd century column that had been abandoned in the Renaissance or whenever, dug up from the excavations in Rome and turned into another object. There’s a wonderful sense of continuity, and doing this kind of research is a fantastic way of not only learning more about the object itself, but also history.

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There are then the contemporary artists and designers who are thinking about new ways of using ancient materials such as stone. There are designers and artists at David Gill, for example, who are incorporating these wonderful, ancient, coloured stones into contemporary furniture and in doing so, they are bringing new life to the material. In this sense, I’m quite anti the division between traditional and contemporary art because everything looks backwards and forwards. In my opinion, things are either good or bad, stimulating or indifferent, whether they were made yesterday or 5,000 years ago.

ancient sculpture

Galerie Chenel at Masterpiece London 2019, Ben Fisher Photography, courtesy of Masterpiece

It’s also interesting to consider what inspires the rebirth of a particular material. For example, I’ve been thinking about how there’s been a trend for refurbishing kitchens and bathrooms in the last ten years, and incorporating coloured marbles into new designs. There’s also the fact that each slice of marble, not all marbles but many of them, will be totally unique. So if you’re making a limited edition of five coffee tables, each one will be different and I think that’s really appealing to both the creator and the modern consumer.

Read more: Olivier Krug on champagne and music

Lately, there has also been a trend, or at least a growing interest in more sustainable craft processes, but the interesting thing is that many of these artists and designers are already using historic materials, which is in itself sustainable, but in my opinion, it also imbues the contemporary object with more of a soul. For example, Sebastian Brajkovic, a fantastic artist at David Gill Gallery, made a wonderful side-table out of white marble combined with some artificial marble and other bits and pieces. It’s a strikingly contemporary object, but it is modelled on a Roman sarcophagus.

This past year, in particular, has encouraged people to think about how they want to live, and what might bring their lives comfort, which naturally impacts what they are choosing to buy or collect. I personally think being surrounded by beautiful objects is a very important part of life, and can bring people so much joy.

So where to begin with all of this? Visiting museums, galleries, art fairs and even country houses is a fantastic way to discover and pique interest in new eras and disciplines. Exhibitions even have the power to kickstart entire collecting trends. For example, Treasure Houses of Britain was a great show that took place at the National Gallery in Washington in 1985, showcasing paintings, furniture and works of art from British country houses. The exhibition had such an inspirational effect that it launched an Anglo-manic wave in American collecting in the 80s.

When I reflect upon my own collecting journey, I think how fortunate I was that my grandfather was a collector and that he would let me handle his Chinese ceramics collection. This close-up experience with a material is not something you often get at a museum, but with his passion and trust, I had the opportunity to really look at, appreciate and observe the material and craftsmanship.

In the same way, art and design dealers often want to share their passion for their speciality with potential clients. My advice to new collectors is to actively start conversations, ask questions, read, listen, research and build your knowledge. Search for beauty, great craftsmanship, and ultimately, allow yourself to be guided by your instincts.

Philip Hewat-Jaboor is Masterpiece London’s Chairman of the Fair.

This year’s edition of Masterpiece London will take place online with smaller-scale live activations in London in June. For updates and online events, visit: masterpiecefair.com

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Former Exhibitions - ‘Van Gogh, Dreaming of Japan’ and ‘Jackson Pollock and Shamanism’ were about transversality

Former Exhibitions – ‘Van Gogh, Dreaming of Japan’ and ‘Jackson Pollock and Shamanism’ were about transversality

This autumn, Singapore hosts two notable events: a Formula One Grand Prix, and the Pinacothèque de Paris’ first ever pop-up museum in the region. Marc Restellini, the owner of the fabled museum, talks us through its collection and his philosophy

“A museum must not become a cemetery.” André Malraux’s remark underlines a fear, which unfortunately, has been well-founded for years, not only in France, but also all over the world.

Marc Restellini - The academic and Modigliani scholar owns and runs the Pinacothèque de Paris

Marc Restellini – The academic and Modigliani scholar owns and runs the Pinacothèque de Paris

His statement raises a fundamental question: what becomes of an artwork once it has left a collector’s walls to take its place in a museum? Whether they have donated, sold or loaned artworks, collectors are the wellsprings of museums. The Louvre, the MoMA, the Hermitage or the NAMOC for example, there is no museum in the world that has not come into being by virtue of private collections.

I have never ceased to wonder why an artwork loses its power as soon as it is exhibited in a museum. Being fortunate enough to have seen the works in the collectors’ homes and being stunned by their splendour, I cannot understand why, when I find them years later inside a museum, that they have lost that magic, that aura which I found in them previously.

Is this the fear that Malraux tried to express? He was, after all, an enlightened art lover who knew collectors so intimately, and who was for so long the head of the French museums as the country’s first Minister of Cultural Affairs from 1958 to 1969.

But what is a museum? In the past, collected objects were kept and exhibited privately. The great collectors such as Barnes, Morosov, or Chtoukine, just to mention some of the best-known, allowed public access to their collections once a week. Is the private museum not an extension of the Curiosities Cabinet? The Curiosities Cabinet first emerged during the Renaissance and was a place to house collections of a variety of objects. The term ‘Chamber of Wonders’ was used later for collections that primarily held works of art. Curiosities Cabinets finally disappeared in the 19th century when they were essentially replaced by museums.

Pinacothèque de Paris,  The art gallery is located at place de la Madeleine, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris

Pinacothèque de Paris, The art gallery is located at place de la Madeleine, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris

The idea today is to bring back everything the museum had lost of its essence and meaning. Indeed the name of the museum that will open in 2015 in Singapore is called La Pinacothèque de Paris. Etymologically, ‘pinacothèque’ means ‘box of paintings’, and connotes intimacy and secrecy. To provide visitors with a taste of what is to come when the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris officially opens, a pop-up exhibition will open this year on 14 September. Entitled ‘The Art of Collecting, Masterpieces from the Pinacothèque de Paris’, the exhibition will span over five hundred years of art history through prestigious works of art by 20 world-famous artists including Botticelli, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Monet, Renoir, Modigliani, Picasso and Chu Teh Chun among others. The museum in Singapore will mirror that of France, a fine art museum known for its critically acclaimed exhibitions that celebrate transversality and the dialogue between different works of art.

‘Transversality’ is a term that goes some way towards explaining how a small, timeless, community of artists, from all periods, cultures and origins, are united by a similar way of thinking and behaving. By its encyclopaedic approach, every museum tends to make us forget its main role: to ensure that the works stay alive. They all speak of beauty, have identical references and the same historical narrative. But these works have to be placed together in order to set up a dialogue — beyond borders and periods — for they summon up what we all have in common.

Pablo Picasso Jacqueline, Undated

Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline, Undated

That is why, for the first time, I have chosen to show works together without classifying them by period or artist, or even by category like in other museums. By combining them according to my sensitivities and with an iconographic, and aesthetic logic, I have attempted to re-establish the original dialogue found within the art lover’s cabinet, that timeless place wherein the works can converse, dialogue and come to life again.

So forget everything you have been taught, or all you have not learned; let yourself go with the intermingling, the combinations, and try to find the keys you are offered in order to hear the works speaking to each other. You will enjoy, without any complexes, works that are usually impossible to see side by side. You will see Botticelli, Van Dyck or Renoir representing the worthies in the same way, be they Italian in the 16th century, Flemish in the 17th or French in the 19th century. You will also notice that Botticelli and Pierre de Cortone’s circle saw religion in an identical way; and that the landscapes by Picasso, Monet and Ruysdael were constructed in the same fashion.

Chaim Soutine The Bellboy, 1927-1928

Chaim Soutine, The Bellboy, 1927-1928

A singular experience in today’s world, a museum exhibition serves as a reminder that understanding can be framed in an attractive and playful manner, as long as one liberates one’s sensitivity. The artworks shall not be contemplated individually, but should be observed together, within their referential aspects. Future visitors of the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris will be invited to enter the precious lair of a collector’s passion and experience a repository of wonderment and beauty.

Singapore, a country with numerous museums, shows a strong interest for culture(s) and a serious involvement in community outreach and education. That was therefore natural and logic to implement the Pinacothèque de Paris in Singapore. And as a matter of fact, the Pinacothèque de Paris will offer the first network of museums making the connection between Asian and Western art. We are excited to welcome you to our first show in the Red Dot.

About the Pinacothèque de Paris

Pinacothèque de Paris, the largest private art museum in Paris, will open its first venue outside of Europe in Singapore. Set to fully open by the first quarter of 2015, the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris will be located at the Fort Canning Centre, within Fort Canning Park. Pinacothèque de Paris is well-known for presenting world-class exhibitions by master artists the likes of Rembrandt Harmensz, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch and Jackson Pollock among others. These masterpieces are borrowed from private collections not normally seen in a museum setting and the way they are presented is unique.

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