Affordable art boosts ranks of Singapore collectors

Sep 6, 2011, 2:44 a.m.

Their collection includes two pieces by Chinese artist Li Fuyuan, whose brightly colored Chinese brush paintings of animals are now auctioned by Sotheby's and can be found in London art galleries.

Er said the two paintings by Li are probably worth more than when they were first purchased, judging by prices quoted over the Internet, although they have no intention to sell.

"There are some pieces that we buy based on aesthetics that we'll probably never ever sell, and there are others that we hope will also go up in value," her husband Chee said.

Some experts believe the thirst to own art may be even greater than current sales show. Many potential customers feel they lack adequate knowledge and are frightened off by what they see as the difficulties of caring for art in Southeast Asia's hot, humid climate.

Gil Schneider, a former consultant with Sotheby's, recently teamed up with advertising executive Jolyn Pek and others to set up a firm to help novice buyers meet artists and galleries.

"For new collectors, we conduct workshops and provide individual consultancy on possible selections based on their budget and taste," Pek said.

Schneider said collectors should not be overly concerned about deterioration as it takes place over a fairly long period of time and paintings can be repaired.

While photographs and paper do deteriorate faster in Southeast Asia because of the humidity, oils on canvas are easier to maintain as they do not suffer the cracks caused by temperature changes as in Europe, he added.

He does not recommend buying contemporary art purely as an investment, and said buyers must enjoy the work as well since it is difficult to predict how an artist will develop.

"The dividend of art is the enjoyment of looking at it everyday, talking to it and discovering what the artist is trying to say."

($1 = 1.202 Singapore Dollars)

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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