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More in Singapore venture into art-collecting

Experts advise those who are getting into the game to go for what they genuinely like, even if they are buying art for investment purposes, and to keep a lookout for under-appreciated genres. 

SINGAPORE: With art events mushrooming and more galleries slated to open over the next few years, Singapore's art scene is thriving. Experts say events like Art Stage, Affordable Art Fairs, the opening of Gillman Barracks, and the opening of the National Gallery next year all add spice to the arts industry here, and the number of buyers keen to acquire high-quality art pieces is also on the rise.

Global sales at auction house Christie's jumped 12 per cent from last year to S$5.6 billion for the first half of this year, driven by an increase in the value of artworks and new buyers across geographies, including Singapore.

Said Ms Rebecca Wei, President of Christie's in Asia: "Singapore ranks (in the) top 10. Christie's launched the online-only auctions two years ago and we see new growth, a new wave of buyers coming in. They are the new buyers with a lower-threshold entry point, but very interested in online trading. Singaporeans naturally go for Southeast Asia contemporary oil painting. That's the number one category. Number two would be Chinese lutes, and Chinese painting and contemporary art.

The owners of 20-year-old Opera Gallery in Singapore say they have seen a 10 per cent increase in the average price per piece of art in the last one to two years, but that isn't something that fazes art enthusiasts.

Said the gallery's Asia Pacific Director Stephane Le Pelletier: "We have all kinds of buyers. Some like to buy (work by) young contemporary artists, and I would say the trend was and is for Pop art and contemporary art. If we are talking about established artists, whose work you can find in museums, usually the price is already at a high level, so these pieces are for genuine collectors and people with knowledge."

Opera Gallery specialises in European art, but has been expanding its range to include more global art pieces, including Asian art, due to its location and the growing demand for these genres. Pieces can range from a few thousand dollars to more than a million dollars for a piece by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

No matter who the artist is, and whether one is buying it for one's home or for investment purposes, one thing is for sure - you have got to love that piece of art. That is the mantra for avid art collectors like Evrard Bordier: "Art should first be a matter of love and if you don't choose too badly the art should appreciate in time."

"We choose both recognised artists and new artists, we do some research on them before buying the art and we do it for personal reasons," he said. "Some of the art  pieces we bought have (shown) good value over time."

Still, for those looking to invest, experts say it pays to move away from the 'tried and tested'. Mr Ang Eng Hieang, Executive Director of Bordier & Cie (Singapore) said art that has not been embraced by the general market may have potential. "For example, the Japanese economy has been bad for 25 years, so very few people look at Japanese art other than connoisseurs of good quality workmanship," he said. "So that's a market we think potential clients who are not familiar with art, but who do appreciate it, might want to look into it for good value."

The key is to first pick out a piece you like, and then try to gauge if you are paying fair value for it, he advises. "(Value) going up probably is a bonus, but at least you know you are not overpaying for a decent piece of art. That's the basis of making a decision, rather than to gauge if the artwork will go up 10 times (in value) - because no one really knows."

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