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(Credit: Swapnil Bapat)

Art

Singapore's art market is on the rise

Since the 1990s, Singapore’s government has been working to establish the island city-state as a major player in the global art market. After taking a few wrong turns over the years, the island-nation, which lies off the Malaysian peninsula in Southeast Asia, things are finally falling into place, in part thanks to Hong Kong’s fading primacy.

Singapore’s rise to art supremacy is due to a mix of influences. Since the country relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions, thousands of families and businesses have decided to leave Hong Kong for a new life in the south. LVMH, VF Corporation and L’Oréal have all relocated to Singapore in recent months. Honk Kong’s financial community have also jumped ship due to decreased activity in Hong Kong over the past two years.

All this, combined with the arrival of affluent Indonesian and Chinese migrants, has attracted the attention of international artists from all over the world, cementing Singapore as a potential rival to cities like Tokyo and Seoul, the latter of which will launch a new outpost for Frieze magazine in September. Just last week, Sotheby’s confirmed that it would be hosting its first live auction in Singapore after a 15-year hiatus, and Art Basel partnered with Singaporian art fair S.E.A Focus for the first time this year.

Speaking to ARTnews, Magnus Renfrew, co-founder of ART SG, said: “Singapore is increasingly the destination of choice for global companies to be their base of pan-Asia operations and Singapore. This is particularly evident within the tech sector with major western companies basing themselves there. It is also the location of choice outside of China for major Chinese tech companies.”

Chinese art dealer Liu Ying Mei recently opened the 39+ Art Space in Tangjong Pakar Distripark, a warehouse space in Singapore’s port district. Opening up about the changing face of the city, Liu said: “I’ve been seeing a number of experienced collectors moving to Singapore lately and know of a few more who are considering a move here for the long term, with plans to move their entire art collection with them too,” she said. “These are positive signs for the growth of the Singapore art scene and market.”

They added: “It goes without saying that Singapore’s highly developed business infrastructure, family-friendly lifestyle, and travel mobility all amplify its merits for those who are surveying the art market here, with an overall momentum building toward ART SG’s big fair next January.” Though there is still some hesitance as to whether the proliferation of gallery openings in Singapore will lead to increased art sales, there is a firm sense that the country’s art industry is on the up.

Still, many members of the Singaporean art industry, including curator Khairuddin Hori, have been careful to note: “For visibly impactful change in the arts, Singapore needs direct investments from committed, homegrown, corporate entities, and visionary individuals who are genuinely passionate, care for long-term cultural development, and are mature enough to facilitate a diversity of perspectives.”