Having started out by acquiring Western and Renaissance art, Singaporean art collectors Linda Neo and Albert Lim have turned to buying contemporary art from Singapore and Southeast Asia, with respected names in their collection such as Tang Da Wu, Promthum Woravut, Cheong Soo Pieng, Suzann Victor, Hong Zhu An and Han Sai Por. In 2014, the couple of collectors even opened their own art gallery in Singapore, Primz, to present their private collection, whose masterpieces have been loaned to the Singapore Art Museum, the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and the Art Gallery of New South Wales to Sydney. . I sit down with them to discuss their art collection and Singapore’s place in the global art market.
As the launch of Art SG has been postponed to 2023, what do you think of SEA Focus being one of the few art fairs that Singapore was still able to host in early 2022 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a global drag on art markets for nearly two years. SEA Focus’ presence in Singapore, albeit on a small scale, has been a breath of fresh air for art lovers here. Digital audiences can’t replace the buzz of crowds at fairs. Regional art fairs create an energy that supports art market players. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem so that artists, gallery owners, art institutions, collectors, etc. can continue to contribute to this lifeline.
Do regional art fairs have a role to play and why should Southeast Asian art be supported?
Art is a way for regional artists to show the world their culture and history and plant a recognizable flag on the world art map. There will always be stories and tales to tell and these artists need to be supported.
Does Singapore have a place as an arts hub for Southeast Asia?
Singapore’s convenience and accessibility as a global hub makes it a place not only for business growth, but also for art. Institutional support through art funds anchors the Singapore art market for internal and global growth.
Why did you choose to focus on collecting Singaporean and Southeast Asian art? What are the artists to watch and what is their subject?
We have chosen to focus on collecting primarily Singaporean artists as we see this as our contribution to Singapore’s art ecosystem. Melissa Tan is such an artist. In her recent works, she extracts her own new ideas about femininity from asteroids named after mythological women of various characteristics and statures. The highly worked metal cutouts follow the shape of the asteroids, and the colored resin sculptures add a soft and feminine touch to a very powerful and original creation. We want to mention two other artists who are under our watch. Distortion and disfigurement may not always be a sight to behold, but Alvin Ong’s renderings of human emotions through such depictions elicit a different reaction. There is a Francis Bacon-esque feeling in his paintings, but the bodily emotions are more exaggerated in Alvin’s oils on canvas. His paintings of his subjects’ emotions are both graphic and mystical, evoking unpredictable emotional responses from viewers. Fyerool Darma, of Malay descent, delves into colonial-era historical narratives about his people, and reinterprets and reinvents new sets of modern narratives. They often challenge British and Dutch discourses that project negative and unfavorable images of indigenous Malays. He paints portraits of prominent colonial and Malay political figures, obscuring their faces and rewriting his own stories about these figures. His works are provocative and remind his viewers to revisit stories with fresh eyes.