With the number of contemporary art collectors growing exponentially around the world, ARTnews takes a look at two regions of Asia that are becoming increasingly important to the global arts ecosystem.
A growing ecosystem
Over the past decade in Southeast Asia, millennial collectors have begun to take an interest in local art scenes, with the aim of creating a new social model of collecting. Biennials and art fairs have increased the region’s international visibility, which in turn has attracted heavy consumers from mainland China and Europe. Malaysia and Indonesia, two former colonies, pursue artistic and national identities independent of their colonial history.
The Indonesian contemporary art scene first flourished in the 1990s and saw its greatest strides in the early years, when the rise of international art fairs and auction houses coincided with emergence of a new generation of collectors.
âFor a while, everyone was in a state of euphoria over new galleries, new artists, new fairs and greater mobility in Indonesia,â said Farah Wardani, executive director of the Jakarta Biennale, one of the most important artistic events in Indonesia. âNow we are looking at the questions of how the art ecosystem here should develop and what kind of institutions can accommodate that growth. “
Indonesia is now home to two of Southeast Asia’s most successful art fairs, Art Jakarta in the capital (the 11th edition of Art Jakarta was led by Indonesia’s top collector Tom tandio) and ARTJOG in Yogyakarta. Both local and focused on local talent, the two may soon eclipse what was once the region’s preeminent art fair, Art Stage Singapore, which was launched in 2011 but has struggled recently.
Three years ago, collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo opened the MACAN Museum, exhibiting works by Xu Bing, many of which were on loan from the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, this Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur and fellow collector Budi Tek founded in 2014.
âCollectors love Natasha Sidharta, Amalia Wirjono, Melani W. Setiawan, Henny scott, and many other art enthusiasts, for example, have done more than just collect, “said Heri Pemad, director and founder of ARTJOG, adding,” over the past decade they have helped network and collaborations with the international art scene, and created more visibility for Indonesian artists.
In Malaysia, artists have largely imitated Western European fine art trends and classical Chinese watercolor until 1998, when the authoritarian tendencies of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad provided a breaking point – or breakthrough, as artists turned away from painting to turn to new media as vehicles of protest. The country’s burgeoning art market was nurtured by a small number of galleries and the collectibles scene was intimate.
The arrival of four auction houses from 2003 was a game-changer. Leading Malaysian artists such as Wong Hoy Cheong, Ibrahim Hussein and Ahmad Fuad Osman have achieved impressive sales among Chinese and Indian collectors. A 2012 sale at Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers made 797,500 ringgits ($ 250,000) for Hussein’s Red, Orange and Core (1984), although the prices are still lower than those of artists from wealthier neighbors. But public enthusiasm for art, long stigmatized or sidelined in the country, has skyrocketed, and young collectors, increasingly buying local, are poised to shape the future of the market.
âFor the first time, children of collectors and young peopleVerseas education in the UK or the US is coming back to live in Malaysia, âsaid Lim Wei-Ling, director of the Wei-Ling gallery in Kuala Lumpur. “They’ve seen what’s going on outside of Asia, and when they come back they want to own some of what’s going on here.”
As in Malaysia, government entities in Thailand have been slow to support the arts, making private enterprise essential to the country’s cultural development. A few years ago, Petch Osathanugrah, president of the University of Bangkok, unveiled his plan to create the Sansab Museum of Contemporary Art, now called Dib Bangkok, as a showcase for its world-famous collection, which includes pieces by international artists like Damien Hirst and Frank Stella as well as Thai artists by order of Rirkrit Tiravanija and Udomsak Krisanamis.
Collectors Eric Bunnag Kiosk and his stepfather, Jean-Michel Beurdeley, also presents its 600-person collection at the 32,000 square foot MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in Chiang Mai, declared Best New Museum in Asia-Pacific in 2017 by the Leading Cultural Destinations Awards. The base of local collectors in Thailand is small compared to a place like Taiwan, but it is likely to grow as the Thai art market competes internationally. In 2018, two new events were launched in the capital: the Bangkok Biennial and the Bangkok Art Biennale. Founded by former Minister of Culture Apinan Poshyananda and Thai businessman Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, the latter has presented works by well-known names Marina AbramoviÄ and Yoshitomo Nara alongside leading artists from Southeast Asia. Is, like Sakarin Krue-On and Ho Tzu Nyen. The anonymous Bangkok Biennale brought together more than 200 artists from 26 countries in an exhibition that opened with a performance of the national anthem and an aerobics session under the Rama VIII Bridge that crosses the river Chao Phraya. The 2018 Thailand Biennale in Krabi, southern Thailand, was planned by the Ministry of Culture and the Krabi local government.
Accompanying this multitude of private initiatives in Thailand, a new generation of galleries is now competing with long-standing installations, such as Numthong Art Space and Richard Koh Fine Art. Both galleries exhibited at the Art Stage Singapore 2018, which chose Thailand as a special country. Yet without government support – there is, for example, no national collection of contemporary art – most works by contemporary Thai artists will remain in private hands or institutions abroad – for the moment.
In 2019, Taiwan could claim 40 billionaires, with a combined net worth of around $ 85.5 billion. Collectors nationwide have been engaged internationally since the 1990s, and there is new energy. Veteran collectors love Pierre Chen, Barry lam, and Rudy tseng have been joined in recent years by a wealthy younger generation whose members include a pop star Jay chou, fashion mogul Leslie Sun, and patron of the arts Jenny Yeh, who founded the Winsing Arts Foundation in Taipei last year. The capital attracts international companies to set up outposts there and now has its own art fair, the three-year-old Taipei Dangdai. As political and economic turmoil continues to challenge Hong Kong, Taiwan, despite hurdles such as high art taxation, may have a chance to overtake a longtime rival in the art market.
âTaiwan’s collectible scene has always corresponded to its regional position – 20 years ago the main focus was ancient art, modern art and local contemporary art,â said Queena Chu, director of the Mind Set Art Center in Taipei. âOver the past 20 years, with the progression of globalization and promotion by international auction houses and art fairs, collectors’ acquisitions have gradually shifted to the West. Despite the odds, she is certain that Taiwan will be “one of the most important places and destinations in Asia in terms of a diverse art collection.”
Other names to know:
Oei Hong Djien
Iwan Kurniawan Lukminto
Christine and Erastus Radjimin
Zain Azahari (also known as Pak Zain)
Dato ‘Noor Azman
Aliya and Farouk Khan
Maggie and Richard Tsai
Chiu tsai hing
A version of this article appears in the Fall 2020 issue of ARTnews, under the title âSoutheast Asia and Taiwan on the Riseâ.