Wall Street Journal: Cultivating Singapore’s New Collectors

Wall Street Journal: Cultivating Singapore’s New Collectors


In its bid to become a port of call for wealthy global art collectors, Singapore has sponsored everything from an international art fair to a cluster of international art spaces.

Now, a local gallerist is targeting collectors closer to home.

Singaporean Audrey Yeo this weekend opens her eponymous art space, Yeo Workshop, at Gillman Barracks. The space will have an unusual function: Not only will it operate as a commercial gallery, but it will also host the Arnoldii Arts Club, an arts-education program geared toward helping less-experienced Singaporean collectors understand the contemporary art market.

The program takes its name from the Rafflesia Arnoldii, a large flower indigenous to Southeast Asia. It will launch its first series of classes starting September 18.

Six weeks long, the series will offer courses in art history, art production and the art market. Classes will be led by experts including British curator Stephen Lazarides, best known for launching the career of the street artist Banksy, and academic Henry Lydiate, who specializes in art law.

The series will cost 6,500 Singapore dollars (roughly US$5,100) to attend, though anyone can drop in on a one-off basis for S$170 per class. Afternoon classes are targeted at art-industry professionals, while evening classes are tailored to would-be collectors.

Ms. Yeo said she felt Singapore was “ripe” for an arts club after clients at Art Stage Singapore came to her for advice. Their comments highlighted the dearth of opportunities in town for people interested in the arts to pick up basic knowledge.

“A lot of the Asian arts programs are [graduate] courses, but what if you don’t want to do it so intensely?” said Ms. Yeo, who worked as an accountant in New York before studying at the Sotheby’s Institute in London.

“In London there are groups like Young Tate Patrons, but I was quite surprised that there wasn’t something similar in Singapore,” she added. (She says she plans for Arnoldii to work with The Collectors Club, an appendage of Art Stage that hosts occasional gatherings for the fair’s collectors.)

While Singapore has plenty of art schools, including the 75-year-old Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, most of them focus on training curators and artists instead of patrons or collectors.

“Generally, sellers in the art world have more information than the buyers, which at times can put the buyers at a significant disadvantage,” said Phil Whittaker, a former director at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art Singapore, who will teach a class on art collecting for Arnoldii.

Arnoldii’s classes are capped at 20 people, Ms. Yeo said, adding that most are about three-quarters full.

What to expect from a class?  Ms. Yeo says she deliberately steered away from the feel of a stuffy lecture hall.

To that end, she enlisted Yeo Workshop artist Edward Thomson to deck out the class space with steel sculptures and prints inspired by yew leaves.

“We want to make it interesting, entertaining and yet vigorous without beating you over the head with it,” Ms. Yeo said.

Follow Kristiano Ang on Twitter @kristiano