My love for art began way back when I was about six years old. My family saw that I had an aptitude to create so they enrolled me in art classes. I had a knack for creating so I used to decorate my home with all the things that I painted, cut and pasted together.
I only had one ambition—to be an artist. I got that chance when I enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. I was the only student then who was actually happy to be an artist. Most of my peers hated art as they saw no future in it. The curriculum didn’t allow me to concentrate on fine arts full-time, so I persuaded my teachers to tailor a curriculum for me to just pursue the subject.
I was fortunate to be brought up in an environment where I didn’t have to work for money back in art school. But I wasn’t complacent so I worked hard at being an artist until I managed to regularly supply a gallery my artworks, and surprisingly they sold very well.
I got my first taste in art dealing right after graduation. I worked as a gallery assistant at a gallery in Orchard Point. I never thought that I had a knack for promoting and selling art. I sold a lot of paintings during my three year stint there and I consequently decided that art dealing will be my calling.
I opened my first gallery (Jasmine Fine Art) in 1993. Money was tight so I did everything myself back then—from designing the interior and painting the walls to drawing murals. I guess the years in art school were useful after all. My efforts paid off when an interior design magazine featured my gallery in its pages.
I am a good curator and dealer because I understand how artists and collectors think. I know exactly what an artist wants and how he or she wants to be promoted.
I called my second gallery the Museum of Art and Design because a museum is a public space for the masses as opposed to an art gallery which can be cold and uninviting. And I believe in the strengths of the artists that I represent here—they are no doubt museum-worthy.
Art should be accessible to everyone. That’s why there are no doors to my galleries. Everyone is welcome here. Doors are intimidating and create boundaries. People have this preconceived notion that art is expensive and it takes a lot of guts for the layperson to push through those doors. I think that is just regressive and doesn’t do justice to the art and artist. Art should be enjoyed by everyone and not just by an elite few.
You have to earn the right to be called an artist. Your peers and your audience will confer that title to you on the basis of your work. Just because you can paint, doesn’t mean that you can call yourself one.
I am disappointed when people tell me they only buy art for investment. I feel that is so myopic.
Good art is something that moves you.
To truly be a center for the arts in this region, Singapore shouldn’t only spend all that money to just organize events. There are so many good artists here that need a leg up and someone should give them a hand. Everything starts from the grassroots.
After so many years in this business, I learned that money can’t buy you good taste.