Singapore is the most prosperous country in Southeast Asia, whose culture blends both Chinese and Western influences. With an upright government, efficient bureaucratic system, a beautiful garden-city environment, and as Asia’s financial hub, Singapore draws many foreign investors onto her shores, including multinational companies and leaders of the technological industry. Singapore is also one of the safest countries in the world, and her education system is top ranking in both Asia and worldwide. Considering all of Singapore’s qualities, it is no wonder that many of Asia’s richest have immigrated to Singapore. There are also wealthy people among the older generation of Singaporeans, many of whom are art collectors. Together with their parents, these people immigrated to Singapore. They eventually inherited their family businesses, which had grown to become long-standing enterprises and international brands over the years. Whether or not it is because of local collectors born on Singapore soil, or foreign investors entering the country, Singapore’s inherent qualities have made the country a prime location for art exchange, as well as a budding platform for art collection and transactions in Southeast Asia.
Over the years, Singapore’s art market trend has changed alongside her socioeconomic changes. In the early 70s and 80s, Singaporean investors entered China. At that time the Chinese economy was weak, and many Chinese artists took up government jobs and taught at art academies to make a living. Singaporean investors who appreciated Chinese culture made friends with the Chinese literati, and supported their friends by purchasing their artwork. This is why some works of famed Chinese artists have been found in the hands of Singaporean collectors. The artworks of Chang Dai-chien, Qi Baishi, Li Keran, Xu Beihong, Wu Guanzhong, Liu Haisu, Wu Zuoren, Fan Zeng and more have been found in the art collections of older-generation Singaporean entrepreneurs. Following the growth of the Chinese economy, Chinese auctioneers and collectors have come to Singapore in search of these national treasures to bring them back home to China. Some Singaporean collectors have also sold these works of art in international auctions.
Liu Kang’s Artist and the Model
The Singapore art market trend has also shifted with the modern age. With regards to contemporary art, the new generation of Singaporean art collectors have now set their sights on Southeast Asian artwork. The works of first-generation Singaporean artists are especially popular, and the value of their work has exponentially increased over the past decade. The pioneers of Singaporean art — Chen Wen Hsi (1906 – 1992), Chen Chong Swee (1910 – 1984), Liu Kang (1911 – 2004), and Cheong Soo Pieng (1917 – ) — found their beginnings with the Nanyang style of painting. From 2010 to 2013, the value of their work has increased by more than 10 times. The collectors of their works have hence greatly benefited from their rise in popularity.
Aside from them, the work of the other Singaporean pioneer artists — Lim Hak Tai (1893 – 1963), Georgette Chen (1906 – 1993), Fan Chang Tien (1907 – 1987), Wu Tsai Yen (1911 – 2001), and Shi Xiang Tuo (1906 – 1990) — also saw a rise in value.