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Gifts of art
Tailored to your taste
WHEN Joy Cheong wanted a unique present for her father's birthday, she turned to a new Singapore-based website called The Commissioned (thecommissioned.com) to create a portrait of him with his grandchildren.
She trawled through the site to look at works by over 200 artists from over 35 countries, and finally settled on Singapore artist Leslie Low whose realistic portraits appealed to her. She provided him a photograph of her father and Mr Low expertly rendered the image in colour pencil.
The result? "I was glad I could create a one-of-a-kind art piece for my father's birthday. He was surprised and touched as he had never received an art piece before."
At US$231 for a 28x35cm work or US$1,296 for a 61x91cm work, Mr Low's prices are low enough to attract new art buyers such as Cheong to take a chance on commissioning an art piece. The Commissioned instructs the artists to communicate regularly and openly with its art buyers through email, so that the final product would be a satisfactory one.
Since its launch two months ago, The Commissioned has steadily attracted clients from all over the world. Entrepreneur Melvin Yuan started the site after he became frustrated looking for art that could fit the size of his walls.
Mr Yuan says: "I had been in galleries and they were posh places where you try not to look at the price tag. And I had attended art fairs. But without ultra-rich parents or an astronomical salary, how could someone like me talk to an artist about commissioning an art piece?"
He started The Commissioned so that anyone can commission art in a non-intimidating environment. One just has to visit the website, look at works by hundreds of artists, see the medium they typically use (be it paint, colour pencil or others) and the prices they typically charge.
You could then email the artist and specify the image you want by providing a description or photograph, as well as the exact size the artwork needs to be. The artist then draws an initial sketch and emails it to you. When you are satisfied with the sketch, the artist proceeds to create the work. Payment, however, must be made online before the artist starts on the sketches.
Mr Yuan says: "When a client commissions an original work of art, he or she gets to know the artist, builds a relationship, and participates in the creation of the art piece."
Many collaborations, Mr Yuan says, have been transnational: "We've had a Singapore-based client commission an American artist for an acrylic painting of Buddha for her parents in Malaysia. One of our Hong Kong clients commissioned a piece for his home in the United States.
"We have an international property development firm commissioning a Singapore artist to commemorate the sale of a hotel in Shanghai. So we are really global."
The artists on the website range from the young and emerging to the semi-established. There are a few notable Singapore artists such as Simon Ng whose strong figurative works have been exhibited at reputable galleries such as Taksu and Chan Hampe, as well as Justin Lim who's featured in Affordable Art Fair's Young Talent Programme this year (See story below).
Other artists worth checking out are Indonesia's Edward Bonaparte who creates evocative black-and-white chiaroscuro-style paintings; France's Cedric Quissola who makes whimsical graphic-style works and New Zealand's Nick Fedaeff for his vivid fantastic images.
For good value, it seems hard to beat Portugal's Jose Pereira whose dark comic book-style portraits are priced at US$81 for a 28x35cm work or US$456 for a 61x91cm work, or India's Anand Radhakrishnan whose works are priced at US$154 and US$864 for those respective sizes. But please don't let us tell you what you might like. Visit the site yourself.
Affordable Art Fair back for 6th year
RUNNING till this weekend, the Affordable Art Fair Singapore has become one of the best places to find bargain-priced art below S$10,000 - provided you have a sharp eye and a good gauge of art prices.
Its "Under S$1,000 Wall", one of the most popular features of the fair, features a selection of works priced under S$1,000 - such as a Aung Htoo realistic painting titled Transparency (2015, 61x76cms) priced at S$800 as well as oval-shaped figurative paintings priced at S$888 by Italian artist Michele Righetti.
Also worth checking out is its annual Young Talent Programme booth which showcases some very talented but unknown young artists whose works typically go for between S$500 and S$3,000. Pay attention to the works of Wang Jue, Justin Lim and Yeo Jian Leong at the booth.
One of the pleasant surprises at this year's fair is seeing Aaron Gan's watercolour Starry Starry Night, which clinched the Gold Prize at the UOB Painting of the Year (Singapore) 2015, hanging at the Utterly Art booth. Its price tag? Only S$5,000.
Now in its 6th year in Singapore, this edition has 86 galleries showing over 650 artists. It has grown substantially since its humble beginnings in 2010. Back then, there were only 50 galleries which sold a total of S$1.75 million worth of art. Last year, its November edition had 108 galleries and a sales tally of S$4.96 million.
Fair director Camilla Hewitson says this year's November edition has fewer galleries but bigger booths to allow more space for the art to be displayed. It also has more programmes such as Art For Fund, a charity effort that benefits mental patients, as well as several talks and courses in coffee, wine and chocolate painting.
Affordable Art Fair was started in 1999 in the UK by Will Ramsay. Today, it has 17 fairs taking place in 11 countries and a total visitorship figure of 250,000 over 16 years. It also has a strong charitable focus and has given a total of £4million (S$8.62 million) to charity. Ms Hewitson notes that 2015 has been a "tough year" for galleries. Sales have been soft and a number in Singapore have closed.
"Nothing is certain in this day, age and economy," she says. But she is hoping the fair, with its diverse offering of works below S$10,000, can help turn the tide.
Affordable Art Fair Singapore runs at the F1 Pit Building from now till Sunday. Tickets at $18 at the door
Prints by top artists for US$225
KUMARI Nahappan is one of Singapore's top artists. Her beautiful sculptures of tropical fruit can be found at National Museum of Singapore, ION Orchard and The Interlace.
But for art collectors with shallow pockets, her works may be completely out of reach. A smaller-scale bronze sculpture suitable for home display costs approximately US$8,000 while a 55x45cm painting costs approximately US$6,000.
Luckily for her fans, popular online art gallery The Artling (theartling.com) recently launched its first series of prints priced at US$225 each. Measuring approximately 30cms by 42cms and coming in editions of 100 (including two artist proofs), the prints make great gifts for Christmas.
The artists are some of the best in the region, namely Nahappan, Heman Chong, Jeremy Sharma, Michael Lee, Jason Wee, Boedi Widjaja, Mintio, Yasmin Sison, Mariano Ching, Randy Chan and Albert Yonathan Setiawan. Kumari's print is a gorgeous photograph of Anahata, her installation work for Singapore Biennale 2013.
Tolla Duke Sloane, the director and curator of The Artling Prints Project, explains: "We launched these prints to enable young or new art lovers to own works by some of the region's critically acclaimed artists. The website receives a lot of interest in artworks below US$500. But the works available in this price range had been limited - until now."
Prints are artworks that appear in limited editions and were formerly unpopular among Asian collectors because they were perceived to be less valuable and exclusive than paintings, which are typically one-off.
But Ms Duke Sloane thinks that mindset is changing: "In my opinion, print has become more popular with collectors now as more artists in the region have begun working in print and producing high-quality works on archival papers... We now have a large number of prints on The Artling site which simply wasn't possible 10 years ago, as there wasn't a critical mass of established artists then creating work in this medium."
For the projects, all the prints are made on Somerset and Hahnemuhle papers that are designed to last hundreds of years without yellowing. Since its recent launch, the prints have drawn strong collector interest.
The prints are priced at US$225 and available for purchase at theartling.com/galleries/the-artling-prints-project/
Small postcard art makes big impact
BEN Cab. Eko Nugroho. Agus Suwage. Robert Zhao. Wilson Shieh. Teppei Kaneuji. Genevieve Chua. Thukral & Tagra. These are names that make art lovers' hearts skip a beat.
Art lovers thus run the risk of cardiac arrest if they attend Pameran Poskad (Bahasa for "Postcard Exhibition") next week. Postcard-sized artworks by these and 494 other artists will go on sale for as little as S$10 and as much as S$2,000.
Works by top artists are priced higher than that of emerging artists. But the latter tend to price their works between S$10 and S$50, making it affordable for the casual art lover to buy a few pieces as Christmas gifts.
Pameran Poskad is founded by wife-and-husband artist team Tamae Iwasaki and Eitaro Ogawa in 2005. They wanted to "make art accessible to everyone… so that they can enjoy art without critique or classifications", says Ms Iwasaki.
Their concept was simple: Any artist - or even non-artist - can participate by creating artworks that are small enough to fit into the official postcard-sized plastic sleeves provided by the organisers.
The artists price the works as low or as high as they want. The entire proceeds from the sale of the works go to the artist. Of course, some works don't sell at all.
In previous editions, the artists didn't just limit themselves to making two-dimensional paintings or drawings. Some created small sculptural works that were able to fit into the sleeve, while others took the conceptual path. Ms Iwasaki recalls: "One UK artist sent us 'UK air' and 'UK snow' sealed in the plastic envelopes. They sold for S$1 each."
"We get works made out of paper, ceramic, metal, glass, fabric, plastic, wood or leather. The art-making methods include drawing, painting, printmaking, sewing, cutting and carving."
The organisers have not received all the works from the 502 artists from 29 countries who applied to take part.
But as each artist is given 10 plastic sleeves, the exhibition may have as many as 5,020 works - making it very exciting for any art lover to browse through all the little gems. Remember to breathe.
Pameran Poskad takes place at Block 7 in Gillman Barracks, from Nov 20 to 22, from noon to 7pm. Opening night is Nov 19 at 6pm