The Making of Art Apart Fair: An Intimate Conversation with Rosalind Lim

Written By Candy Tong

6th Jul 2016

Category: Interview

When we first wrote about the Art Apart Fair, it was held in a hotel. Come 11 July, the Art Apart Fair moves into the heart of Orchard Road, with its 8th edition debuting at Isetan Wisma Atria.

The Art Apart Fair first broke the notion of fine art and its white cube environment by holding the fair in a hotel—so why the shift? Read on as we found out more from Art Apart Fair Director Ms Rosalind Lim.

The 8th edition of the Art Apart Fair at Unit 02-01A of Wisma Atria. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

Ms Rosalind Lim’s love for art began in childhood, and she started collecting art in the 1970s. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

What made you decide to start Art Apart Fair?

About five years ago, I was a consultant for an international art gallery which wanted to venture into Singapore’s art market. The gallery only focused on the secondary art market, selling artworks by established and master artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Miro, Warhol and Matisse, turning emerging artists away in the process.

I saw an opportunity to create a platform for these artists to showcase their works for the primary market. My passion culminated in holding the first Art Apart Fair in Singapore in 2013, occupying 38 rooms at the Conrad Centennial Hotel and showcasing emerging and mid-career artists.

Do you have any art education or background? Who or what has inspired you to venture into art?

My professional background is in Public Relations, Branding and Marketing. I started collecting art in the mid-1970s, buying my first artwork from a spray paint street artist in Hyde Park. I then progressed to collecting artworks by Chinese artist Zhu Wei and Vietnamese artist Cuong in the early 1990s. 

As a child, I have always loved art. My uncle, a talented artist, kept his sketches at home and I would frequently spend afternoons admiring his works. My grandfather saw my interest and paid the fees of $6 a month for weekly art lessons. To a ten year-old, it was an eye opener to learn drawing and painting in a classroom alongside adult classmates.

What are the key challenges in running the Art Apart Fair?

The main challenge that I face is not the daily operation of the business but in garnering public support and igniting an interest in visual art.

There are more artists than there are art patrons. The visual art market would be more vibrant and sustainable if shoppers could spend 20 percent of their disposable income in collecting art pieces. Singapore is a young country and relatively new to the art scene. If you look at Japan, which has a longer history, it has enough art lovers to sustain the art business. Many of the long-standing galleries there have been around between 30 to 50 years. Some of our Singapore galleries close down after 3 to 5 years simply because there is a lack of support. A healthier art ecosystem would allow artists to create more quality works for art lovers.

Another issue is the small pool of artists here. In Yogyakarta, there are more than 2,000 artists in such a small town. In Japan and Korea, there are more than 100,000 artists in each of the countries. It is a matter of demand and supply. 

Japanese artist, Shinichi Wakasa’s painting titled RED. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

There seems to be a lack of an art appreciating culture in Singapore. What do you think is the root of the problem and how do you think we can nurture this culture?

In other countries, schools start bringing pre-schoolers to museums or artist studios. Parents also do the same. Perhaps a more enriching art education could be included as part of the school’s curriculum. Corporate companies could also use their influence to support artists, a move that improves its image and benefits both the public and artists.

How does the Art Apart Fair differentiate itself from other art fairs?

Art pieces placed against white walls in white spaces—like those in galleries and fairs—can be cold and intimidating to visitors.

Visiting the Art Apart Fair is like being transported to the home of the artist or gallerist. The homey set-up closes the gap between art and people. They would not feel intimidated or obliged at the fair. People can also get ideas on how art can be displayed, like on top of a cupboard or dining table, hanging onto a pillar or leaning against a wall. 

Paintings displayed with vintage furniture help visitors visualise how they could display art in their own homes. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

How do you determine if an emerging or mid-career artist has potential?

It has a lot to do with affinity. First, I have to like how the artist utilises art elements to present his concepts. Creativity is something like a “Eureka” moment and cannot be recalled on demand. If the artist’s creativity strikes me, I would interview the artist informally and find out about previously held exhibitions, if the artist’s works have been exhibited in any galleries or museums, and who were his previous clients. How long the artist has been painting and whether this is a lifelong career choice are also important considerations.

Building rapport with artists and grasping the concept behind the works help me market the works better. It is my responsibility to nurture and support artists along the way and to help them achieve success once I’ve selected them.

Why did you choose to hold this edition at Wisma Atria, a commercial retail space?

As long as the brand’s DNA is kept intact, we are not deviating from Art Apart Fair’s business model. We are still displaying artworks in a welcoming manner where we can be in close contact with our clients.

Isetan’s management has also been supportive. They wanted the space at Wisma Atria to have a lifestyle feel for the shoppers and we saw that as an opportunity. The greatest advantage is that this creates more awareness amongst regular shoppers. Hopefully, they would buy an art piece instead of a branded bag!

What are the highlights of the 8th edition?

We will be showcasing lifestyle products such as artisanal furniture and carpets to complement the art. Also, we will be running workshops and talks by experts from different trades such as a creative Japanese florist Dan Takeda and jewellery designer Wang Jing. I will also be hosting a tour and talk about the Art Apart 8th Edition to share about the curation process. 

Workshops and talks by expertise of various fields are available for registration by emailing to Limited to 20 participants per workshop. 

Are there any artists who are not to be missed?

Philippines artist Cezar Arro’s “pour-traits” is a pun on the word “portrait”. Portraits are a depiction of people; “pour” is a reference to his technique; with “-traits” referring to the characteristics of a person. The artist uses the pouring of paint and a realistic painting technique to depict the likeness and character of a person. I have specially commissioned a “pour-trait” of the late Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

“Pour-trait” of Mr Lee Kuan Yew by artist Cezar Arro. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

Erica Hestu Wahyuni’s The Wedding in Happy Town, 129 x 158 cm, Acrylic on Canvas and Wood, 2015. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

Limited print editions of Henri Matisse’s works will also be on sale from S$280 to S$650. Pictured: The Horse, the Rider and the Clown. Photo: Art Apart Fair.

Another artist would be Erica Hestu Wahyuni, a prominent Indonesian artist who has won 18 competitions locally and abroad. Her artistic style is endearingly childlike with playful narratives of her views about the world. She uses her favourite subject matter, animals such as elephants, cats, and cows, as personifications of herself. Her imaginative works show her clever use of space and vibrant colours.

What is your greatest satisfaction from running the fair?

The process of meeting and working with the artists in their home countries is always very fulfilling for me. I always look forward to the arrival of an artist’s latest work. It’s like opening presents during Christmas, full of anticipation and surprise. Also, helping corporations successfully use art as part of their brand positioning and working with artists to achieve that gives me great satisfaction.

Last but not least, what is installed in the future of Art Apart Fair?

Other than continuously seeking patrons, I am constantly honing my curation as it will improve the quality of artworks chosen for future editions. Also, my search for talented North and South East Asian emerging artists to feature in future Art Apart Fairs continues.

Art Apart Fair 8th Edition will open from 11th July to 28th August 2016 at Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road, #02-01C, D and E. More information is available on Art Apart Fair’s Facebook page.

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