More contemporary art for Singapore
The following article appeared in the 28 April edition of The Straits Times, announcing the opening of art dealer Ikkan Sanada’s gallery in Singapore. Oh, and a “museum-quality” show of big names to mark the momentous occasion.
P.S. Is the noun “government” usually a proper one ? (In bold below.) Every source I’ve checked suggests otherwise, so why is it capitalized in the article ? And “South-east Asia” – I’ve never seen the word “southeast” hyphenated, either as an adjective or a noun. Among other mistakes.
For an English-language daily, the ST sure is unusually full of grammatical errors …
NYC ART DEALER MOVES TO SINGAPORE
A museum-quality exhibition with works worth $60 million will mark the opening of art dealer Ikkan Sanada’s new base here. By Deepika Shetty.
Art dealer Ikkan Sanada has taken the unusual step of shifting his long-established base from New York, one of the world’s art capitals, to Singapore.
The move was spurred in part by his confidence about the emergence of South-east Asia as a key market for quality art.
He is opening here with a bang on May 18 with a museum-quality exhibition titled Surfaces of Everyday Life, Postwar and Contemporary Masters From Ai Weiwei To Andy Warhol.
The show, which will run till June 5, features 50 artworks worth $60 million.
Among them are works by several international art names such as the late pop artist Andy Warhol and controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
“No one knows me in Singapore, so I wanted to open with a signature show,” says Sanada, who has been based in New York for 30 years.
Such is his belief in the flourishing art market here that, unlike big galleries such as Opera Gallery which have long had a presence in plush shopping malls, his choice of base is a 10,000 sq ft specially built gallery-space at ArtSpace@Helutrans in Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
His big move comes after his first visit to Singapore at the end of 2009.
Recalling that first visit, the 60-year-old says: “I was very impressed with that I saw, right from the moment I checked out of Changi Airport. During my tiem here, I visited museums and galleries and had a gut feeling this was the place to be. I got the sense that there was a growing market for art here.”
This feeling was boosted by his visit to the Singapore FreePort near Changi Airport which offers a secure duty and tax-free storage space for high-value art, jewellery, gold, antiques and vintage cars.
Then there was the recent, successful high-end art fair, Art Stage Singapore, which turned out to be an international meeting ground for gallerists, art lovers and collectors. All of these factors made him pick Singapore over Hong Kong when deciding on the move to Asia.
“I did consider going to Hong Kong but looking at what Singapore has to offer infrastructure-wise, it made a better choice,” he says. “There is no red tape, setting up a business is seamless and the Government is making a good push to promote art. I feel Hong Kong has developed as a market, while Singapore offers an opportunity to tap into the South-east Asian region.”
On why he did not go the conventional route and opt for a gallery in a mall, he says: “Oh no, I would never pick a space in a mall. It is too predictable. I am not looking at numbers. I am hoping to get a quality audience. I am confident if you present good art, people will find you anyway.”
The Japanese dealer-turned-gallerist says of his upcoming debut: “I am not pretending to be a museum curator. The works you see in this exhibition are a reflection of my personal taste.”
Indeed, browsing through the catalogue, which is going through the final edit, and looking at what is going up on the gallery walls, this Life! reporter got a sense of his eclectic taste.
There is a 1976 installation of mixed media and stuffed fabric by Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s most influential female artists. Her works reflect hallucinations she has endured since childhood. She is known for her art installations in which polka dots cover floors and walls and she has even used real-life assistants who were painted all over. This work, priced at $800,000, will be part of a Kusama retrospective at the UK’s prestigious Tate Modern gallery next year.
Then there is an impressive 6m work by Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami, whose famous fantastical characters can be seen in Lots, Lots of Kaikai And Kiki.
An early version of the sunflower seeds theme explored by detained artist activist Ai Weiwei can be seen in Kai Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds) which features 1,000 seeds in porcelain, sculpted and painted by hand and stored in a glass jar.
American master Jasper Johns is represented with over 20 original prints including four new editions, which are being exhibited for the first time. Prominent British artist Damien Hirst is there, too, in two works featuring butterflies and household gloss on canvas.
To source the works, he tapped his international network of contacts. Some works are from his won collection, others from private ones and still others were consigned from galleries and private dealers in New York and Switzerland.
With prices ranging from $15,000 for limited-edition prints by Johns to $9.5 million for Warhol’s silkscreen ink on canvas, he knows his appeal may be restricted to well-heeled buyers.
But he is not overly concerned about the sales that the debut will generate and says: “I may or may not sell anything by the end of this exhibition. It does not matter. My intent is to present museum-quality works in a gallery setting which I hope gallerygoers will enjoy.”
Prior to moving to New York, the private art dealer and owner of Ikkan Art International was a partner at Kindai Bijutsu, an art dealership in Tokyo. He also served as director of international trade at Galerie Tamenaga in Paris and Tokyo.
His interest in art was triggered by living in Paris as an arts student. To sustain himself, he did part-time administrative jobs in art galleries. He later studied art history and arts administration at New York University before moving into art dealership.
On the new chapter in his life, he says with a laugh: “At my age, I should be looking at retiring. Here I am, reinventing myself. I am very nervous, of course. But it is really a gut feeling.
“Thirty years ago when I moved from Tokyo to New York, I had a similar feeling. The art market is clearly shifting to Asia and the Middle East.”
SURFACES OF EVERYDAY LIFE, POSTWAR AND CONTEMPORARY MASTERS FROM AI WEIWEI TO ANDY WARHOL
Where: Ikkan Art Gallery, 01-05 ArtSpace@Helutrans, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road
When: 18 May to June 5, 11am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 1 to 5pm (Sundays and public holidays)
Info: Call 9088-7065 or go to www.ikkan-art.com