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Interview with Helina Chan, Founder and Director of iPreciation Gallery, Singapore

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Interview with Helina Chan, Founder and Director of iPreciation Gallery, Singapore

What is iPreciation Gallery’s mission?

When iPreciation was first set up in 1999, the mission was to promote and showcase overseas Pioneer Contemporary Chinese artists.

Now, we would like to promote Singapore artists locally and overseas on top of what we have been doing for the past 15 years. 

iPreciation started off showcasing artists from outside of Singapore, notably Taiwanese artist and sculptor Ju Ming whom today is collected widely by international collectors and museums. Recently the gallery has started to show more mid-career artists from Singapore, please share with us your thoughts about this. 

I was showing overseas Chinese artists at the start because I was an overseas Chinese myself and I could relate well to their works, particularly the Chinese culture and heritage. Most of the Chinese overseas artists whom I represent were already well known in their own countries but were not known in Singapore or the rest of Asia, so my objective then was simply to promote their works to Asia (including Singapore) via Singapore.

I was particularly interested in sculpture and public works, so Singapore was a natural place for me to showcase the 3D works outdoor as we have such a beautiful landscape.  I also see the potential of integrating art in Asia as Asia grows in prosperity, as art will become an important part of the cityscape. 

Having observed the visual art development of Singapore for the past decade helped me understand the artists and their background.  As a Singapore gallery, I feel a strong sense of social responsibility to do something for the Singapore artists at this present moment.  So I started to kick some Singapore artists’ doors and told them that I would like to represent and show their works.

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Why did you choose to showcase Lee Wen – a performance artist, given that Art Basel Hong Kong is a commercial trade fair to sell contemporary art? How does one buy or collect performance art?

For the past two decades, I have seen many Asian contemporary art works. To me, Lee Wen’s works are refreshing, genuine and original, embodying a truthfulness that is rare in contemporary art. He belongs to the contemporary movement of Singapore in the early 90s. Lee Wen is a true artist: he is not market driven, but focuses on what he wants to do rather than create works for commercial galleries. This is the first time he is working with a gallery to show works he believed in, debuting his works at an international art fair.

I want to show one of Singapore’s best artists on an international platform, because Singapore artists are hardly seen at international art fairs. It is worthy to note that Lee Wen’s Ping Pong Go-Round; one of Lee Wen’s large-scale installations, was selected for the exhibition at the Encounters sector in Art Basel HK by curator Yuko Hasegawa, who is also the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. This is testament that Lee Wen’s works are recognized on international standards.

Performance artists usually photograph or record their performances and the videos, negatives and slides are kept as documentation.  Thus, most of their works are looked at by curators as documentation and if sold, would be sold cheaply as it is printed on normal photograph paper to show the process of the performance for archival purpose or for any exhibition.

Together with Lee Wen, we identified and developed the works with the master print maker in Singapore to create the photographs as Fine Art Museum quality productions. This wasn’t easy, as most of his negatives were not kept in good condition, resulting in much fungus and discoloration. Hence we had to clean and rescan them, costing a lot of time and money. We hope to be able to increase the value of his works by creating the works in Fine Art Quality, so that institutions and collectors can now collect them with ease of mind. It is important to present his works in the highest quality, so that they sit on par with international contemporary photography.

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Are his works worth collecting? Why should one collect Lee Wen?

Lee Wen is a performance artist. He is one of the pioneers in performance art and a very important contemporary artist in Singapore, as his works respond to the social and political issues of their time. Works like Journey of a Yellow Man are relevant to Chinese people not just in Singapore, but also the Chinese diaspora around the world.

The value of art lies on the importance of its history, the market could manipulate short-term gains but for long-term significance, museums and important institutions will look for historically important pieces. Singapore contemporary art has little research and publication, but in time to come, those will be available and people will wake up to it.

What is your advice for new and budding art collectors?

 Use your eyes to see the works; collect the works that make your heart move; and understand that art can be part of your living. Never use your ears to buy, but unfortunately most of them now are using their ears to buy.

Ipreciation Gallery is participating in Art Basel Hong Kong from 15 – 18 May, booth number C18. Lee Wen’s Ping Pong Go-Round installation can be seen at Encounters number E8.

 



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