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The Art of Buying Art: 5 Minutes With the Singapore Contemporary’s Show Director, Douwe Cramer

The Art of Buying Art: 5 Minutes With the Singapore Contemporary’s Show Director, Douwe Cramer

The Art of Buying Art: 5 Minutes With the Singapore Contemporary’s Show Director, Douwe Cramer

The inaugural staging of the Singapore Contemporary Art Show, to be held at the same time as Art Stage Singapore and a week of gallery presentations and public projects looks set to be an important addition to Singapore’s vibrant and growing art scene. 

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Show director, Douwe Cramer

Happening from 21-24 at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore Contemporary showcases the missing and much desired mid-tier art market with works ranging from S$10,000 to S$100,000 and up. The scope will include original paintings, limited editions, sculpture and photography, and also video and digital art from some of the world’s most interesting and promising artists – from emerging and mid-career artists, to those who have already achieved recognition.

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We speak to the Singapore Contemporary Show Director, Douwe Cramer, about the things to look out for when one is considering purchasing art, especially for the first time.

Where should one start shopping for contemporary art? Without wanting to beat my own drum – at an art show like Singapore Contemporary where there is an abundant choice of artworks in different price ranges, in many styles and from many geographic and cultural origins. There are many artists and galleries to speak with, there are other collectors to speak with. We like to create an event to see, buy and talk about art and that builds confidence.

Should one buy art with a specific idea of where to hang it, or is that a secondary consideration? I think that depends. If buying for personal enjoyment, it means usually that you will want to have the artwork in your home. You know the spaces you have in your home and visualize how a certain work would fit. Sometimes a buyer will go out with a specific idea of the space to fill with an artwork and that can work fine but then you are somewhat limiting your choice in terms of size and maybe style or colour. It is all possible and a good way to look at it. If buying purely for investment, it is probably not a consideration.

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Art work by Toshinobu Onosatu

How much research should be done prior, and how should one research? I think you do research prior and during the process of a purchase. In our case we are providing buyers access to many of the artworks that will be at the show through our website Asia Contemporary Art Buyer. This allows collectors to come with a particular focus and better allocate their time at the show. During the buying process it pays to do some research into prices for works by the same artist, reviewing the artist biography, having a good look at the background and track record of the gallery. These days the internet can provide most information you need. And then I always recommend buyers to talk a lot to other buyers during our shows.

How does one differentiate between "good art" and "bad art"? How does one cultivate the perfect eye to discern art? Ultimately it is all in the eyes of the beholder – to give a definition of good and bad art is nonsense. If you are especially impressed with realist works and the skill that goes into it – is pop-art bad art? It is just a different style of expression and there are great works in both styles – but neither style is good for everybody. But it is true that you can develop your “eye” for art. I think this is something that happens quite naturally by looking at a lot of different art works and it is true that over time as a buyer you will become more selective. You will start to develop ideas also about the styles you like best and sometimes the complexity or more intricate aspects of what differentiates the more skilled artists from others.

Should one purchase art as a form of investment? Should one have a fixed budget or flexible budget? Art is becoming increasingly recognized as an asset class. Contemporary art also but it remains a volatile asset. If buying for investment, it probably means that you do not buy the most affordable art works as the track record and the availability of a secondary market for the artist become critical considerations. Budget is entirely based on one’s personal situation. You certainly don’t have to be rich to own an original work of art and enjoy buying art. 

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Art work by Dean Reilly

Are artists who borrow styles from celebrated artists considered less "investment-worthy" than artists who have their own individual style? Any serious collector is looking for originality, standout technique and/or imagery, also a compelling story. It is a fact artist’s sometimes draw inspiration form established masters, but a career artist will develop their own identity and narrative in the evolution of work. Pure copycats typically fade quickly, and any collector with an investment driven collecting strategy will be quick to spot a fake.

What should one look out for in terms of quality? Quality art really comes down to the perception of the viewer. Some view quality as the synthesis of masterful technique with an innovative point of view. Others, when you have an image that is uniquely the artist’s own, but is universal in some way that it resonates with the viewer. Then there is the more obtuse - what is visually appealing as quality, at the same time emotionally compelling.

How important is it to vet dealers, and how should that be done? An important point, and familiar dinner conversation - nobody likes art dealers or galleries. Artists don't like dealers because they keep half the price of every piece of art they sell. People who buy art don't like dealers because they charge top dollar. With art now a distinct asset class, the role of dealer – and sometimes here today, gone tomorrow – becomes a critical factor in the buying equation. Dealer tenure and relationship is suddenly much more important to any collector.

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Art work by Myoung Jo Jeong

What is the difference between an original print and an ordinary reproduction? An open edition or reproduction satisfies the demands of a consumer driven marketplace, the affordable and decorative art piece to accessorize the home. In a world of manufactured consumerism, uniqueness suddenly takes on a special appeal, and as the buyer becomes more informed and discerning.

When should one consider commissioning an original piece? Why wouldn’t you commission an artwork, with the right confidence to engage and participate in the process? Get clear on expectations, be concise and document understandings reached with the artist. Get along and get to know your artist well.

For more information, please visit www.asiacontemporaryart.com.

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