Saturday, January 26, 2013

Incorporating ART into Our Living Spaces

So, you have finally got your dream house or apartment. All the fixtures and fittings have been impressively installed, and you have even bought the right decorative items to be positioned tastefully in your new home along with the furniture. All that begs to be “dressed” are the bare walls of various hues. Now, what would you choose to deck on those walls?

Pearl Lam Hong Kong Gallery

I would like to offer a humble suggestion here. How about buying an art piece instead of the usual wall hanging fare?

Pearl Lam Shanghai Gallery

Art, in all its broad definition, have helped shaped the spaces of our homes, offices and even hospitals. There are many different forms of art. From paintings, murals on walls, sculptures and etc. All we need to do is walk into a museum, or an art gallery to see how art has evolved over centuries; and thereby reflecting the changes in our society. In many ways, the art works of various centuries act like a mirror. They show us a peek into the culture of that particular era. From the great masters such as Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, to Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali to Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and so forth. Each artist had captured their perspective of the world around them of that time.

Of course, art is a very personal and subjective topic. What is praised as a masterpiece by an individual or group may be dismissed as nothing more than child’s play by another. Henry David Thoreau famously said, It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see”. 

To this day, for the life of me, I still do not know how to appreciate a Jackson Pollock painting. However, there are many who do. Respected art specialists around the world have assessed his works to be worthy of its hefty price tag. Hence, art is something that speaks to the individual. What makes art different from the other wall hanging accents is that it could appreciate in value, depending on the artist who created it. In this respect, art is one of the most unique decorative items that we can procure to not only enhance our habitat, it can even become a priceless investment if we bought the works of a much sought after artist. 

When a society becomes more affluent, households can afford to deck their homes with all kinds of impressive “gadgets” and shiny “toys”. For some, art collection can become a passion. For others, it is a practical way of diversifying one’s investment portfolio. So, how do we really know which art to buy, collect or invest in? There are several local Malaysian respected artists such Ibrahim Hussein, Eng Tay and Chang Fee Ming to name a few. However, I wanted to understand the growing global fascination with the Chinese contemporary art. Of late, Chinese artists have been garnering a lot of media attention in the art world. Not to mention, how the prices of their art works have been rising consistently. As I had the pleasure to meet with Ms. Pearl Lam who was recently in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to consult her expert opinions on this genre.

Ms. Pearl Lam

Pearl Lam is a Hong Kong native. She is the owner and founder of “Pearl Lam Galleries” in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, and also, the “China Art Foundation”. In addition, she is a curator, collector and patron of the arts. Pearl defines Chinese contemporary art “as reinvention of traditions reacting or embracing western influences to create new expression”. What I admire about Pearl is that she is not only an art gallery owner, she is a passionate advocator of contemporary art.

Pearl Lam Hong Kong Gallery

Pearl Lam Galleries has been advocating in the promotion and re-evaluation of the philosophy, perceptions and aesthetics of Chinese art for almost 20 years. Pearl has even funded an “artist-in-residence program” for artists and designers worldwide, where by they are invited to push the boundaries of traditional Chinese art and craft techniques in order to create new works that reflect their experiences in China. 

Yinghua's Art Piece

Her work as a curator was much recognized in the acclaimed exhibition entitled, “Awakening: La France Mandarin”. It was an exhibition of the French influence on Chinese art, which was a central part of the 2004 'French Year in China’. The exhibition was staged in the Urban Planning Museum, Shanghai and at Beijing's National Gallery of Art.

Su Xiaobai's One Line of Whiteness

As a patron, Pearl has donated many art works to the museums around the world. This includes the Victoria & Albert Musuem in London, the Asia Art Society Museum in New York, the KW Institute in Berlin, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Peabody Museum in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Therefore, Pearl is definitely more than qualified to dispense advice on Chinese contemporary art.

Zhu Jinshi's Who Will Write Wei Bei with Me?

Pearl shares, “I love Chinese contemporary art that has a Chinese structure or language but it is contemporary versus Chinese art that has western structure or language with Chinese content, which, for me is a derivative.”

Pearl explains, “Chinese has been searching the contemporary identity in art while the West has been interested in Eastern spirituality which has made Chinese contemporary abstract art become "hot" to collect.”

So, I asked Pearl what she likes to collect. After all, if she personally collects art works from a certain artist, it must be worth looking into.

Jason Martin's Turca

This was Pearl’s reply, “Chinese contemporary abstract, which is derived from ink brush cultural based upon Daoism and Buddhism, is what I recently love to collect. It is distinctively different from Western Abstract expressionism, Chinese abstract is based on Chinese philosophy like Daoism’s "Form is Formless" or the Buddhism Diamond Sutra that questions Truth based on perception.” 

The “hot” Chinese contemporary artists that Pearl recommends for collectors and investors alike are Zhu Jinshi, Su Xiaobai and Yinghua. The Western abstract artists are Jason Martin and Jim Lambie. Sample of their work can be seen in the accompanying photographs.

Jim Lambie's Metal Box (Butterfly and Orchid)

Pearl labels “collectors” as people who have bought artworks from a certain artist because they believed in the artist, and that they are passionate about the works. They are not so concerned whether the prices of these artworks will go up or down. To them, the collected art works itself give them tremendous pleasure or enjoyment. They love the artworks purely for the art itself.

However, an investor has a different point of view. These collectors take calculated risk, and would be very disturbed if their artworks have diminished in value. They seek to gain a return on their art investments, as this is their primary focus in procuring the artworks. Therefore, these investors may only hold each artwork for no more than 10 to 15 years. They will seek to sell their artistic investment when the prices start to appreciate.

So, whether you choose to be an investor or a collector, it would be wise to gather as much research and knowledge about the artists in question. In addition, consult with various art specialists, galleries and art magazines. All these would undoubtedly assist you in making a more educated decision in your art acquisition. Art investment is nothing like buying a piece of furniture or a new electronic gadget. It does have a longer shelf life and would enrich not only your bare wall or a corner of your living space, but also your bank account when the art piece appreciates in value. For some families, certain art pieces are collected over decades and passed down to succeeding generations. Thereby, creating their own family heirloom or treasure.

Pearl Lam Galleries has been invited to participate in the “Art Stage Singapore” from 24th January to 27th January 2013 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention and Exhibition Center. This international art fair will showcase artists and their works from this region. There will be more than 100 galleries exhibiting and country platforms for Indonesia, Singapore and Australia. This might be a good place to visit, learn and source for a new artwork to enhance your living space.

At the end of the day, the question remains – Why is art important to a living space or even society? To answer this impossible question, I’d like to borrow the words of a beloved visual artist: Kermit the Frog ~ “How important are the visual arts in our society? I feel strongly that the visual arts are of vast and incalculable importance. Of course I could be prejudiced. I am a visual art.”





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