SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART COLLECTING ART
In a June 2010 podcasted interview with Malaysian business station BFM, Valentine Willie, founder of Southeast Asian-based gallery Valentine Willie Fine Art, Willie explains how artworks are priced, why international reputations aren’t always necessary for artists and why he would sack the staff of The National Art Gallery of Malaysia.
Click below to listen to the interview (26m:34s), or listen to it on BFM.
We’ve selected a few choice quotes to give you an idea of why we think this interview is an oldie but a goodie…
Valentine Willie on Southeast Asian contemporary art:
You know, compared to prices in China, Southeast Asia’s relatively cheap and it’s new. … With Southeast Asia there’s ten little countries that have a very different take on things and that makes for an interesting culture to look at and to collect.
Valentine Willie on pricing art:
There is no formula [for pricing a piece of art]. Size is one factor, the artist’s reputation is another factor, how long [the artist has] been in the business is a factor, many things.
[How much the artist’s last piece of art sold for is] a kind of benchmark. You work around that figure. It doesn’t have to match that.
Yes, it’s quite … common practice [for artists to raise their price by ten to fifteen percent every year] but also healthier. In the last three [or] four years, before the recession, prices were going up by leaps and bounds, by a thousand percent. That was the art boom and [it was] not healthy, not sustainable.
Firstly you must dispel this idea that price has anything to do with quality. Price is really a function of the market itself, supply and demand, who is in vogue now, who is popular now. We, like every other kind of lifestyle industry, are susceptible to trends and hype as much as the next person. So, firstly, you need to dispel that because [an artwork has] a lower price, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worse. By the same token, it works the other way.
Valentine Willie on international reputation:
There’s this terrible terrible standard that we hold not only artists to, that they must make it big overseas, as if that is the only validation. What about domestic [recognition]? I mean, [some Malaysian artists] are hugely successful here and that’s plenty enough for most artists. They don’t need to be showing in MoMA and Tate to validate what they do and we also shouldn’t use that as a kind of necessary benchmark.
I’m not discouraging artists from going [overseas]. In fact, I try to encourage them to show overseas to expand their audience. What we shouldn’t do is make that the be all and end all of a career. Some artists are very happy just selling and showing in Malaysia and for very good reason because they deal with Malaysia, they deal with a particular audience.
Valentine Willie on Malaysian art institutions:
I haven’t been [to The National Art Gallery of Malaysia] … for almost a year, mainly because there isn’t anything there that I want to go and see. They haven’t really made the effort to engage with the public or do something interesting. It’s a shame because they do have a collection that deserves to be seen. I’d sack the lot of them and get new people to run it.
There is a lot of [figurative work] in The National Art Gallery but I think in the next few years they’re not going to surface… because it ‘provokes’, I suppose, which is really the function of art. It should provoke,… otherwise why bother. But then, you know, [it’s a] government institution.
Valentine Willie on what to look for in an artwork:
Firstly, obviously with any artist you look for the skill: Can they paint? Do they understand colour? Can they draw a straight line? And apart from that, you look at… what are the things they’re painting? Why are they painting what they paint? Is it an interesting question? Is there something I should re-look at?
- 3 young Malaysian contemporaries, 3 cultural interrogations – December 2010 – on an exhibition of work by Chi Too, Minstrel Kuik, Poodien at Valentine Willie Fine Art
- Jumaldi Alfi shifts from painting to installation with Life/Art # 10 – November 2010 – this change documented at Valentine Willie Fine Art
- Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann mixes batik and photography in “Boogeyman” exhibition – October 2010 – about Yee’s series on the socio-political and economic elite, the Orang Besar, held at Valentine Willie
- Comic art of Popok Tri Wahyudito portrays scenes of transport calamity – September 2010 – on Jogja comic art drawing, Popok’s first Malaysian solo was held at Valentine Willie
- Pop culture references abound in Indonesian art: curator Eva McGovern discusses Indieguerillas’ Happy Victims and the Southeast Asian art climate – June 2010 – an Art Radar interview with McGovern