Does the move herald growth for Southeast Asia’s non-commercial art institutions?
In a surprise move, renowned dealer Valentine Willie announced in September 2012 that he will close down at least three of his four gallery spaces in Southeast Asia. Willie will shift his attention to not-for-profit art centres and do consulting for private museums in the region.
In 2013, Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA) will scale back its operations in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Yogyakarta, from twelve exhibitions to about four pop-up exhibitions. During this time, Willie will also hand over his directorial responsibilities to VWFA Manager Liza Ho, Head of Regional Programmes Eva McGovern, Project Manager Snow Ng, Rismilliana Wijayanti and Lee Yip Fong.
In 2014, Valentine Willie will shut down all but his Manila space, Manila Contemporary, which may continue to operate without him. Willie also cited economic reasons for scaling down his gallery operations. The gallerist said that the four galleries together brought in around RM2 million (approximately USD650,000), which was not enough to cover their operating costs.
By shifting away from a commercial role, Willie hopes to make a contribution to Southeast Asia’s art infrastructure, including art advocacy and consultancy work for budding private museums. As reported in Malaysia’s The Star,
What is lacking in the South-East Asian art scene is the ‘institutional infrastructure’, [Willie] adds, which is why he wants to ‘identify the right collectors and build museums’.
He says: ‘In any cultural city, the top of the pecking order should be the museums. In South-East Asia, the auction houses and certain collectors are calling the shots and setting the trends. There is little scholarship and serious writing about the arts. That’s what we need to develop.’
About the Gallery
Valentine Willie Fine Art was first founded in 1996 in Kuala Lumpur as a consultancy for modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art. In 2008 the gallery expanded to include spaces in Singapore, Manila and Yogyakarta. Known for his boundary-pushing exhibition programming, Willie helped bring many Southeast Asian artists like Yee I-Lann and Wong Hoy Cheong to the international stage.
- Mella Jaarsma in rare Manila performance art residency – August 2011 – VWFA spaces, including Manila Contemporary, known for their innovative programming
- Political correctness enemy of good art says Valentine Willie – BFM podcast – February 2011 – Valentine Willie discusses the Malaysian contemporary art scene
- 3 young Malaysian contemporaries, 3 cultural interrogations – December 2010 – an exhibition of work by Chi Too, Minstrel Kuik, Poodien at Valentine Willie Fine Art
- Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann mixes batik and photography in “Boogeyman” exhibition – October 2010 – Yee’s series on the socio-political and economic elite, the Orang Besar, 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 curator and current VWFA Head of Regional Programmes, Eva McGovern
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