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.

Valentine Willie, founder of Valentine Willie Fine Art.

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.


Related Topics: Valentine Willie, market watch – galleriesSoutheast Asian artists

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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