Making it in the art business in Singapore

With 50 art works spread throughout his cold warehouse and bottles of wine stocked up on shelves, Suherwan Abu could not even imagine the significance that one day in 1989 would hold. It was the day that his first-ever customer would buy art from him. That customer was a collector and came to Mr. Suherwan’s warehouse for wine, but left with his entire collection of 50 works. That day, Mr. Suherwan found what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He became an art dealer and now is the proud owner of Taksu Galleries.

Suherwan Abu the owner of Taksu Galleries
Suherwan Abu the owner of Taksu Galleries. Photo by Kai Suherwan

The staff of Taksu currently works with about 40 young artists and Mr. Suherwan stated that “most of them are in their early 20s, and those numbers are growing gradually each year.” Taksu tries to showcase emerging artists in the region, and the staff have the passion and knowledge to help these young artists make a name for themselves.

But it’s not an easy business to be in. Mr. Suherwan said, “The Asian art business is very competitive, especially in Singapore due to the fact that the Singaporean government is trying to make Singapore the art centre of Asia.”

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) has set aside an additional $20 million over five years to promote our artists, unique heritage, and cultural assets abroad.

Mr. Suherwan said, “Because of that push there are many art galleries setting up in Singapore.”

According to Mr. Suherwan, young and aspiring artists and art dealers need “passion for the arts and not the money making process.”

Other pieces of art displayed in Taksu
Other pieces of art displayed in Taksu. Photo by Kai Suherwan

There are specific qualities that he looks for in an artist: “Originality, quality of work and loyalty. Lots of young artists tend to move around to different galleries and this behavior is not good to start as an artist.”

Originality also plays a part. “The artists that Taksu looks for take inspiration from other artists without fully copying their designs, but also add a flare of their own to their art pieces and in the end try to develop into their own styles,” Mr. Suherwan said.

Taksu has galleries is now in three countries – Singapore in the Holland Village area, Kuala Lumpur, in a house where they host their artist residency program, and Bali at the W Hotel.

He had some advice for any students at SAS who want to pursue a career in art dealing or become an artist: “Because the art business is hard, and it is hard for anyone to make it, you need passion – lot of passion – if you want to make a name for yourself.”

Author: Kai Suherwan

Kai Suherwan is a Junior and his second year writing for The Eye. He is seen as the Republican/Conservative writer in The Eye and has been at SAS since 7th grade. He is heavily involved in Republican politics, enjoys discussing current events and hopes to work in the field foreign affairs one day. He can be contacted at: Suherwan45031@sas.edu.sg

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