September 14, 2012 9:49 pm

The Art Market: Tastemakers, rainmakers

Gillman Barracks launch gives Singapore a fillip while Sotheby’s inches towards a joint venture in Beijing
Lilla Szász’s photograph ‘Women Found’©Pecherskiy Gallery, Moscow

Lilla Szász’s ‘Women Found’ (2005-12), on show at Vienna’s art fair

Singapore has long been determined to carve out a place in the Asian art market, alongside the more established Hong Kong. This weekend sees the art scene in the island-state boosted by the opening of Gillman Barracks, a new art space in a former British compound dating from the 1930s, in the southern part of the city.

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The Barracks is opening with 13 galleries from 10 countries, including Japan’s Tomio Koyama, China’s ShanghArt, Germany’s Michael Janssen and Singapore’s Fost, but eventually it will have 20 tenants – with Pearl Lam and Kaikai Kiki also slated to move in. And Gillman goes beyond being a purely commercial hub, as it also houses a centre for contemporary arts and spaces for artists’ residencies. The Singapore government is putting £5m into the project, and Eugene Tan, director of the Lifestyle Programme Office of the Singapore Economic Development Board, says: “Singapore is in a good position to capture the value of Asia Pacific’s growth in the consumption of lifestyle products and services, especially in passion goods, such as art.” Singapore boasts 16 billionaires, according to Forbes, but also attracts art collectors from the whole region.

Richard Hambleton’s ‘Rodeo’ (2012)©Pecherskiy Gallery, Moscow

Richard Hambleton’s ‘Rodeo’ (2012), also on show at Vienna’s art fair

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Vienna’s main art fair used to pass under the radar of the art world, partly because it was held in May, a jam-packed month in the fair calendar. But the event was bought earlier this year by the Russian investor and art market analyst Sergey Skaterschikov, who promptly moved it to September and is sharply upping its profile. The fair kicks off on Thursday with 123 exhibitors from 30 countries, including Japan, the US, Italy and even Dubai. But the interest of the fair is a strong representation of art from central and eastern Europe, and this edition focuses on Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

At the same time, the first “Art Industry Forum” is being held in Vienna. The conference – bringing together economists, investors and art professionals – will be looking at the international art market with a distinctly business slant: panels will examine investment, financing and new models of ebusiness. I will report back next week.

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All the western auction houses are itching to hold auctions in mainland China, which is currently not allowed by Chinese law. Sotheby’s is inching a little closer by establishing a joint venture with the state-owned GeHua Art Company. Once the Chinese government approves the 10-year deal, Sotheby’s will invest $1.2m for an 80 per cent stake, with GeHua owning the other 20 per cent. The project will allow Sotheby’s a toehold in the as-yet-unbuilt free port project that GeHua is developing within the Tianzhu Free Trade Zone in Beijing. Once it is completed – no date is set so far – Sotheby’s will be able to use it for auctions, previews and selling exhibitions. Like other western houses, it will still be debarred from selling “cultural relics”, which covers the lucrative fields of works of art and traditional painting, but will be able to sell contemporary art. The agreement will also allow Sotheby’s to hold auctions and selling exhibitions in other parts of Beijing.

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RIP VIP: the world’s first online art fair, has been killed, to be replaced by VIP Art, an online art portal. The event, which at the beginning of the year got $1m in angel investment from two businessmen, had ambitious plans for expansion and added three more online fairs into the mix (photography, works on paper and vernissage for secondary market works). Now the fairs have gone but online exhibitions are planned, starting next week. The first edition of the fair was marked by technical glitches which were resolved this year, but the fair never seemed compelling enough to find a niche in today’s highly competitive and crammed marketplace.

Don Brown’s ‘Plums’

Don Brown’s ‘Plums’ (2004), at auction at Sadie Coles gallery

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Ever since the departure of Christie’s Paris-based rainmaker for modern and impressionist art, Thomas Seydoux, people have been wondering where he would end up. The same could be said for Sotheby’s private sales honcho Stéphane Connery, who left the auction house earlier this year. They got together this summer, and now they have teamed up with Lionel Pissarro, grandson of the painter, and his wife Sandrine, to form a new art dealership. Connery Pissarro Seydoux – which will no doubt quickly become known as CPS – will specialise in impressionist and modern art, 1860-1980, and will be spread between New York, Paris and Geneva (Seydoux’s home base). Seydoux describes the partnership as a “dynamic trio” which harnesses the private sales expertise of Pissarro, previously part of the now-dissolved Giraud-Pissarro-Ségalot firm, with the auction house experience of his two colleagues. Would they also deal in contemporary art? I asked. “Maybe one day, but for the moment there is plenty to do just in our chosen field,” says Seydoux.

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Two charity auctions come up in London next week. Many leading British artists have donated works for sale at Sadie Coles on Thursday for art dealer and publisher Gigi Giannuzzi, who has inoperable cancer (see info@situationgigi.com). And the Harebell Appeal, which raises funds to house victims of spinal cord injuries, is selling works by Edmund de Waal, Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk among others: they are on view Monday-Wednesday at Thomas Gibson Fine Art. You can bid online at i-bidder.com/harebell.

Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper

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