Sunday, 2 March 2014

Bonding over art

Labour of love: Singaporean architect Quek Tse Kwang publishes a second edition of the book 30 Art Friends, which brings together 30 art collectors from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Labour of love: Singaporean architect Quek Tse Kwang publishes a second edition of the book 30 Art Friends, which brings together 30 art collectors from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Singapore art collector Quek Tse Kwang has published a second book on 30 fellow collectors and their art.

Singaporean art collector Quek Tse Kwang was almost certain he would not publish another art book after 30 Art Friends.

The coffeetable glossy he put together in 2010 featured 30 art collectors from Singapore and Malaysia in his circle of friends, who each shared stories about three South-East Asian works in their troves, as well as their individual journeys in collecting art.

But four years later, he is back with a second edition, 30 Art Friends 2, which features 10 collectors each from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

In his professional life, Quek, 69, is co-founder of the architectural firm RT+Q, which is known for designing residential houses and condominiums such as Paterson Linc in Singapore.

Outside of work, art consumes most of his time. He says in all seriousness that after the first 30 Art Friends book came out, “I sat down and said I am not doing it anymore”.

His labour of love had lasted 15 months, from persuading friends to show their works and share their stories to finding sponsors to print 1,200 copies of the 223-page tome.

Proceeds from sales of the first book helped raise about S$100,000 (RM263,000) in scholarship funds for students at the Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, as well as emerging artists in Malaysia.

But he barely had time to lay idle before art-loving friends from the Philippines who liked the book cajoled him to put together a second volume that cast the net further.

The 304-page sequel was launched in Singapore in January. The list of collectors in the new book comprises prominent Filipino businessman Paulino Que, Malaysian lawyer Pakhruddin Sulaiman and Singapore’s National Heritage Board chairman Ong Yew Huat. Quek, who was included in the previous edition, shares three new works in the latest book.

Artists whose works are featured in the sequel include acclaimed Vietnamese painter Bui Xuan Phai, well-known Thai artist Natee Utarit and popular Singapore artist collective Phunk.

Quek says he knew from experience that publishing the second volume would be an uphill task. “For collectors with thousands of works in their collection, it takes a while for them to pick just three pieces.”

He adds, tongue-in-cheek: “It is also hard to get your friends to deliver work on time. You can’t scold them.”

Yet, he admits that he was “dying to do it”.

“There are compelling stories behind each collector’s journey and the works they bought. The book is not about gloating or showing off, it is meant to be like a sharing among friends over coffee,” he says.

For the collectors featured, the book has also deepened friendships.

Malaysian art collector and investment banker Bingley Sim, 50, who is featured in both the first and second editions, says: “The camaraderie among the Malaysian art friends following the book project has grown.”

Last December, the group organised a charity art auction, Art Friends For Haiyan, and raised more than RM500,000 to support the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Quek says the book explains why some people collect art. It also helps artists understand what makes a collector acquire certain works.

The impetus that led to the book, however, is more intimate.

He had initially meant for it to be a personal project to archive his collection of almost 100 works, painstakingly built up over more than two decades, so that the stories behind the acquisition of each piece are not lost down the generations.

“My two sons are interested only in how much the paintings cost,” he says. One works as an architect in Singapore and another is the head of finance for a non-profit organisation in China.

Asked if there is a third volume in the pipeline, he says: “I will sit down and rest for the next three years and do what I started but haven’t fulfilled – archive my collection.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

30 Art Friends 2 book in Malaysia is priced at RM250. It is available at Ruang Pemula (RuPé), A08, 4th Floor, Block A, Pusat Perdagangan Taman Dagang, Jalan Dagang Besar, 68000 Ampang, Selangor. Call 03-4270 7720, email: You can also contact Rogue Art at

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , art collectors , Quek Tse Kwang , book , Singapore , Malaysia , the Philippines , 30 Art Friends


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