A spokesman for the Malaysian Art Friends group shares his thoughts on the Malaysian Art Friends 2: Selected Works From 10 Collectors exhibition.
Pakhruddin Sulaiman, a lawyer, veteran art collector and the spokesman for the Malaysian Art Friends group, tells us what the exhibition is all about.
There is broad scope for personal tastes and passions when it comes to private collections. What was the curatorial brief given to each collector for this exhibition?
I need to clarify at the outset that the 30 Art Friends 2 project is primarily a project to produce a coffee table book featuring the selection of three art works from each of the 30 collectors who subscribed to the project (10 from Malaysia, 10 from Singapore and 10 from the Philippines) and their respective essays on those artworks.
It’s a sequel to the 30 Art Friends: Appreciating South-East Asian Art published in 2010, where the 30 collectors then comprised 15 from Malaysia and 15 from Singapore.
Hence the lack of any curatorial brief for this project as it is not envisaged to be accompanied by an exhibition. In fact for the first and second 30 Art Friends projects, no exhibition entailed the launching of both books in Singapore.
But on the Malaysian end, we wanted to do something extra and hence the exhibition of Malaysian Art Friends: Highlights From 15 Private Collections accompanying the first book launch in 2010 and now Malaysian Art Friends 2: Selected Works From 10 Collectors accompanying the sequel’s launch.
Far from being a mere speculative portfolio, this exhibition has a diverse and interesting range. How did things fall together?
Having said that, if the current Malaysian Art Friends 2 exhibition looks coherent despite the body of diverse works representing some of the best works from the country’s modernist period till today (together with some interesting Indonesian, Filipino and Vietnamese works thrown in to spice it up), I would hasten to add that the ultimate aggregate and mix of works that we have, was not left entirely to pure chance.
What I did, as the one entrusted with leading the Malaysian collectors, was to choose carefully the right mix of collectors whom I know will yield the desired mix of interesting art works for the book and also the exhibition.
That’s why the choice of the Malaysian Art Friends ranges from veteran collectors like Tun Daim (Zainuddin) to younger collectors like Pital (Mohd Pital Maarof). Having some sense or indication of what works they collect is most definitely useful here. And we know that Dr Steve (Wong) and Datuk Sandra (Wong), for example, do not merely collect Malaysian artworks but also works from the region and so as the result shows, they indeed delivered the South-East Asia flavour to the show.
And of course, when you choose a maverick collector like U-Wei (Haji Saari), obviously you would get some surprising and unexpected works thrown into the equation. This is the unwritten rule or criteria as you may put it, for the selection of Malaysian Art Friends.
Being a collector, do you need a good mix of hobby, patronage and professionalism to maintain a fresh approach when it comes to art collecting?
A good mix as you mentioned – of hobby, patronage and professionalism – is indeed very important to maintain not just the freshness but also the integrity of our collection. But it’s a matter of degree which one of those you may want to emphasise more, but that mix you must have. And of course all these must be driven by one’s own vision for one’s art collection.
What would be the best and most effective way to acquire art? Is it mostly through the gallery scene, auction houses or straight from the artists?
Most of us seasoned collectors have hitherto acquired our artworks from the galleries. As we begin to know the artists and become close friends with them, we do indeed get the opportunity to acquire works directly from them but this mode of acquisition is still an exception rather than the norm.
As for the auction houses, they are still at a nascent stage and therefore do not really satisfy the voracious appetite of most collectors with their offerings, both in terms of the range and quality of artworks they offer and the regularity of their auctions.
The pioneer and most seasoned of them, Henry Butcher Auctioneer, for example only conducted two auctions in a year and so I view the offerings at the auctions as something to complement – rather than replace – what are being offered throughout the year by the various commercial galleries.
Private treasures: Art collector group lines up amazing discoveries