Art is where ex-engineer's heart is

Art is where ex-engineer's heart is
Mr Ho Sou Ping, 41, with his wife Guo Wei, 42, and their daughters Swee Yee (left), eight, and Swee Chin, nine. He has a keen interest in collecting the works of Singapore's pioneer artists and is himself a painter. Since 2011, the value of paintings by top local artists has appreciated by two- to four-fold, says Mr Ho.

SINGAPORE - Many investors put their cash in stocks and property, but Mr Ho Sou Ping is betting his bucks on art instead.

Though it is not the works of Van Gogh or Picasso that have caught his eye.

Mr Ho, 41, has a keen interest in collecting paintings of Singapore's pioneer artists and is also a painter in his own right.

"Since 2011, the value of paintings by top local artists has appreciated by two- to four-fold," he explains.

"Their prices had not moved much since the early 1990s, and it's high time these works received the recognition they deserve."

He is a fan of the works of the late artists Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng.

"One of Mr Cheong's paintings can be found on the back of the $50 note we use today," he says.

"It's a pity that not many Singaporeans know this."

For Mr Ho, investing in art was a natural progression from his love of art.

As a young boy, he enjoyed sketching and drawing and took up art classes when he was 13.

At 16, he sold his first painting for $150 at an art exhibition in a community club. It was a Chinese painting with birds and flowers.

Taking his mother's advice to hold a stable job, Mr Ho put his dreams of being an artist on hold.

"Painting was something I did during my free time, both in school and after I started working," he says.

Soon after, the responsibilities of being a husband and father took precedence and left Mr Ho with little time to paint.

But as they became more financially secure, he and his wife agreed that he should have a shot at becoming a professional artist.

The couple, who have two daughters aged nine and eight, attended several courses on managing money, which opened their eyes to concepts like taking risks and financial planning.

In 2009, Mr Ho quit his full-time job as an aerospace engineer to sell his paintings at a gallery he rented.

Two years later, however, the building he was in was sold to a real estate investment trust and the new landlord did not renew the lease.

He then had to seek an alternative site. Mr Ho now runs a small art gallery - artcommune - at Bras Basah Complex.

Rental, however, remains high, at about $6,000 a month for the 750 sq ft space.

"I wasn't able to pay (the rent) just by selling my work - so I had to start trading art pieces and became an art dealer," he explains.

Through buying and selling the work of other artists, Mr Ho managed to make a low six-figure sum last year. He continues to paint and sell his own work as well.

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