SINGAPORE - Earlier this month, DBS Bank made what is the largest single donation by a corporation to the arts, giving $25 million to the National Gallery Singapore.
What is less well-known is that it took a year of negotiations before the champagne could be popped.
That was the case too for another major cash donation - the $12 million given by Keppel Corporation to the gallery, slated to open in November next year after the refurbishment of the historic City Hall and former Supreme Court buildings is completed.
Mr Kola Luu, the gallery's director of business and corporate strategic development, says while corporate sponsors are now coming forward in a bigger way for the visual arts, some challenges remain.
Key among these is the general preference among corporations to first support education, medical and social services.
"There is a sense of urgency to help people in need of medical attention, to educate and mould our children and youth into productive adults, and to bring joy to the less privileged," he says. "Giving to the arts has traditionally been viewed as supporting the privileged few who indulge in art appreciation."
However, the growing visibility of the visual arts here over the last few years has made corporations more predisposed towards it, say art industry insiders.
Mr Luu, 51, a former investment banker who worked in both New York and Hong Kong for 15 years before returning to Singapore in 2005, says the sponsorship climate is changing.
The Singaporean adds: "As Singapore matures, I find there is greater appreciation of our own arts heritage. We want to understand our own art history and contribute to it."
He is confident that the generous donations by DBS and Keppel "will pave the way for more corporates to show support for the arts and add to what already exists".
Mr Lorenzo Rudolf, 54, director of the premier annual contemporary art fair Art Stage Singapore, lauds the donations made by DBS and Keppel.
He says: "As a consequence of this, I hope that more local corporates and companies will support top engagements in building up Singapore to a leading and internationally well respected centre and hub for modern and contemporary art."
For Singapore to compete with Hong Kong, the other regional visual art hub with a rival stable of art fairs, museums and galleries, it "needs both government support as well as the backing of private enterprise", he says.