Works by young artists overpriced?

Works by young artists overpriced?
Artist Eugene Soh’s The Last Kopitiam, a digital print on canvas, sold for $5,000.

When award-winning artist Tay Bak Chiang held his first solo show in 2003, he was selling each painting for a few hundred dollars.

Recently, at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) graduation show, student Henry Lee, a fine arts diploma graduate, sold a drawing for $6,000.

The four-figure sum may raise eyebrows but, these days, it is no longer uncommon for young Singapore artists, who are still in school or fresh out of school, to price their works for such amounts.

And collectors readily snap up pieces at these prices.

Some in the arts community view the price inflation as a sign of a maturing arts scene that is able to appreciate and recognise the value of art. But there are also others who feel that some young artists have not reached the stage in their career when they can command four-figure sums for their works.

Gallerist Vera Wijaya, 37, of Galerie Sogan & Art in Mohamed Sultan Road, says she has encountered new artists, both students and recent graduates, "who want to charge $1,200 for a sketch, $3,000 for a small, simple painting and $8,000 for a medium- sized painting".

She says: "This is understandable since they are trained to create works, but they are not taught how to sell and market them, so they may not understand concepts such as price competition or sustainability. But when artists overprice their works, seasoned art collectors will complain or simply smirk and shake their heads."

A relative newcomer to the art scene, Eugene Soh, 26, says he initially planned to price his work, The Last Kopitiam, at $30,000 when it was up for sale last year at the now-defunct Valentine Willie Fine Art gallery.

Soh, who recently graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a bachelor's in fine arts (interactive media), says: "When I said $30,000, there was a pause over the phone from the person at the gallery, then 'Wow!'. They said that was the price of an established artist's work and suggested that I sell for less."

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