Affordable, actually

Affordable, actually

Ms Margareta Laminto, 36, is an old hand when it comes to collecting.

For more than a decade, she has been building a trove of handbags, shoes and watches, investing tens of thousands of dollars in them.

The Indonesia-born Singaporean with an eye for beauty gave art collecting a wide berth however.

She says: "I hear about Monets selling for millions of dollars at art auctions and think I could never afford to buy or collect art."

But Ms Laminto, a regional marketing manager for a health-care company, shelved her scepticism last year when a friend invited her to the Affordable Art Fair, where artworks are each priced below $10,000.

She says: "Its accessible price point helped me get over my mental barrier. For the price of a handbag, I could buy a painting."

She bought her first artwork, an oil painting by Thai artist Somnuek Klangnok, for less than $2,000 and she plans to shell out some $12,000 at this year's fair for a series of four works by home-grown urban artist Samantha Lo.

Ms Laminto's change from curious onlooker to serious art buyer is just one way the Affordable Art Fair, which began in London in 1999 and sprang up here in 2010, is transforming Singapore's art scene.

The contemporary art fair, which returns for the fourth year to the F1 Pit Building on Nov 21, has demystified art for the uninitiated, grown the pool of art lovers, buyers and collectors, and seeded business opportunities for galleries beyond the fair.

For sales manager Jacqueline Ng, 28, an occasional art buyer who first attended the fair last year, the convivial atmosphere and easy access to artists and gallerists were a relaxing way to learn how to appreciate art.

"By talking to artists, I learnt how to look at art and see it as more than just something pleasing to the eye," she says. She bought two works by young Singapore artists Eugene Soh and Ruben Pang for about $3,200 in total.

It is not just newcomers who welcome the fair's non-judgmental environment.

Financier Tan Yo-Hann, 43, a seasoned collector of watercolours and Art Deco posters, says: "Even for a long-time investor like myself, I still get intimidated if I walk into a gallery selling art I am not familiar with. The way the fair is set up, it is quite communal, so you can enjoy art and not feel judged."

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