Galleries downsize amid art boom

Galleries downsize amid art boom
Chan Hampe Gallery at Raffles Hotel Arcade is one of the galleries which put the works of untested young artists on their walls.

SINGAPORE - Despite the visual arts boom in Singapore, it is not all boom for art galleries.

At least four galleries have closed or will soon close their brick-and-mortar spaces, and have changed the way they operate over the past few months. Another two galleries have downsized, citing increased competition and high rentals.

They point to alternatives to maintaining a brick-and-mortar gallery, such as operating online and at the growing number of art fairs such as the bi-annual Affordable Art Fair, where they can rent booths and sell their works over a few days.

The shutters have come down on Artesan Gallery+Studio at Raffles Hotel Arcade and The Gallery of Gnani Arts at Tanglin Shopping Centre. Artesan's director Roberta Dans will now focus on participating in art fairs as well as at pop-up shows at other venues. Gnani Arts has moved to a warehouse space in Kallang Pudding Road, where viewings will be by appointment only.

It also plans to do two major exhibitions a year at other venues as well as participate in art fairs.

Another gallery that has closed is John Erdos Art at Dempsey Road. Owner John Erdos has opted to integrate art into his home furnishings store in the same complex, instead of having a standalone space for showcasing art.

A fourth gallery, Galerie Steph, will let go of its permanent tenancy at Artspace@ Helutrans in Tanjong Pagar Distripark, and will arrange to lease it on an ad-hoc basis for exhibitions. Its final exhibition for this year is Singapore artist Yeo Shih Yun's solo that opens on July 17.

At least two other galleries have scaled down their spaces: Chan Hampe Galleries, also at Raffles Hotel Arcade, has downsized from two units to one, while Indigo Blue Art has given up its 3,000 sq ft Neil Road shophouse for a 1,400 sq ft space in Temple Street.

Mrs Dans, who is in her 50s, was drawn to the ambience of the Raffles Hotel when she relocated her 10-year-old Bukit Timah gallery Artesan there last year. She hoped to draw more walk-in customers at Raffles Hotel Arcade.

But she says that "with a physical gallery space, I found myself always looking at the next exhibition. I came to a point where I felt I was losing a bit of my perspective on why I got into the business in the first place. The operating costs were getting higher".

Industry insiders say the operating costs for an art gallery vary from $20,000 to $50,000 a month, depending on the location. Apart from rental, which makes up a significant chunk, galleries have to pay staff salaries, insurance as well as shipping costs for the works if the artist is based overseas.

Mrs Dans now works from home, maintains the Artesan brand and website and hopes to work with educational institutes to promote fresh as well as established artists.

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