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Covid has shaken up the world—and along with it, the art world. The pandemic has disrupted business as usual. We’ve had to learn to operate without the fairs, exhibition openings and travel that have sustained the industry. We sat down with Singapore curators, gallerists, an artist and a collector to talk about the path forward.We filmed these casual conversations in order to preserve a record of this unprecedented moment in time and ignite discussion about how we can continue to create, share, exhibit and collect art in this challenging environment.


There was a consensus among those we talked with that isolation and social distancing have resulted in welcome time to reflect, slow down and recalibrate. Although most everyone missed face-to-face interaction, no one seemed to miss the frantic travel and fair attendance that have become art world staples. Despite the real financial challenges resulting from the closures and travel bans, most everyone agreed that technology has been successful in filling the gap. There was little doubt, however, that technology isn't a replacement for the pleasure of experiencing art in person.

Excerpts from our video conversations:


“Can we do things differently? Which we usually maybe wouldn’t do? Instead of being competitive with each other can we share resources? Can we maybe share a space? If none of us can afford to rent one space, maybe it’s okay to do one show a year, but we share the facilities. Can we share outreach and can we do things more collaboratively? And what is very stunning to me is that the general public understands, for example, the need to have art and culture. They don’t see it anymore and think it’s maybe something for an elite or it’s something maybe at the moment not well spent. I think that’s something very encouraging that a population, that maybe 10 years ago would not have had the same position, say ‘No, now we need that.’ ”


"We should be creative and we should not hope to go back into our comfort zones. That will not work, not in the next five years and probably not in the next 10 years.”
—Ute Mete Bauer, Founding Director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore


“It’s been a strange year for the arts in Singapore. It’s not just Covid of course. But a number of institutions are shuttering up, including the CCA, Center for Contemporary Art. The infrastructure is reducing a little. Some of that has been in the works for a while. It’s not just Covid, but then of course along came the pandemic, and I think that has been a bit of a double whammy for the local art scene. So yeah, we are struggling a little bit. And I guess here what many outsiders have considered Singapore’s weakness, which is a very sort of bureaucratic, very centralized approach to the art scene where the government really regulates so much of what’s happening, has proven to be a strength. I think it’s really coming across right now that being such a bureaucratic system is working in our favor. I’m not sure other countries in Southeast Asia can claim that.” 
—Louis Ho, Independent Curator and Critic


“I now get to meet individuals intentionally, by setting a date or calling a meeting, and having them in smaller groups in smaller settings, as compared to say meeting people at a gallery opening where there's tons of people and everyone's interacting and there's a lot of stimulus and there's a lot of interaction and social pressure. Meeting in smaller groups, gives a greater chance for a more personal connection and relationship to form.”
—Nicholas Ong, Painter and Visual Artist


“I think there are challenges ahead, but not to be so doom and gloom about the whole thing, I think what has been interesting is that galleries, possibly those that are the larger galleries that are possibly with the stronger balance sheets, have been able to embrace the chance to innovate, taking their sales online. Sotheby’s auction house was the first auction house to transition its sales to an online platform. And I think, while perhaps some of the buyers in the art world are not necessarily ready for online, there are a lot of people out there that are still willing to purchase online.”
—Jo Shropshire, Art Collector and Co-Founder and Director of Benesys


“We saw a 30 percent increase in listings during the worst stages of the lockdown. And that’s just with artists and designers realizing that they no longer have these physical spaces they can show their works in and they need to be able to get that exposure online. It was easy for us to offer that to young artists and designers that were struggling at the time and I hope that that’s something that helped them along the way, and they were able to get more sales through the platform as well as more exposure.”


“I think [artists] have been forced to become more agile or more open at least to selling their art in different ways. I think that for artists in galleries, it can sometimes be that they feel quite precious about the works that they’re selling, which I completely understand, but there is a way to still tastefully sell art online without it becoming too much of a commercial, buying platform.”
—Kim Tay, Gallery Director, The Artling


“There is this re-imagination on how we engage the public outside of the digital or online realm. We still can connect with art in person as long as people understand that they cannot crowd in big numbers. I think they will have patience. By now, people are used to it. So it will be okay. I think we just need to keep re-imagining all the time...So there’s this interesting thing about alternative ways of reacting or engaging with a public artwork. So if you can’t touch it any more right now, what do you do? You know, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy public art anymore. You can still look at it, you can step on it, you can jump on it, you can kick it.”
—Khai Hori, Director and Partner, Chan + Hori Contemporary


“Artists are producing amazing works, but they are doing it in complete isolation. They were already isolated in the beginning [in their studios]. Now they’re being absolutely doubly isolated. So every square inch of the work of art that has been produced is by the artist. So think about Jeff Koons having hundreds of assistants or other artists having huge ateliers—all these places are completely empty. When I speak with gallery artist Hiroshi Senju he says he’s grinding the paint, stretching the canvas, moving the canvas, lighting it properly—every square inch of the work was done by him. There wasn’t anyone else. That is something precious and unique.”
—Sundaram Tagore, Founder and Owner, Sundaram Tagore Gallery