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Collector’s Diary

1. Can you firstly share a little bit about your role as a consultant for the Arts Programme at Straits Clan/Mandala Club? What does that entail?

I was asked to join the team last year to help build on the existing art platform at the club. We wanted to go further to seek out, support, and nurture exceptional creatives with extraordinary ideas within Singapore. I have had THE most fun and interesting time developing art education with Metis and ways to experience the arts through exhibitions, talks, artist residencies and art suppers.

Camilla Hewitson

2. Straits Clan/Mandala Club is striving to become an arts destination within the city. How has that manifested so far?

Ben Jones, the co-founder of Mandala Group, and I spent a few weeks talking to club members and industry professionals to develop the club into more of an arts destination. It’s humbling to see how Straits Clan/Mandala Club is so committed to encouraging support of the arts at such a critical time for the industry. To kickstart this platform, we launched three initiatives for 2021:

A. Build a Collection: I was delighted to work with Richard Koh Fine Art (a gallery with branches in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore) to procure works from artists Pen Robit and Eiffel Chong to complement the club’s existing collection.

B. The Creative Studio: This programme was launched to support four young local artists who had no studio space and were working out of their bedrooms. We converted the club’s former spa into a temporary studio, and at the end of May, we will host an exhibition of their works made during their time at the club.

C. Public Art: Many of the programmes we run are for members only, but we have an opportunity to bridge the private and the public within the Clan Cafe which is open to everyone. During the art and design collective PHUNK’s 25th anniversary, their large-scale installation ‘Love Bomb (aka Fat Boy)’ was placed at the entrance of the club and wowed visitors on arrival. We plan to continue placing artworks in this lobby for all to enjoy.

 

3. Let’s talk about The Singapore Art Supper Club. How did the idea come about and why is it particularly important to focus on artists like Lim Tze Peng and now, Kim Lim for the May instalment?

Christina and I were talking about her Tetrad course, and somehow got on to how both of us had always wanted to create a Supper Club. It reinforces why meeting face-to-face is still so very important. The idea would not have carried the same momentum on a WhatsApp group or Zoom room, since there is a need to feel the energy in the room when it comes to art.

We were thrilled that Chef Damian D’Silva (Restaurant Kin) and artcommune gallery shared the same vision and worked with us to initiate this series with the March instalment. We had the honour of speaking with Lim Tze Peng’s son and biographer Woon Tai Ho to help give insights into his favourite meals, which resonated with Chef Damian’s focus on heritage cuisine. We are currently working on the May instalment featuring Kim Lim together with Chef Reuben Davis (Clubhouse Executive Chef) and STPI Gallery and look forward to our second Supper on 11 May.

There is often a lot of hype around emerging artists, but what about the national treasures and pioneers of Singapore? Straits Clan/Mandala Club is the perfect venue to have those important conversations about our shared, but sometimes hidden, culture.

 

Eiffel Chong, ‘Kep’, 2014, C-Type Photography Paper, 99 x 127 cm, Edition of 5. Image courtesy of Richard Koh Fine Art and Eiffel Chong.

 

4. The art world can sometimes be intimidating, so it has a tendency to remain rather insular, with events and spaces mostly being occupied by the same people that ‘get’ art. How does Straits Clan/Mandala Club position itself as a welcoming space for young collectors?

The programming at Straits Clan/Mandala Club is purposefully curated to encourage people to get involved on any level. We do this by partnering with industry experts to help make it more accessible. Past events included a curator’s tour of S.E.A. Focus, and an industry panel discussion on collecting sustainably in this region, which were both organised in partnership with Metis Art.

The club really is a “home away from home” and therefore I think you see members in quite a relaxed frame of mind when they are there. When we relax, we are more open to learning so I feel that the club remains an important place for varied programmes to be on offer. At the very least, the art surrounding the club on all its floors and its changing exhibitions make art feel less intimidating and hopefully encourage curiosity.

 

5. To conclude, let’s hear a bit about Strait’s Clan’s own journey of collecting. Can you talk about some of the works at the Clan? How do these works resonate with the club and how do you envision the collection growing?

When the club was founded, The Artling helped develop a strong art collection including works such as Green by Dawn Ng which I admire daily for its balance, sense of calm and composition. Since then, we have added Kep by Eiffel Chong, a contemporary Malaysian photographer and Bombardment by Pen Robit, a young Cambodian artist. Kep greets you with a smile as you enter, whilst Bombardment, through its scale and strong imagery, can’t help but encourage you to reflect. The club is a place which mirrors the many faces within our community and I feel the art here does the same.