Singapore has steadily emerged as an epicentre for the global art market, drawing the attention of art aficionados, collectors, and investors from every corner of the world. With a robust framework of private and public support, the city-state is reshaping the landscape of the art world, transforming itself into a gateway between the East and West, where old masters and contemporary talents converge.

This metamorphosis is not merely a testament to Singapore’s resilient spirit, rebounding after a global pandemic, but a reflection of its strategic vision, ambitions and its unparalleled potential as a global art market hub. In the following sections, we will delve into the intricate tapestry of Singapore’s art market, exploring the pulsating heartbeat of its auction houses, the vibrant festivals that celebrate creativity, and the strategic positioning that makes this nation an irresistible magnet for the world of fine art.

Various state agencies, have worked steadily to channel funds into the arts over the last few years, turning it into an accessible hub for artists in the region. At the same time, Singapore’s private art market has gained attention for its strong comeback after the pandemic, playing host to various international fairs and attracting private art collectors from both the East and the West.

A part of this development comes down to the resurgence and success of private art sales and fairs in Singapore over the last few years. Sotheby’s has recently resumed their high-end art auction operations in Singapore after a 15 year hiatus to wild success. Their 2022 live auction, titled Modern and Contemporary Auction, achieved a total sales value of SGD 24.5 million or USD $18 million with 94% of lots sold, which far surpassed pre-sale expectations  The sale broke new world auction records for works by Georgette Chen and Michel Majerus, and also heavily featured Southeast Asian artists such as Hendra Gunawan and Le Pho, indicating a strong interest in local and regional artists by private collectors.

National Gallery, Singapore

Beside Sotheby’s unexpected success, fine art fairs in Singapore have bounced back after COVID-19, continuing their work in bringing together international art sellers and buyers from across the world. The most recent of these events were Art SG, which had been stricken by delays due to the pandemic but finally opened its doors in January. The massive event was Southeast Asia’s largest ever art fair, featuring over 150 galleries from 30 countries, many of whom were exhibiting in SG for the first time. The fair highlighted several works by blue-chip artists like James Turrell and Banksy, and drew approximately 43,000 visitors over the fair’s three days. As an inaugural event that faced the unprecedented challenges of the early 2020’s, Art SG 2023 was regarded as a success and Art SG 2024 is eagerly anticipated.

ArtSG 2023

The Affordable Art Fair has been the longest running art fair in Singapore and Southeast Asia, mounting its 16th edition in November 2022. The fair featured a selection of 360 artists from 80 international and local galleries, but maintained affordability by capping prices at $15,000, with 75% of works being priced below $7,500. In its three day run, the event attracted over 15,000 visitors over three days, attaining a whopping SGD $4.5 million in total sales which exceeded the last physical fair in 2019 by 32%. The number of works sold also rose from 2019 by 67% to 2,000.

Beyond these high-visibility events, smaller but equally exciting fairs have also continued their work after the pandemic. Founded in 2019, the art fair S.E.A Focus hosts a curated selection of galleries from Southeast Asia, a market that is increasingly drawing attention from fine arts collectors. Previously based at Gillman Barracks, the fair moved to Tanjong Pagar Distripark for its fifth edition in January 2023, showing a total of 25 galleries and more than 50 artists. The fair has also recently collaborated with the Singapore Art Museum to establish a new fund, pledging to put an annual amount of $25,000 toward purchasing Southeast Asian art from the fair for the museum.

ArtScience Museum

With the private arts scene bouncing back stronger after the pandemic, Singapore has gained the status of an up-and-coming international destination for fine arts investors. The island nation serves as a gateway between East and West, and is thus often compared to Hong Kong, arguably the biggest player in the Asian market. Singapore holds an advantage in its relative political stability and positive financial outlook after the pandemic. Moreover, its location provides access to rising Southeast Asian artists, whose value cannot be underestimated. Magnus Renfew, director of Art SG, told Nikkei Asia that Singapore is perceived as “neutral territory” where “nowhere in the world do people feel equally at home”. Moreover, given the availability of bonded storage facilities where art may be stored tax-free, Singapore is particularly suited for fine art investment considerations.

The Singapore government has shared their strategic commitment to driving the nation as global art economy. The National Art’s Council’s “Our SG Arts Plan (2023 – 2027)” stated;

“Besides seeking new markets abroad, we seek to attract the best art exhibitions, performances, and events to Singapore by positioning ourselves as a key cultural city and hub in the region. More thought leadership platforms such as conferences and fairs will be identified and established, to strengthen Singapore’s position as a key arts and culture node in Asia.”

As the government continues to commit to expanding Singapore’s art scene, collectors can likewise look forward to watching the private arts sector thrive. In the next five to ten years, it’s likely that Singapore will continue to enjoy rising sales values and transaction volumes, as international galleries continue to set up shop in the nation, and the presences of auction houses and private sellers expand over time.