Southeast Asia’s art scene is having an action-packed start to the year. After the opening of S.E.A. Focus and the long-awaited launch of ART SG during the Singapore Art Week in January, this month sees the return of Art Jakarta Gardens in Hutan on February 7 through to 12 and Art Fair Philippines in Manila from February 17 to 19.
Indeed, contemporary art from the region has been getting more international limelight in recent years. Galleries such as STPI from Singapore and Filipino gallery Silverlens have been making inroads through appearances at international fairs (Silverlens even opened an outpost in New York last year). Indonesian collective ruangrupa took the helm of Documenta 15 last year, while a monumental work by the Kota Kinabalu-born and -based artist Yee I-Lann achieved a remarkable sale at Art Basel in Basel. “A lot more people are interested in Southeast Asian art and it’s definitely a different crowd than before,” Emi Eu, the executive director of STPI and project director of S.E.A. Focus, told Artnet News.
Despite the increase in interest, however, the cultural and geographical complexity of the region—there are 10 ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asia Nations, member states—means it remains a mystery for many in the international art world. Here are eight galleries based in the region to know in order to navigate these fascinating territories.
A+ Works of Art
Founder: Joshua Lim, a hospitality industry veteran-turned-gallery director
Year of establishment: 2017
Based in: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Recent art fair appearances: S.E.A. Focus 2023
Price points: $2,000 to $120,000
Artist highlights: The gallery focuses on contemporary art from Malaysia and Southeast Asia from across different generations, including Chang Fee Ming (b. 1959), Ahmad Fuad Osman (b. 1969), Chong Kim Chiew (b. 1975), Minstrel Kuik (b. 1976), Tan Zi Hao (b. 1989), Mary Pakinee (b. 1992), and Phornphop Sittiruk (b. 1986).
Mission and vision: “We look to invest in the whole art ecology: art-making, curating, art writing, collecting and public education,” noted gallery founder and director Lim. “The gallery name is a play on striving for distinction but also on the idea that art is never without context and is always reaching to connect—it is always ‘plus’ something else. We hope to bring together emerging art professionals with more established ones, and also to work across different generations and cultures.”
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: A solo presentation of Malaysian artist Yim Yen Sum at Art Jakarta Gardens; a Yee I-Lann solo exhibition “Allom! Amatai! / Life! Death!” in March; Malaysian-born Indonesia-based artist Nadiah Bamadhaj’s solo show “Dewi” in June. Other solo shows in the pipeline include Singapore’s Ho Rui An in October, and Thai artists Phornphop Sittiruk and Lee Anantawat in November.
Founder: Kevin Troyano Cuturi, 33, an art lover and former executive at Amazon in Singapore
Year of establishment: December 2019
Based in: Singapore
Recent art fair appearances: ART SG, Asia Now in Paris, Art Moments Jakarta, and recurring exhibitions at Cromwell Place in London
Price points: $2000 to $300,000
Artist highlights: Homegrown Singapore talents such as Faris Heizer (b. 1998), Aisha Rosli (b. 1997), and Khairulddin Wahab (b. 1990) together with international names such as Hubert Le Gall (b. 1961, France) and Lionel Sabatté (b. 1975, France)
Mission and vision: Working with a range of young talents as well as international names, Cuturi Gallery positions itself as a “next generation” gallery that “presents an inclusive and democratized art ecosystem,” its founder Cuturi noted. The gallery nurtures and provides a platform for emerging artists through its non-profit initiative c/discoveries, which channels 80 percent of the sale proceeds to the artist, while the remaining 20 percent funds the program. “Local patronage is on the rise, and hence Singaporean artists are having increasing support from local collectors. In addition, most of the Singaporean artists we work with are gaining international visibility thanks to social media,” Cuturi told Artnet News.
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: “Outlines” by Aiste Stancikaite from February 4 to 26, Aisha Rosli’s solo show, and “Chrysalis” by Lionel Sabatté in London from March 13 to 26.
Founder: Jasdeep Sandhu, who obtained a law degree from the University of Warwick before venturing into the art world after reading about Indonesian modern and contemporary art.
Year of establishment: 1996 in Singapore; Yogyakarta Art Lab (YAL) in 2012 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; and a third exhibition space in Jakarta in 2022.
Based in: Singapore, Yogyakarta, Jakarta
Recent art fair appearances: ART SG, S.E.A. Focus, Art Basel Hong Kong
Price points: $1,000 to $350,000
Artist highlights: Modern and contemporary artists from or based in Southeast Asia, including Ashley Bickerton (1959 – 2022), I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih (1966 – 2006), Suzann Victor (1959), Yunizar (1971), and Bagyi Aung Soe (1924 – 1990).
Mission and vision: The gallery is dedicated to promoting Southeast Asian artists while shining a light on their international relevance. The gallery also focuses on building long-term relationships with artists, Sandhu noted, with many of the artists Gajah represents today were emerging artists back when the gallery first represented them. The gallery also contributes to the scholarship of art history in the region.
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Art Fair Philippines, Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel in Basel
Founder: Gwen Bautista, a curator and art writer from Manila who is an alumna of Para Site’s Workshops for Emerging Arts Professionals in Hong Kong and a fellow of the EDI Global platform organized by Fondazione Morra Greco in Naples.
Year of establishment: 2017
Based in: Manila
Recent art fair appearances: Art Dubai, S.E.A. Focus, Art Fair Philippines, Visayas Art Fair
Price points: $500 to $50,000
Artist highlights: The gallery presents emerging and mid-career artists from the Philippines, Asia Pacific, and other parts of the world. Among them are Cian Dayrit (b. 1989), Issay Rodriguez (b. 1991), Clarence Chun (b. 1975), Kristoffer Ardena (b. 1976), Kelli Maeshiro (b. 1989), Veronica Lazo (b. 1990), Carina Santos (b. 1988), and Pepe Delfin (b. 1991).
Mission and vision: A curator-led contemporary art space, MONO8 operates on a community-centric framework while developing a model that is sustainable both artistically and commercially. The gallery’s founder Bautista also hoped to build a platform for artistic exchange and critical understanding of contemporary art. “The greatest strength of contemporary art from the Philippines is that there’s a lot to draw from: our complicated history, our location in the tropics, and the identities we continue to navigate—all of which contributes to the struggle of making art that is relevant and meaningful,” Bautista told Artnet News.
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Art Fair Philippines 2023; forthcoming exhibitions include Gabrielle Lockwood Estrin solo show “Mapping the parts,” and group shows “On Water / Own Water” curated by Francisco Lee and “Keeping/Sending” curated by James Luigi Tana.
Founder: Jun Tirtadji, who founded the gallery shortly after graduating from university.
Year of establishment: 2014
Based in: Jakarta
Recent art fair appearances: Frieze Seoul 2022, Art Collaboration Kyoto 2022, S.E.A. Focus 2023
Price points: $1,500 to $500,000
Artist highlights: The gallery focuses on “contemporary Indonesian artists noteworthy in their medium of choice, topics and cutting-edge explorations.” Among them are Aditya Novali (b. 1978), Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo (b. 1978), Bagus Pandega (b. 1985), Davy Linggar (b. 1974), Faisal Habibi (b. 1984), Kei Imazu (b. 1980), Maruto (b. 1992), Nadya Jiwa (b. 1994), Syagini Ratna Wulan (b. 1979), Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi (b. 1985), Tromarama (founded in 2006), and Uji “Hahan” Handoko (b. 1983)
Mission and vision: The gallery aims to serve the Indonesian art ecosystem by building a consistent local program while fostering a borderless dialogue. The gallery went on a nomadic journey for a couple of years until 2022 when it moved to its new permanent space in Jalan Surabaya 66, Jakarta. On the development of Southeast Asia’s art scene, gallery founder Tirtadji said: “The center of the art world seems to be shifting into a more decentralized context. We need more investment in the education sector, as well as connecting the shared resources we have as a region together in order to sustain and develop the next generation of artists from the region.”
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Art Jakarta Gardens, Art Basel Hong Kong
Founder: Subhashok Angsuvarnsiri, an art and antique collector of 30 years. The gallery is currently managed by his son Jongsuwat Angsuvarnsiri, who serves as the gallery’s managing director.
Year of establishment: 2012
Based in: Bangkok
Recent art fair appearances: ART SG, Art Jakarta 2022
Price points: $3,000 to $20,000
Artist highlights: The gallery focuses on contemporary artists from Thailand with socio-political focus. On its roster include Vipoo Srivilasa (b. 1969), Kitikong Tilokwattanotai (b. 1978), Taiki Sakpisit (b. 1975), and Kanchalee Ngamdamronk (b. 1989)
Mission and vision: “The mission of the gallery is to promote and nurture emerging artists from Thailand, to connect them to the global art world,” Jongsuwat Angsuvarnsiri told Artnet News. Thai contemporary artists are skillful and have great techniques, he noted, but traditionally rather “introspective, thinking more about spirituality or meta questions like life and death.” In recent years, a number of artists also tackle contemporary issues as well as responding to political events in Thailand. Artists often have to work under financial constraints, but “because of all the constraints, which encourage them to experiment and introduce unconventional materials into their works,” he said. The emergence of young collectors in Thailand during the Covid lockdown are also a force of change to the local scene.
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Group show “Il Muteluh” exploring the culture surrounding superstitions within the Thai culture, and how this is linked to the political history of Thailand.
Founder: Can Yavuz, who is the son of Turkish-Armenian immigrants to Germany. Yavuz began his art experience in Cologne and began collecting in 1998. He then worked in the banking industry across Asia and Europe before setting up the gallery in Singapore.
Year of establishment: 2010
Based in: Singapore. A space in Sydney was opened in 2019.
Recent art fair appearances: Art Basel Hong Kong (2022), West Bund Art & Design (2022), Art Basel Miami Beach (2022), ART SG.
Price points: up to $600,000
Artist highlights: The gallery works with artists from Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand who work within the realm of human and diasporic experiences including Abdul Abdullah (b. 1986), Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan (b. 1965, 1962), Alvin Ong (b. 1988), and Pinaree Sanpitak (b. 1961).
Mission and vision: “We are dedicated to the promotion of intercultural dialogue through contemporary art,” noted Yavuz. The gallery takes pride in a “curatorial program driven by social significance of artworks which challenge the issues of our times.”
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Art Dubai, Art Brussels, Art Basel Hong Kong, Taipei Dangdai
Founder: Audrey Yeo, who comes from a background in art history and business.
Year of establishment: 2013
Based in: Singapore
Recent art fair appearances: ART SG, Asia Now Paris, Frieze Seoul
Price points: $5,000 to $80,000
Artist highlights: The gallery is committed to contemporary art in Singapore. Highlights among artists from the city state include Aki Hassan (b. 1995), Fyerool Darma (b. 1987), Priyageetha Dia (b. 1992), Wei Leng Tay (b. 1978), Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990)
Mission and vision: One of the most distinguished galleries from Singapore, Yeo Workshop has been backing innovative and progressive practices of contemporary artists from the city-state, and Yeo began to see the rewards with international recognition of her artists such as the accolades for Sarah Choo Jing and her current show at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The recent ART SG has also helped to promote her artists to a crowd beyond Singapore and Southeast Asia. “Moving forward, the greatest challenge will be to develop both short and long term outcomes: continue to develop on the one hand the depth and breadth of the pool of local artists, and on the other the collector base for such artists both locally and internationally. We must continue to collaborate and communicate effectively,” Yeo told Artnet News.
Upcoming fairs/exhibitions: Art Dubai; Singaporean artist Aki Hassan’s first solo show with the gallery “Entangled Anxieties” opening on May 13.