With more than 100 satellite art events surrounding Art Stage Singapore jostling for everyone’s attention this week, it can be difficult to pull back from the fray in order to gain some valuable perspective on the frantic development of the Asian contemporary art scene that continues to hurtle forward at a breakneck pace.
One particular event that promises to provide some reprieve during this year’s Art Week is the world premiere of Singaporean filmmaker Patricia Chen’s second film, “The 24 Hour Art Practice”. As the title suggests, Chen’s film documents the unflagging devotion and effort that the Indonesian collector Dr Oei Hong Djien has poured into building up his extensive holdings of both modern and contemporary Indonesian art.
Chen, an art writer and former manager of Singapore’s Sculpture Square, made her directorial debut only last year with “Uli Sigg, China’s Art Missionary”, an intimate portrait of the prominent Swiss collector who accumulated one of the world’s most extensive holdings of Chinese contemporary art.
According to Chen, her series of films was conceived as a sequence of “human interest stories revolving around Asia’s first collectors — those who collected historical works, much like museums and individuals whose collections have social value.”
Clocking in at a compact 50 minutes, “The 24 Hour Art Practice” is more than just an insightful portrait of a single, individual collector, however. The film also sheds light on the pitfalls of being a significant individual player in a country that still lacks a professionally run network of museums and other state-supported art infrastructure. Indeed, Chen goes so far as to assert that “no art scene exemplifies the importance of private art patronage better than Indonesia. Without any government funding or grants, support for Indonesian artists comes from individuals, as well as on a collective basis.”
This reliance on private patronage, however, has led to often-divisive debates over the accountability and public responsibility of private museums. “When Dr Oei opened his museum to the public, he also opened himself up to an entirely different level of accountability and set of expectations. There was also a demand for works to be properly authenticated, and for their provenance to be verified,” recalls Chen.
“Suddenly, this collector, who for a long time had been the only act in town, was thrust into a deep debate over the accountability of a private museum owner.”
Although Chen hopes that her film will offer viewers an incisive introduction to the collecting habits and idiosyncrasies of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, she believes that the value of “The 24 Hour Art Practice” isn’t specific to the Indonesian scene per se. Rather, her documentation of Dr Oei’s private museum and collection is “timely, relevant, and more crucial to public interest in terms of what we are seeing in the wider Asian region more generally at the moment — namely, issues of accountability and authenticity with respect to private museums, and how to go about authenticating art in an environment with minimal arts infrastructure.”
A double bill screening of “Uli Sigg: China’s Art Missionary” and “The 24 Hour Art Practice” will be held at the Singapore Art Museum Glass Hall on Saturday, January 24 2015 from 4pm to 6pm. Tickets at S$20.