Established in 1994 as one of the first contemporary galleries with an international profile in former East Berlin, in recent years ARNDT has expanded its operation in South East Asia and the Pacific Region.
Since 2003, in its premises in Asia’s new art hub ‘Gillman Barracks’ in Singapore, ARNDT has presented solo exhibitions and curated shows by established and emerging artists.
In Berlin, Arndt Art Agency focuses on global artist management, art advisory and curated exhibitions in collaboration with major international artists, museums and private collections. We met Matthias Arndt.
When did you decide it was the right moment to open a new space in Singapore?
After I had identified Southeast Asia as one of the most exciting new art landscapes, rich in artistic creation and with the most prosperous markets – current and even more promising for the future. Singapore is also an ideal hub to present international art to the Southeast Asian and Pacific audiences.
As a western gallerist, how was your cultural approach to Southeast Asian art and culture? And your first exhibition in Singapore was?
I actually did visit Indonesia and the Philippines before opening the gallery in Singapore and did my “due diligence“ . First we did shows like “ASIA: Looking South“ and “SIP! Indonesian Art Today“ in Berlin and curated exhibitions in Australia and Asia. Coming to these completely new territories and cultures, was and remains exciting.
In the beginning I had no context to put what I saw and who I met into relation with my global view on art. Accepting that I would never view Asian culture with the eyes of a local person born and raised in Asia, I took advantage of a fresh outlook. Over 28 years in the business you learn to trust your gut feeling and instincts. So I embarked on this journey with an open mind and identified the key artists in Indonesia, the Philippines and other Southeast Asia countries we wanted to work with. Although experiences can be challenging due to different understanding of business ethics and how the markets works it has been extremely rewarding.
Also in Southeast Asia there are no infrastructures to show, support and build the artist careers like we have developed in the West. So we had to advertise our offer and expertise first, and build trust that our offer of opening international markets and bring a new audience to the SEA artists was serious. Only then could we start the core work of preparing new markets and audiences for SEA Art. By organizing the shows mentioned above and publications such as „SIP! Indonesian Art Today“ or “Wasak“ Filipino Art Today“ as well as artist monographs (Jigger Cruz, Rodel Tapaya, Del Kathryn Barton, Entang Wiharso) and museums shows and sales for many SEA Artists, we have proved that we can perform successfully. Looking towards Asia and working particularly in Southeast-Asia was the right decision for me.
In Singapore you present both Western artists and Southeast Asian artists and in Berlin, with “Wasak”, you show a group of young Filipino artists…
We try to keep a good mix of international and Asian art at our Singapore branch: solo exhibitions by Entang Wiharso, Jumaldi Alfi, Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton as well as European icons such as Gilbert and George and Heinz Mack. In addition we have held a group exhibition of emerging artists from the US, and during Art Stage Singapore 2016 we will hold the first solo presentation by Christopher Le Brun from London, who is also the president of the Royal Academy in London.
The underlying motivation for our exhibition WASAK! Filipino Art Today in Berlin was to shed light on the fascinating contemporary art landscape in the Philippines. We are extremely excited to be exploring this fresh, new territory that in turn allows us to introduce Western audiences to a multitude of new artistic positions that represent the future of contemporary art in SEA.
To answer to your previous question, our first show in Singapore was an exhibition of HEINZ MACK, OTTO PIENE AND THE ZERO Group (Yves Klein and Fontana) in January 2013 – the second one a solo exhibition of Rodel Tapaya who we have represented since then .
How did western art collectors react to “Wasak”?
Interestingly contemporary art from the Philippines is not really perceived as „Asian“ so the western audience can deal with the works better than as they would do with Chinese or Indonesian art. It seems that the visual language and iconography is closer to the European and western language. Also, making the effort to produce an extremely comprehensive publication about Filipino Art and putting the work in a historical and contemporary context pays off. We produced a 192 page hard cover publication with German publisher DISTANZ Verlag to accompany the show. Feedback and press have been excellent and there has been a strong fascination with and curiosity about this new generation of Filipino artists.
Which has been the most successful Arndt exhibition in Singapore?
It is hard to tell which show was locally the most successful, as for the past 22 years we have been working globally, meaning that where we show and introduce a new artist or movement, is not consequently where we sell them. I am happy to say that most of our shows in Singapore have done extremely well. Gilbert and George in Jan 2015 was certainly a special highlight. The duo made an entire new body of work, the UTOPIAN PICTURES for Singapore. They were celebrated like “popstars“. Most recently the major Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton – her first international solo exhibition – was a huge success. Additionally, every exhibition by Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya we have mounted in Singapore has received outstanding feedback and has sold out before the opening.
ARNDT Fine Art
ARNDT Fine Art Pte Ltd
9 Lock Road #03-21
Tel. +65 67340775