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Why Collect Art? A BFM 89.9 Podcast

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Smaug the Magnificent sleeping on his hoard. A illustration by JRR Tolkien for his book The Hobbit. (Hey, here’s a of bit geekery: This painting wasn’t used in the original impression of The Hobbit, 1937, which included no coloured illustrations, but appeared in the second English impression of the same year and in the first American edition, 1938. The caption was ”O Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities’)

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There’s no doubt that art collectors play a significant role in the Malaysian art scene. Dedicated collectors are a small but passionate group of people. Their buying power feeds the commercial gallery system, and is a source of real income for artists, especially painters and sculptors

Besides spending money on art, they also invest alot of time in getting to know artists and gallery owners. Chances are that a really serious art collector attends more art openings than the three ARTERI editors combined! My casual conversations with collectors have convinced me that, alongside art objects, they are owners of huge ammounts of information, much of it amassed firsthand through direct contact with the artists they support.

Institutions like Balai Seni Lukis and Galeri Petronas have policies (and budgets) to acquire works of art. However, lack of consistency, transparency and let’s be honest, competency, means that many important artworks are in private collections.

All said, art collectors continue to lag behind in one aspect – progressiveness. Under the forward-thinking directorship of Hasnul J Saidon, Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah at Universiti Sains Malaysia has recently started to acquire experimental and new media art, works that don’t subscribe to the overwhelming status quo of art as commodity objects.

In this BFM 89.9 podcast, local collector Bingley Sim speaks candidly to Shazmin Shamsuddin about why and how he collects art. I wish interviewers would do a little more research so they could have better, in-depth conversations. Many of Shazmin Shamsuddin’s questions seem shallow (‘when did you buy your first art piece?) and merry-go-round (how do you know what to buy?), but it’s an enlightening listen just the same, so stick with it! The highlight is when Bingley describes buying art as ‘quite a gentleman’s game’, and reveals that there is an informal club amongst a group of collectors who share knowledge and basically just hang out together!

Click on the icon below to play. You can also listen directly or download the podcast here.

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