Celebrities, Collectors, and A-List Artists Turned Out in Force for the City’s First Art Basel Since 2019

Pharrell Williams was spotted at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. Artist Rashid Johnson posed with fans, as did Beeple and Takashi Murakami. Qatar Museums chair Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani was out on the event circuit. Not to mention a number of top collectors from around the globe: London-based Saudi-born Abdullah AI-Turki, Switzerland’s Uli Sigg and Maja Hoffmann, and Mima Reyes from Puerto Rico.

Despite reports of the city’s decline in recent years, Hong Kong remains one of the most convenient places for the art world to conduct business. Its unique geographical location makes it an ideal place for dealers and clients to connect, particularly those from across Asia, and, of course, there’s the high concentration of wealth.

This year, some visitors reported attending upwards of two-dozen events, from gallery openings to parties and dinners—and few complained about their hectic schedules.

“It feels like there are more events and things are a lot more elaborate this year than the pre-Covid times. So many art world stars are here in Hong Kong,” curator Wong Ka Ying, who is also an artist, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

Art advisor Thomas Stauffer, co-founder of Gerber and Stauffer Fine Arts in Zurich, shared a similar view. This was the first time he had returned to Hong Kong since the last Art Basel in the city in March 2019. “It’s a packed week and many galleries and luxury brands compete with each other to get the attention of the Hong Kong art crowd. It’s been a fruitful and rewarding trip to re-engage and continue the dialogue about collecting art with our Asian clients after not being able to meet in person for more than three years,” he told Midnight Publishing Group News.

The ecstatic atmosphere felt by both the international art crowd and local players on the ground, whether at fairs like Art Basel or Art Central, dinners and parties at M+ or the HKGTA Town Club, a new hotspot right in the heart of the city’s Central district, is an important statement that the city is ready to re-emerge onto the global scene after years of the pandemic and political unrest.

“Hong Kong is back,” as many collectors visiting the city told Midnight Publishing Group News.

art basel hong kong 2023

An art installation called ‘Solitude of Silences’ by South Korean artist Gimhongsok is displayed at Art Basel in Hong Kong on March 23, 2023. Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images.

A star-studded, international week

The return of prominent mainland Chinese collectors such Qiao Zhibing, founder of Tank Shanghai; entrepreneur Chong Zhou; Lu Xun, co-founder of Nanjing’s Sifang Art Museum; and fashion entrepreneur Li Lin have delighted a lot of gallerists. Many Mandarin-speaking tour groups packed the aisles during the first VIP day, and there was no lack of a well-dressed Gen-Z crowd.

Stauffer observed that works by Western artists such as Emily Mae Smith, Derek Fordjour, and Bernard Frize have been popular among the Asian crowd, and sales are moving quickly. Many dealers have noted  throughout the fair week, particularly for artworks in the price range of $100,000 to $500,000.

“We see less Europeans and Americans coming to the fair. It’s a very cultured scene, mostly dominated by the mainland Chinese, who are able to travel for the first time since Covid, as well as South Korean collectors. There are some Japanese and Southeast Asians too,” Tian Liang, director of Asia at Timothy Taylor, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

This is the London-headquartered dealer’s first show with Art Basel Hong Kong since 2018. The gallery has so far sold works to institutions in Asia and private collectors in the range of $50,000 to $1 million, including an Alex Katz portrait to a museum in the region, Liang noted. The gallery also brought British painter Leon Kossoff to Asia for the first time, and successfully sold the work to private collectors in the region.

“There’s so much energy, and there are so many young, educated, strong collectors who really know what they’re looking for and are deeply engaged with art history,” she said. “Art Basel Hong Kong is the future; I think it’s going to be the most important fair in the world in five years.”

Hong Kong 2023 M+

HONG KONG, CHINA – MARCH 21: Guests attend Prada Frames Hong Kong at M+ Museum, on March 21, 2023 in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Prada)

“M+ is A+”

Among those who traveled from across Asia include collectors Marcel Crespò and Timothy Tan from the Philippines. Sources on the ground also spotted Korean collectors such as SM Entertainment founder Sooman Lee, JaeMyung Noh, and So Young Lee. There’s also a prominent presence of Taiwanese collectors including Leo Shih, Jenny Yeh, and Vickey Chen.

Art Central’s director, Corey Andrew Barr, noted that the prominence of young collectors in their 30s to 40s speaks volumes about people’s interests in Hong Kong. “There’s been a great anticipation for finding out what’s been going on in Hong Kong, like M+ and other institutional developments in the city since they were last here in 2019,” he told Midnight Publishing Group News. “They will certainly have the experience to connect with Hong Kong art and Hong Kong artists more intimately.”

Indeed, art fairs are not the only attractions of the art week. Many have praised the art programs the city has to offer, particularly at M+, which only just welcomed international visitors for the first time since it opened in 2021. “M+ is A+,” remarked Noh.

Seoul-based dealer Jason Haam, who sold out four works by Korean rising star Moka Lee, priced between $43,000 to $60,000, to collectors from Hong Kong, Korea, and Belgium, said he did not go to the parties but he was impressed with the museums. “M+ is the very first, really top-notch, serious institution in Asia. It makes me so proud to be in this part of the world,” the dealer said.

He urged the West to rethink one narrative about the Asian art market. “It’s really upsetting for me to hear people pit Hong Kong against [other Asian cities]. Hey, Europe has Paris, Berlin, and London. The U.S. has Los Angeles and New York. There are many hubs in the West.”

Hong Kong veteran gallerist Catherine Kwai of Kwai Fung Hin, which sold paintings by Li Huayi and Lalan in the region of HK$5 million to HK$6 million ($636,955 to $764,346) to new Asian clients, noted that she felt Hong Kong has transformed, and M+, together with other new institutions, including the Palace Museum and the revamped Museum of Art, have played a key role in drawing a serious international art crowd to Hong Kong.

Kwai also praised the government’s effort in staging the Museum Summit on March 24 and 25, which brings global museum leaders such as Michael Govan, CEO of LACMA, Klaus Biesenbach, director of Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, and Gallerie degli Uffizi’s director Eike Schmidt, as well as museum directors from Thailand, Singapore, and mainland China.

“For a few years Hong Kong was very quiet and people did not visit. Now people are returning, and we are very happy,” Kwai told Midnight Publishing Group News. “The past few years have taught us that we must not take things for granted. Everyone is trying very hard this time.”

Tsang Kin-Wah

Freezing Water: Between Here and There (2023) by Hong Kong artist Tsang Kin-Wah, a new work on show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Courtesy of the artist.

Breathing room

To a younger Hong Kong generation emerging from the trauma of the political turmoil after the 2019 pro-democracy protests and the imposition of the national security law the following year, the vibrancy of the art week gives provides a breath of fresh air away from  it all. Persecution of dissidents, a crackdown of civil society, and censorship of creative expressions continue to operate in the backdrop, but many appreciate the opportunity for to feel “normal” again.

Stanley Wong, 32, a finance columnist who writes under the pen name Muddy Water, started collecting three years ago, while stuck in Hong Kong, and has already assembled a collection of some 200 works mostly by homegrown artists. This year’s art week is his first as a collector. He already acquired at least five artworks this week.

“It feels like things are back to normal this week, reminding me of the good old days,” Wong told Midnight Publishing Group News.

He noted that some people’s feelings of helplessness have pushed them to adopt a more pleasure-seeking attitude towards life. The past two years saw the rise of the local Canto-pop culture and fine dining when restaurants re-opened, and the new focus on contemporary art is also a result of that, he added.

”Art becomes an avenue of emotional release,” he said. “But this also gives us an opportunity to discover the many great artists from Hong Kong.”

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New Collectors and Museum Interest Help Drive New York’s Old Master Auctions to $150 Million—a High Not Seen in Years

The latest round of Old Master sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s marked the most robust in recent seasons, bolstered by top-notch private collection offerings (each house could boast a “white glove” sale), museum interest, and to an increasing extent, fresh interest from new buyers, both crossing over from other collecting categories or bubbling up from new pockets of regional interest around the world.

Christie’s pulled in $62.8 million on Wednesday with an offering of roughly 75 works with no-reserve prices, from the fully-sold collection of J.E. Safra ($18.5 million) and the main Old Masters sale ($44.2 million).

Yesterday, Sotheby’s took in a hefty total of $86.6 million for a main Old Master auction that realized $28.8 million, as well as a “white glove” or 100 percent sold offering of the prestigious Fisch Davidson collection that brought in $49.6 million for 10 lots alone, and was the highest-earning individual auction of the week. Yet another Sotheby’s single owner sale of Dutch paintings from the Theiline Schumann collection added $8 million to the total.

Both houses also held smaller related sales of Old Master drawings, which reflected lower price points and wider circles of interest. Underscoring the serious quality and connoisseur demand at even these smaller day sales, this morning, the Rijksmuseum scooped up an early 17th-century bronze figure of an “écorché” man by Willlem Danielsz. van Tetrode for $1.5 million, while the Cleveland Museum of Art bought the bronze group of Apollo Flaying Marsyas (1691–1700) by Giovanni Battista Foggini for $882,000. More on the marquee museum purchases later.

The total for the main sales at both houses was just under $150 million ($149.4 million). While of course not an exact apples-to-apples comparison, consider that the most recent round of major sales in London last month, pulled in a combined $56 million, and that marked one of the best seasons in years. As Midnight Publishing Group News noted at the time, experiments to reinvent the category—such as developing new art historical narratives, several of which have highlighted female artists, and extensive presale touring of work—seem to be paying off.

“There were more paintings on the market this week than there had been for many years and it was hugely encouraging how many important pictures sold,” said Milo Dickinson, who recently left Christie’s Old Masters department to take on the role of managing director at Dickinson in London. “There is clearly more depth to the Old Master market than is often appreciated,” he added.

“It is always hard to say who is buying what, but there were new faces at the auction and of course some of the old faces were buying for other new faces not seen,” said veteran New York-based dealer Robert Simon. “There is little question that new buyers are beginning to recognize the fundamental value in Old Masters, especially in contrast to contemporary art.”

Further, a calendar move by Christie’s seems to have created greater cohesion and momentum. As Dickinson noted, Christie’s moved their sales back to January after “a failed experiment moving to April.” Now, both auction houses are aligned again in the sale calendar across all major Old Master sales, he said, noting it “had a positive impact on the sales as there was visibly a much better turnout from private clients, museums, and the trade during the week, and there was a renewed buzz and excitement.”

Christie’s said the Safra offering “showed the power of the no-reserve strategy,” since all works found buyers. Ten were backed by third-party, or outside bids. The highest price of $2.7 million was paid for an album containing a frontispiece and 138 illustrations for books I to VI of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine by Jean-Baptiste Oudry. It marked a new auction record for Oudry.

Jean-Baptistie Oudrey, Album containing a frontispiece and 138 illustrations for books I to VI of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine Image courtesy Christie's.

Jean-Baptistie Oudrey, Album containing a frontispiece and 138 illustrations for books I to VI of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

It was followed by the $1 million result for J.M.W. Turner’s The Splügen Pass (albeit it missing the low $1.5 million estimate) and the price of $945,000 paid for Joos van Cleve’s Portrait of a gentleman holding gloves, half-length.

Dickinson said that Christie’s “took a significant risk by offering the Safra collection with no reserves and although there were some low prices, Christie’s did well to ensure there was competitive bidding on all the top lots.”

The top lot of the main sale was a double portrait by Goya, Portrait of Doña María Vicenta Barruso Valdés, seated on a sofa with a lap-dog; and Portrait of her mother Doña Leonora Antonia Valdés de Barruso, seated on a chair holding a fan, that sold for a mid-estimate $16.4 million (estimate: $15–20 million), more than doubling the existing $7.7 million auction record for the artist.

Two portraits by Francisco Goya, set a new artist auction record at Christie's Old Master auction on January 25, 2023 in New York.

Two portraits by Francisco Goya, set a new artist auction record at Christie’s Old Master auction on January 25, 2023 in New York. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

The second highest price of the sale, given for another Turner, was just a fraction of that, at $4.6 million for Pope’s Villa at Twickenham. The third-highest price of $2.9 million was realized for Pieter Brueghel II’s The Kermesse of Saint George.

Meanwhile, another work from the collection of late Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen, Canaletto’s The Rialto Bridge, Venice, from the south with an embarkation, traditionally identified as the Prince of Saxony during his visit to Venice in 1740, sold for $2.7 million. It was intentionally kept back from the blockbuster Paul Allen collection sale held last November.

“Whoever bought it got an excellent painting for a fraction of the price that it would have made if it was the initial collection sale, which shows that context is very important,” said Dickinson.

In addition to the Goya and Oudry results, Christie’s set new records for Marinus van Reymerswale, Gerard de Lairesse, Thomas Daniell, Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari, and Jean Valette-Falgores, called Penot.

“The Old Masters market showed depth and strength today,” commented François de Poortere, Christie’s head of Old Master Paintings. “American bidders led the way, along with Europe and China, and strong activity from the trade.”

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Salome presented with the head of Saint John the Baptist Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Salome presented with the head of Saint John the Baptist. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s started off the morning with a bang with the aforementioned Fisch Davidson Collection—widely considered one of the most important collections of Baroque art to ever appear on the market. The entire sale was guaranteed, reportedly at high prices by both the house and various outside guarantors or third-party backers.

One such outside guarantee was for the blockbuster top lot, Peter Paul Rubens’ Salome presented with the head of Saint John the Baptist, which sold for just under $27 million, a new auction record.

The next two highest lots scored identical prices of $4.89 million each, namely Christ crowned with thorns by Valentin de Boulogne, and Penitent Saint Mary Magdalene by Orazio Gentileschi. Both were estimated at $4 million to $6 million.

The Stockholm Nationalmuseum bought a painting of a young man asleep before an open book by an artist active in the circle of Rembrandt van Rijn, for $945,000.

Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino, Portrait of a young man with a quill and a sheet of paper, possibly a self-portrait of the artist Image courtest Sotheby's.

Agnolo di Cosimo, called Bronzino, Portrait of a young man with a quill and a sheet of paper, possibly a self-portrait of the artist. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

In the main sale, one of the fireworks was a newly rediscovered and restituted painting, Agnolo Bronzino’s Portrait of a young man with a quill and a sheet of paper. It sold to a buyer in the room following a five-minute bidding contest, for $10.7 million, doubling its $5 million high estimate, and setting a new auction record for the artist. Proceeds of the sale will benefit Selfhelp Community Services, which supports Holocaust survivors in North America, and The Lighthouse Guild, a Jewish healthcare organization.

The Cleveland Museum of Art also bought Anna Dorothea Therbusch’s Portrait of a scientist seated at a desk by candlelight for $441,000. It was also previously from the J.E. Safra collection. An insider said that given that Christie’s had the lion’s share of Safra material, this may have been part of a previous consignment to Sotheby’s. Safra had acquired it from Sotheby’s London in December 1996 for $64,500 (£38,900), according to the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database.

Anna Dorothea Therbusch, A scientist seated at a desk by candlelight. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Anna Dorothea Therbusch, A scientist seated at a desk by candlelight. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

The Dutch offerings from the Theiline Scheumann collection, where eight of the 12 works on offer were sold, was led by Frans van Mieris the Elder’s A young woman sealing a letter by candlelight, which sold for $2.7 million.

Dickinson said the new influx of buyers may make for more robust sales, but also some uncertainty as to demand. “There are new buyers in the market, most of them from the United States and some from Asia, but their collecting habits are very wide-ranging and therefore less predictable than before.”

And Simon said that Old Masters are likely to continue to appeal to new and seasoned buyers alike: “With the established track record of the work of the Old Masters, many collectors find the confidence to put some of their assets into work they enjoy, with the assurance that if they wish to sell at some future time, they will likely reap some reward. One does not have to wait for an artist to be discovered and acclaimed if the artist’s work has been hanging on museum walls for centuries!”

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As Singapore’s ART SG Fair Launches This Week, Meet 5 Collectors From Southeast Asia Helping to Shape the Region’s Art Scene

Is Singapore, with its 5.5 million-strong population, big enough to be an art hub of Asia?

When discussing the city state’s position in the global art market, one must not overlook its context in Southeast Asia. In fact, Southeast Asia, which includes the 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), has a population of 640 million (more than European Union’s 446.8 million), with a GDP of $2.55 trillion. It is set to be the fourth largest single market after the U.S., China, and the E.U., and more importantly, it has a young population. It is estimated that the median age of the region will be just 33 years old by 2030.

The promising economic future of Southeast Asia offers a great advantage to Singapore. Recently, the island has attracted renewed interest from the global art world as China, including Hong Kong, was practically cut off from the rest of the world thanks to the government’s zero-Covid policy that only just recently ended. Sotheby’s decision in 2022 to bring live auctions back to the Lion City for the first time in 15 years is another new boon for the region and all eyes are on this year’s Singapore Art Week, which will see the return of the fifth edition of the S.E.A. Focus art fair as well as the long-awaited launch of ART SG. The latter fair, which is finally due to open on Wednesday (January 11) after multiple delays, will showcase more than 150 galleries from 30 countries and regions around the world.

But most importantly, Southeast Asia already has a solid base of collectors who have amassed significant collections that not only demonstrate their sensibilities towards the region’s cultural roots but also speak to their global vision. Here are five collectors (three are couples) based in Southeast Asia that you need to know.

Linda Neo and Albert Lim

Linda Neo and Albert Lim

Linda Neo and Albert Lim. Courtesy of Linda Neo and Albert Lim.

Based in: Singapore

Occupation: Linda Neo and Albert Lim come from a background in the financial markets, the former in oil and gas and the latter in financial instruments. Neo is the chair of OH! Open House, a non-profit organization promoting arts within the community. She is also the chair of the Art Science Council of Mind Art Experiential Lab (MaeLab)—the arts arm of Mind Science Centre—and sits on the advisory board of ART SG.

What’s in their collection: Neo and Lim began their collecting journey with Western and Renaissance art. Over the past 20 years, they have developed a distinctive assemblage of contemporary art that reflects the cultural landscape of Southeast Asia, while resonating with and challenging the geopolitical views of the region at the same time. Their collection includes works by: Genevieve Chua, Daniel Chong, Ian Tee, Jane Lee, Donna Ong, Alvin Ong, and Melissa Tan from Singapore; Erizal, Aditya Novali, Mangu Putra, and Yunizar from Indonesia; Andres Barrioquinto, Marina Cruz, Rodel Tapaya, Leslie Chavez, Norberto Roldan, and Ronald Ventura from the Philippines; and Chan Kok Hooi, Chang Yoong Chia, Pangrok Sulap, and Yee I-Lann from Malaysia.

Distinguishing factor: In 2014, the couple founded Primz Gallery as a private art space to showcase their collections and promote art appreciation and education. The gallery is currently showing “To Begin Again,” a solo exhibition of Singaporean artist Jane Lee, which coincides with Singapore Art Week.

Where they shop: Art fairs such as Art Jakarta, Frieze Seoul and Frieze London, and more events like Paris+ and Asia Now. As they collect mainly Southeast Asian artists, they acquire works from nearly all the Singapore galleries: namely, Cuturi Gallery, Fost Gallery, Gajah Gallery, Ota Fine Arts, Richard Koh Fine Arts, Sundaram Tagore, Yavuz Gallery, and Yeo Workshop. They also buy modern pieces from Art Commune and auction houses.

Recent purchase: Donna Ong’s conceptual piece Four Colors Make a Forest from Fost Gallery and a work titled Ghost, which reflects the mental state of a young girl by the 19-year-old artist Vanessa Liem, purchased from Cuturi Gallery. Both works were acquired in 2022.

Fun fact: Neo and Lim are longtime supporters of Jane Lee. They exhibited their collection of her art for the first time in the 2017 show “Rise & Fall, Ebb & Flow: Works of Jane Lee.” The current exhibition at Primz Gallery features work newly acquired by the couple.

Michelangelo and Lourdes Samsons

Mikey and Lou Samsons. Courtesy of Mikey and Lou Samsons.

Michelangelo and Lourdes Samson at their home with Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo’s triptych 1874625.5 (2017). Courtesy of Michelangelo and Lourdes Samson.

Age:  Both Michelangelo and Lourdes Samson were born in 1970.

Occupation: Michelangelo Samson is a banker and Lourdes is an independent curator and an arts organizer.

Based in: Singapore and Sydney.

What’s in their collection: Michelangelo and Lourdes Samson have collected Southeast Asian contemporary art for more than two decades. Their collection features paintings, sculptures, installations, and digital media works by established and emerging artists from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos.

It focuses on the various artistic strategies and material concerns of artists in Southeast Asia, shedding light on the common issues and themes these countries share but also celebrating the differences that make each culture unique. Broad themes that the collection engages with include power and politics, identity and the self, and tradition and contemporaneity. It features artworks by internationally renowned Southeast Asian artists like Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Charles Lim, Jane Lee, FX Harsono, Mit Jai Inn, Natee Utarit, Sopheap Pich, Dinh Q. Le, Martha Atienza, and Yee I-Lann, among others.

Distinguishing factor: The couple is actively involved in the Singapore art scene as patrons and collectors, supporting institutions such as STPI gallery and the Singapore Art Museum, where Michelangelo sits on the board. They have loaned works to both local and international institutions, with pieces featuring in shows such as “As We Were,” organized by Seed the Art Space at [email protected] in 2021, and “A Bird Flies Into The Mirror” at Appetite in 2022.

Where they shop: Leading regional galleries, including Silverlens, Yavuz Gallery, STPI, Richard Koh Fine Art, and Roh Projects, as well as art fairs like Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Fair Philippines, Art Jakarta, and S.E.A. Focus.

Fun fact: Michelangelo and Lourdes are originally from the Philippines but have called Singapore home for the past 24 years. The couple recently relocated temporarily to Sydney for work. Aside from the few photographs that fill their Australian apartment, their significant collection of Southeast Asian art remains in Singapore.

Kim and Lito Camacho

Kim and Lito Camacho. Courtesy of Kim and Lito Camacho.

Kim and Lito Camacho. Courtesy of Kim and Lito Camacho.

Age: Both are 67

Occupation: Both are graduates of Harvard Business School. Jose Isidro N. “Lito” Camacho is the managing director and vice-chairman for Credit Suisse Asia Pacific. Previously, he was the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Energy for the Philippines. Although Kim Camacho now describes herself being a “full-time art collector,” she was responsible for opening the Sotheby’s representative office in the Philippines in 2001 and founded her own fashion accessories company.

Based in: Singapore and Manila

What’s in their collection: The couple began collecting art in 1981and their nearly 1,000-strong interdisciplinary collection features artists from Japan, America, the Philippines, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Highlights include: some of the most important works by Yayoi Kusama—eight of which are currently on loan to M+ for the artist’s retrospective in Hong Kong; major collections both of Gutai art and of pieces by the American abstract expressionist Alfonso Ossorio; what is believed to be the largest private collection teamLab’s video installations; as well as works by the likes of Tishan Hsu, Carlos Villa, and David Medalla.

“We live with our art collection in our homes in Manila, Singapore, Berlin, and our farm outside of Manila,” Kim Camacho told Midnight Publishing Group News Pro. The couple is now working on a project to catalog their ever-expanding collection, which they intend to pass on to their six children.

Distinguishing factor: The couple plays an active role as patrons for the arts and education. Lito Camacho is the chairman of the University of the Arts Singapore and a member of the board of STPI. Kim Camacho was an advisor to the National Gallery of Singapore (NGS) in 2014 and chaired the art auction for NGS in 2018. Kim has been a trustee of the Yuchengco Museum in Makati since 2005. Both are also members of the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee of the Tate in the U.K. They regularly lend works from their collection to institutions, galleries, and biennales around the world, including the National Art Center Tokyo, Newark Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

Where they shop: The couple has acquired works from galleries from around the world as well as from auctions, art fairs, dealers, other collectors, and direct from artists or their family’s estates.

Recent purchase: Two large paintings by Kusama from her “My Eternal Soul” series, as well as a mylar work by Tishan Hsu and the video work Universe of Fire Particles by teamLab.

Fun fact: Kim and Lito Camacho have had many direct encounters with artists over the years. Among their most memorable experiences was spending more than two and a half hours with Kusama. “It was several years ago at her studio, where we saw her working on a painting, marveled at her artworks as she described each one and explained the titles,” they recalled. They brought the artist mooncake (“she enjoyed very much”) and listened to her recite a couple of her own poems.

Nathaniel Gunawan

Nathaniel Gunawan

Nathaniel Gunawan. Courtesy of Nathaniel Gunawan.

Age: 37

Based in: Jakarta and Singapore

Occupation: Nathaniel P Gunawan has a background in private investing and is currently the director of Oasis Waters International— a fast-moving consumer goods company specializing in manufacturing and distributing ready-to-drink water in Indonesia.

What’s in his collection: An avid lover of history and literature, Gunawan is keen on artists “whose practices reveal strange but useful facts of our intricate societies and ourselves,” he tells Midnight Publishing Group News Pro. He has more than 200 works in his collection, but less than half the number of artists, with more than two-thirds originating from Southeast Asia. “I tend to collect in-depth,” he says. Notable focuses include pieces by Agus Suwage, Mella Jaarsma, Yonathan Albert Setyawan, Arin Sunaryo, Robert Zhao Renhui, (Estate of) I Gak Murniasih, Pow Martinez, and Aracha Cholitgul.

Another theme is artists’ impulse to convey mixed, concealed feelings associated with massive urbanization and rapid digitalization, and artists from outside of Southeast Asia such as Chen Ching-Yuan from Taiwan, Kei Imazu from Japan, and Hong Kong’s Lee Kit. He picked those three in particular because their work echoes such impulse, he notes. “To make sure I won’t be lost along the way, I try to write at least one paragraph on each newly acquired work.”

Distinguishing factor: Gunawan is an active art patron in the region. He is currently a member of the board of STPI gallery and a member of Art Jakarta’s Board of Young Collectors. “I am a firm believer in the importance of institutional presence in Southeast Asia and looking to commission a public artwork in Jakarta this year,” he says.

Where he shops: Commerical galleries such as Mizuma Gallery, ROH Projects, Silverlens, Antenna Space, ShugoArts, Empty Gallery, STPI, Various Small Fires, Ota Fine Arts, Yavuz Gallery, Nova Contemporary, Mor Charpentier, Lehmann Maupin, TKG+, Sullivan + Strumpf, Yeo Workshop, Gajah, and A+ Works of Art. Also at air fair like Art Jakarta, Art Basel Hong Kong, S.E.A. Focus, and hopefully at Art SG as Gunawan says he is “excited for its inaugural edition.”

Recent purchase: Untitled (00044 N.O.W.R.F.Y.H.) (2020) by Vunkwan Tam and Nadya Jiwa’s painting Isyarat (2022).

Fun fact: Gunawan is also an award-winning film producer; he is the co-founder and director of Phoenix Films, which focuses on Singapore and Indonesian films. He has already produced four films in Indonesia, in partnership with Palari Films, since 2017. Their most recent project, the action drama Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, became the first Indonesian film to win the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival in 2021. One of his co-producers, Natasha Sidharta, is also a fellow collector. “My hope is to produce further collaborative efforts between the visual arts and film-making in Southeast Asia, perhaps a documentary series on the region’s art collectives, for example,” says the young collector.

Timothy Tan

Timothy Tan. Courtesy of Timothy Tan.

Timothy Tan. Courtesy of Timothy Tan.

Age: 46

Occupation: Italian furniture and lighting distributor

Based in: Manila

What’s in his collection: Tan began collecting about a decade ago, starting with works that are closer to his Southeast Asian roots and expanding to Western, international contemporary art. His collection, primarily paintings with some sculptures, now boasts around 100 works by mid-career and emerging contemporary artists. Prominent names abound in his collection, including Cecily Brown, Tracey Emin, Amoako Boafo, Vaughn Spann, Rashid Johnson, Takashi Murakami, and George Condo.

Distinguishing factor: Tan has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces on the international art scene as he has been spotted jet-setting across the globe for fairs as travel restrictions have eased. He is now working on presenting his collection at two museum shows in Manila in February 2023, running concurrently at the newly-opened Metropolitan Museum of Manila, and the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. “The latter show is organized specifically for students,” the collector told Midnight Publishing Group News Pro.

Where he shops: At art fairs such as Paris+, Art Basel Miami Beach, Frieze Seoul, and Frieze London as well as at commercial galleries like Another Gallery, Gagosian, Salon 94, Thaddaeus Ropac, White Cube, Almine Rech, Pilar Corrias. He also buys at auctions, at Midnight Publishing Group, and at art at pop-up shows, Linseed Projects, and Penske Projects.

Recent purchase: The painting The end of august heat (2022) by Li Hei Di and Triple Dive Violet II (2022) by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones. Both pieces were purchased last November.

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The U.S. Has Returned Its First Looted Antiquity to Palestine: A Disgraced Collector’s Iron-Age Spoon

A nearly 3,000-year-old ivory spoon is back in Palestine following a repatriation ceremony held in Bethlehem in the West Bank, marking the first time the U.S. has restituted a looted cultural artifact to the Middle Eastern nation, according to authorities.

Dating to approximately 800 to 700 B.C.E., the cosmetic spoon would have been used by the Assyrian civilization to pour incense. Experts believe looters stole it from an archaeological site in the Palestinian village of Al-Kum.

“This artifact is important as it acquires its real scientific and archaeological value in its authentic location,” Palestinian minister of tourism Rula Maayah said in a statement. “Based on information from the U.S. side, the investigations they conducted showed that the artifact was stolen from Khirbet al-Koum area in Hebron.”

The Iron Age spoon is one of 180 stolen antiquities, collectively valued at $70 million, that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office seized from billionaire collector Michael Steinhardt. He purchased the repatriated cosmetic spoon in January 2003 from Gil Chaya, an Israeli antiquities dealer. News of its return was first reported by the New York Times.

Michael Steinhardt at the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in New York City. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Michael Steinhardt at the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in New York City. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

When the multi-year, multi-national investigations into Steinhardt concluded in December 2021, authorities hit him with an unprecedented lifetime ban preventing him from collecting cultural antiquities. The severity of the penalty reflected the fact that Steinhardt spent decades working with smugglers to knowingly acquire stolen art.

“His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection,” then-Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

One of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, Steinhardt had looted artifacts from 11 countries in his illicit holdings.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this pair of Gold Masks (ca. 5000 B.C.E.) from Rafi Brown, an illegal antiquities dealer, in March 2001. The U.S. repatriated the masks, now valued collectively at $500,000, to Israel in March. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this pair of Gold Masks (ca. 5000 B.C.E.) from Rafi Brown, an illegal antiquities dealer, in March 2001. The U.S. repatriated the masks, now valued collectively at $500,000, to Israel in March. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Over the last year, the Manhattan D.A. has been busy returning them.

In January alone, five artifacts worth $688,500 went back to Iraq; a $1.2 million marble head returned to Libya; and 14 antiquities were restored to Turkey. The following month, the U.S. returned 47 looted objects to Greece, plus a $200,000 helmet believed to belong to Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, to Bulgaria.

In March, the U.S. repatriated 39 objects worth more than $5 million to Israel, and nine artifacts went back to Egypt in September (along with six from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art). There were also two rounds of restitution to Italy, in July and again in September.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this Stag’s Head Rhyton (ca. 400 B.C.E.), a ceremonial vessel for libations, from Merrin Gallery for $2.6 million in November 1991. The U.S. repatriated the it, now valued at $3.5 million, to January in January 2022. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this Stag’s Head Rhyton (ca. 400 B.C.E.), a ceremonial vessel for libations, from Merrin Gallery for $2.6 million in November 1991. The U.S. repatriated the it, now valued at $3.5 million, to January in January 2022. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“It is impossible to put a value on the cultural and historical significance of looted antiquities and I thank our talented team of attorneys and investigators who are continuing their incredible work of returning these objects to where they rightfully belong,” D.A. Alvin L. Bragg Jr. said in a statement.

In 2022, the office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit repatriated more than 1,100 antiquities, worth nearly $115 million altogether, to 15 countries.


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Spotlight: Dealer Elena Ulansky on the Pleasures of Helping Would-Be Collectors Connect to Art

Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist you should know. Check out what we have in store.

What You Need to Know: As a child, Swedish-born art dealer Elena Ulansky wanted to become an artist. As an adult, she actually went on to a successful career in finance—but remained passionate about art and found herself engaging artists and curators in whatever ways she could. Then, a few years ago, she pivoted back to her first passion and earned a Master’s degree in painting from New York Academy of Art. Now, Ulanksy has transitioned once more, this time into the role of dealer.

With her business partner, Nitin Gambhir, Ulanksy founded Tethys Art earlier this year. The gallery, which has so far hosted three pop-up exhibitions in the Hamptons, shows emerging artists alongside internationally recognized names, including Keith Haring, Richard Prince, Jonas Wood, Cindy Sherman, and Barbara Kruger. One of Tethys’s core tenets is to create a learning environment that brings together artists, art lovers, collectors, and curators alike. Currently, Tethys Art is pursuing its next exhibition opportunities in Aspen and Miami this winter, along with Cannes and Venice for next year.  

Installation view "Les Femmes" 2021. Courtesy of Tethys Art.

Installation view “Les Femmes” 2021. Courtesy of Tethys Art.

Why We Like It: For each of Tethys Art’s first three exhibitions, Ulansky worked with a curator to create exhibitions that facilitate discussion and introduce new perspectives: Its most recent exhibition, “Les Femmes,” a group show curated by Indira Cesarine, which closed in September, explored the contemporary narrative of the female gaze, including works by Cindy Sherman, social-media sensation Leah Schrager, pioneering feminists Robin Tewes and Grace Graupe-Pillard, alongside a crop of emerging women artists. Right now, Ulansky is exploring projects relating to NFTs, which she believes are here to stay. 

In Her Own Words: “I would love for my role to be the conduit that allows people to see art as a way of linking human consciousness. Art is a way to start a conversation that is more nuanced than the typical ‘I’m a Republican and I’m a Democrat,’ this or that. Right now I’m working on putting together some group shows that I help spark curiosity in people who haven’t collected before. In one of our shows this summer, a Ph.D. student studying the history of the feminist movement, bought a work that spoke to her, her very first art purchase. That’s the beginning of her art collection. To me, one of the most inspiring things a person can do is to engage with people who haven’t been exposed to art, who maybe don’t understand why someone should buy it, and help them find a personal connection.”

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