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Top Southeast Asian Art Collectors Shaking Up The Art Scene Today

Art Investment, Art Market News, Artists, Editorial

Despite the widely-held assumption that Southeast Asia is devoid of an arts industry, a closer examination of current affairs reveals the existence of a thriving network of collectors and patrons. Not only do these passionate philanthropists invest substantially in up-and-coming artists, most also hold prominent positions in contemporary arts organizations, where they dedicate their time and effort to developing the region’s burgeoning arts scene. Several of these collectors actually opt to reside in Singapore, likely due to the nation’s concentration of wealth and its political stability. At the same time, their interests are consistently regional, garnering works from artists in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Their decades-long commitment to the art scene have been invaluable in the creation of a vibrant arts scene across all Southeast Asian nations.

Haryanto and Fenessa Adikoesoemo

In a list of Southeast Asia’s greatest art collectors, it is impossible to miss out on Haryanto Adikoesoemo. Haryanto’s interest in art began when he was 30, having encountered a friend’s art collection in Bali which inspired him to collect art. Some of his earliest acquisitions included a Picasso and a Renoir, both of which he unfortunately had to sell during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Ironically, it was this sale that allowed Haryanto to save his family fortunes, and he returned to collecting in the early 2000s, this time focusing on contemporary art.

Now with his finances stabilized, the Indonesian tycoon invested in works by Chinese artists such as Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, alongside works by American artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Learning about Indonesian modernists, Haryanto also acquired paintings by Hendra Gunawan and S. Sudjojono. About 45% of his collection are by Indonesian artists, another 30% are by Asian artists, and 25% consists of contemporary Western art. Inspired to share his collection with the community, Haryanto opened Museum MACAN in Jakarta in 2017, which seeks to educate Indonesians about local and international art, while providing valuable opportunities for young arts professionals.

Haryanto has been succeeded by his daughter Fenessa, who is the current chairwoman of the Museum MACAN Foundation. Graduating from the University of Melbourne with a degree and Marketing and Management, Fenessa has inherited her father's love for art, gaining a fellowship at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC and a membership at the Collections' Council at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Linda Neo and Albert Lim

The bankers-turned-art-collector power couple Linda Neo and Albert Lim are undeniably two of the most well-known patrons in Singapore. As globe-trotting financiers, the couple began collecting Western and Renaissance art from overseas, before turning their gaze toward Southeast Asian and Singaporean art. Their interest stems from a passionate desire to support emerging artists and strengthen the Singaporean art ecosystem, while also believing in the nation’s potential to become a flourishing art hub. In 2014, the couple opened Primz Gallery to showcase their extensive collection. As collectors, they have loaned several works to the Singapore Art Museum, the Art Science Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Some of the artists they have collected include Tang Da Wu, Lim Tze Peng, Cheong Soo Pieng, Melissa Tan, Suzann Victor, Hong Zhu An, Han Sai Por, Jane Lee and Promthum Woravut. Both Lim and Neo sit on the board of Art SG, while Neo also chairs OH! Open House, a non profit organization for experimental art projects.

Lourdes and Michaelangelo Samson

This Philippines-born couple are currently one of the most active art collectors in Southeast Asia. Currently based in Singapore, the Samsons both hail from collector families, and began seriously collecting in 2006 with an early interest in conceptual Filipino art. Despite being relatively inexpensive at the time, the Samsons have seen their chosen artists grow rapidly in renown, and the value of their works skyrocket over time. Though Filipino art remains at the core of the couple’s collection, their interests have also expanded to encompass art from the region as well, incorporating works from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 2018, Lourdes Samson completed a Masters degree in Art History at La Salle, producing a dissertation on Filipino video art that remains a pivotal piece of Southeast Asian art research. Lourdes also co-founded SEED alongside Ivy lam and Connie Wong, a platform that supports rising Southeast Asian artists.

Kim and Lito Camacho

Kim and Jose Ididro “Lito” Camacho are both incredibly successful Filipino bankers who first met at Harvard Business School in the 1970s. There, they began collecting art prints to decorate their modest Manhattan apartments, while their careers in the finance industry began to grow. Moving to Manila in 1981, they quickly became familiars in the local art scene, buying works by historic Filipino artists Fernando Amorsolo, Hernando Ruiz Ocampo and Anita Magsasay-Ho. Now based in Singapore, the couple are avid collectors of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose works currently adorn their Manila home. Mr Camacho also serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees to the new University of the Arts Singapore (UAS), a groundbreaking collaboration between Lasalle College and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art.

The Camachos are also a family of artists: their eldest daughter, Bea, studied fine arts at Harvard and architecture at the university’s Graduate School of Design, balancing her career as a conceptual artist with her role as director of the global design company Ideo. Their son, Lorenzo, also graduated from Harvard’s fine arts department and obtained a Masters of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Germany. He is now based in Berlin, and operates as a full-time artist.

Boonchai and Kit Bencharongkul

Once an aspiring artist himself, Boonchai Bencharongkul gave up his creative pursuits to follow in his father’s footsteps. Now the chairman of one of Thailand’s largest mobile telephone operators, Boonchai has turned his considerable wealth toward promoting Bangkok’s art scene. The Thai millionaire showed an early interest in Surrealist art, before transitioning to Thai pieces, admiring in particular the works of Thawan Duchanee and Modigliani. Several of his pieces adorn the offices at Benchachinda Towers, the headquarters of his company. In 2012, Boonchai revolutionized the Thai art scene by collaborating with artist Thawan Duchanee to open Bangkok’s first-ever private Museum of Contemporary Art. With six stories of top-notch art, the space is easily one of the largest art spaces in Southeast Asia, and one of its most successful private art museums.

Boonchai is joined by his son Kanachai “Kit” Bencharongkul; a student of architecture in the UK, Kit later began a successful career in fashion photography while also being a rising pop star with a devoted fanbase. Kit runs the Museum of Contemporary Art alongside his father,hoping to maintain his father’s early vision while adapting the museum’s curatorial focus to speak to younger audiences. As part of his responsibilities, he has a hand in curating new shows for the Museum, opening up the range of mediums to include digital art, performances, and of course, photography.

Published on May 22, 2024
Yu Ke Dong

Ke Dong is a seasoned art writer and current double major in English Literature and Art History at NTU. Having worked with esteemed art institutions in Singapore, Ke Dong now regularly contributes his keen research skills, adept writing abilities and passion for art to the Art Works discourse.


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