Honed to A Fine Art: Alan Koh

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January 25, 2015 | BY Melissa Gail Sing

The Fair Director of Affordable Art Fair Singapore shares his tips on buying art and reveals the best places to shop for art.  

Alan Koh, Fair Director, Affordable Art Fair Singapore (Photo courtesy of Affordable Art Fair Singapore)

When it comes to buying art, what is your game plan?
It’s wise to operate on a five-point plan with it comes to buying art. Firstly, learn as much as you can about the different genres – painting, sculpture etc., by attending free talks, workshops and exhibitions. Two, talk to gallerists and artists about their work and join mailing lists to be fully informed on the latest happenings in the art world. Three, take your time, don’t make snap decisions that you may regret later. Four, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you fall head over heels in love with a work of art that is beyond your budget, you may be able to talk to the gallery or artist about meeting your budget.  Finally, trust your instincts. What matters most is the pleasure you are going to get from the artwork.

Where are the best places to shop for art?
Fairs are fast becoming the venue of choice in Singapore as they offer access to a wide range of art and prices, within a single location. At the next Affordable Art Fair, in April this year for example, we will have more than 80 galleries showcasing an amazing range of works, everything from paintings to sculpture, abstract to figurative. We will also organise talks and workshops to help visitors learn the finer details of collecting.

What is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to buying art?
Buying an artwork that you do not truly love. Emotional attachment is very important. And, if you find something that you really love, ask the gallery or artist to hold it for you to give you that important breathing space. There is nothing worse than returning to find that someone else has snapped it up!

What is your advice for someone buying art online?

First and foremost, always try to view an artwork before buying it, so that you know exactly what you are buying and that it is the right artwork for you. Purchasing works of art is a personal investment as well as a financial one, as the artwork you buy will be something that becomes a permanent part of your life. This is why going directly to a gallery, or to platforms such as art fairs, is so critical in today’s digitally focused world. However, the online art world has opened doors for those with little time but who nonetheless love buying and collecting art

If you are just starting out, always go for websites which are reputable and have links to local galleries or local artists. Start by buying smaller original works, or limited edition prints with an edition size of less than 250. This allows you to evaluate the quality and service levels before purchasing something larger. If you are adding to a collection, it is advisable to brush up on your art knowledge through researching websites, such as Artprice for its reports, to better understand the global art market and current trends.

List your top 3 artworks in your personal collection.
My top three favourites are:An acrylic-on-canvas painting of my dog created by an Argentinian friend; a print named “Love Nest” by Adam Oliver from Will’s Art Warehouse that I purchased at the Affordable Fair in Singapore in 2013; and a minimalistic charcoal-on-paper work titled “Time To Leave The Nest” by Kellas Campbell.

One of Alan’s favourite charcoal-on-paper works, Time To Leave The Nest by Kellas Campbell  


I am particularly drawn to monotone works, which explains my love for charcoal-on-paper artworks. The use of material, as well as the line and tone, is something that I have a deep and personal visual connection to. I also enjoy works with strong finishes. For example, I am very interested in sculptures and prints, because these types of work are not only affordable due to their larger edition sizes, but their finishes are often graphical and crisp in appearance. 

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