Home is where the art is: S’pore artists get a space – and a stake – in luxury shophouses

SINGAPORE – Since last week, tenants of four conservation shophouses in Geylang and River Valley have been living with works by home-grown artists on their walls.

And in an unusual move, the artists – Nature Shankar, Leow Wei Li, Yen Phang and Khairullah Rahim – will each get 10 per cent of the rental profits from the respective shophouse their works are displayed in, for the next five years or until their works are sold.

The pioneering partnership is the brainchild of boutique co-living developer Figment, which leases out living spaces in luxuriously appointed shophouses. It is held in conjunction with Singapore Art Week, which runs this year from Jan 14 to 23.

Typically, when displaying artworks in a space such as a gallery, artists receive revenue only if and when the artwork is sold. The artworks displayed in Figment’s shophouses will also be available for purchase.

Figment’s founder and chief executive Fang Low, 33, describes the move as a way to introduce more funds into the art ecosystem. “I believe this is the first time (such a payment arrangement) has ever been done,” he says.

The tenants dwelling in each shophouse will have a personal connection to the works displayed in their living spaces, he adds. “Just walking by the pieces every day, people will naturally build an attachment to them that you may not get from looking at an artwork in a gallery.”

Artist Leow, 27, whose works are displayed in Gallery House at Lorong 24A Geylang, agrees.

“In a gallery, there is limited time to spend with an artwork. However, the co-living space at (Figment’s shophouses) creates more time and space for viewers to relate to the works. I’m excited that (my art) can be a part of the intimate, everyday life of others,” she says.

Her works, with their three-dimensional use of household materials such as kitchen sponges, complement the airy, minimalist feel of Gallery House, where design is centred on white hues and natural lighting from a sprawling skylight.

Over at Alexandra House, also at Lorong 24A Geylang, are the works of artist Phang, 42.

He describes the partnership as “a reminder that we don’t make art in isolation just for ourselves in a solipsistic manner”.

“Otherwise, it might end up in self-referential navel-gazing that speaks to a closed audience.”

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