Women Now

SG curators shaping the art we should see: Audrey Yeo wants her gallery to give socially conscious artists a voice

Audrey doesn't want to go mass. And it's not because she's discriminating against bigger galleries. Instead, she's using her gallery as a platform to highlight social concerns
 

Photo: Veronica Tay, assisted by Phyllicia Wang

In a corner of Audrey Yeo’s gallery is what looks like a classical oil portrait of a girl reclining in bed – except her face is lit up by the bluish glow of the smartphone in her hand, harshening the lines around her mouth in a terribly familiar way.

You don’t have to know a thing about art to instantly understand and connect to this piece, or to connect to Audrey. “Just imagine,” she says. “Our parents’ generation couldn’t have painted this. It’s works like this that mark our time.” She has an infectious energy that belies her packed schedule – she recently produced the Asian art fair, S.E.A. Focus 2019, and runs the Arnoldii Arts Club, which organises art programmes and holidays for enthusiasts, collectors and corporate clients. All that on top of managing her gallery, a task she describes as “creating a whole infrastructure around each artist to support their works”.

In practical terms, this includes everything from administrative support to artistic stimulation, networking opportunities, and emotional and moral support. She also publishes books for her artists, often engaging specialist writers and researchers even though she has a masters in contemporary art. Given the time and resources she invests, she’s highly selective about the artists she partners with. “We’re known for working with artists who are thinkers, who have a social message,” she says. “There are galleries that work for art for the mass market, or a niche market – we work for art for the people who can change society.”

ALSO READ: 8 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT POLKA-DOT QUEEN, ARTIST YAYOI KUSAMA

Having a client list which includes international celebrities, diplomats, corporations and prominent families puts Audrey in a unique position to make her artists’ pressing social messages heard by influential people. “If they’re buying art, their heart is already in the right place,” she explains. When this works out, it’s like a fairy tale come true. “One of our artists, Maryanto, was an environmental activist. He used to volunteer aid to landslide victims and protest mining sites until he realised he could make more of a diff erence through art.” The Indonesian artist’s stark black-andwhite works depict landscapes ruined by industrialisation and pollution. “Now his clients are major petroleum mining companies!”

She also proudly relates how one client’s family decided to convert their company to one that’s run on renewable energy. “He makes a huge social diff erence through his works.” Still, not everyone gets it. “My father’s friends are traditional art collectors, and they sometimes struggle to fi nd something to buy, then they’ll ask me: ‘Why are there no happy paintings with flowers in them?’,” she laughs. “But that’s not what we do!”

Considering the uphill struggle she must face, does she sometimes think she would be happier just buying and collecting art? She pauses to think, then says: “I don’t know. Maybe? I really don’t know.” We do. She wouldn’t. 

ART DIRECTION: Shan

STYLING: Violet Foo 

MAKEUP: Zoel Tee, Using 3INA

HAIR: Dash Chong

ALSO READ: 3 SG CURATORS SHAPING THE ART WE SHOULD SEE: HOLLY TURNER WANTS TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN ART AND THE MASSES

This was first published the May issue of our magazine.

International Women's Day

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