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”.
"I am extremely honoured and delighted to have this opportunity to manage a project that will tap into the rich insights, meaningful relationships with fellow gallery owners, and learnings I have amassed in my journey. I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders, so many of whom I have the privilege of calling my friends and mentors, in making this boutique showcase a highlight of Singapore Art Week 2019." – Audrey Yeo, Project Director of S.E.A. Focus * #SEAfocus #SEAspotlight
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.”
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!”
#SEAspotlight: Ho Chi Minh City // “xin chào!” This month, our Southeast Asia spotlight is on Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant and busy locale full of cutting-edge art spaces! We chat with Quynh Pham of @galeriequynh, one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Vietnam. Link to video in bio. All this and more at S.E.A. Focus, coming soon to @gillmanbarracks, Singapore from 24-27 January 2019. #SEAspotlight #SEAfocus * Images: Between Fragmentation & Wholeness, by Truong Cong Tung at Galerie Quynh, Installation View song of the cicada among summer poppies, Summer group show at Galerie Quynh, Installation View
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
This was first published the May issue of our magazine.