By Jeremiah Khoo
June 30, 2021
By encouraging diversity in its representation and backing renowned local artists, Ode to Art owner Jazz Chong supports homegrown talents while valuing Asian aesthetics
Art is often an expression of an artist’s life, encapsulating their experiences in their works, and few have accomplished that like celebrated local artist Lim Tze Peng. And Jazz Chong, gallerist and owner of Ode To Art, is proud to represent this legendary centenarian, whose Chinese ink works depict his impression of Singapore’s transformation from village to the metropolis it is today.
“[Lim’s work] has been precious to our collectors. They contain a sense of heritage that echo the personal history of our local collector and also resonate with international collectors,” said Chong about the impact of Lim’s artworks on their audience.
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When asked why she chose to represent Lim’s work, Chong was quick to retort: “Why wouldn’t collectors be interested or touched by local art [like Lim’s]? I see several reasons: local art carries with it an inherent sense of the rich heritage and culture in Singapore … our collectors may also want to support the local art scene, or develop a new understanding of the local cultural perspective. Sometimes, they may also identify with the life story of the artist.”
It was during the 2019 exhibition of Lim’s artworks at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, India that she felt that her decision to back local artists was thoroughly justified. Through her interaction with exhibition goers, she witnessed first-hand how Mumbai denizens drew parallels of their home country to Singapore through Lim’s artistic depictions. She added: “It is a great sense of pride to see the work of a local artist being recognised and appreciated overseas.”
Related: 5 Minutes With… Lim Tze Peng, Singapore’s Oldest Living Artist
But Lim wasn’t the first local artist Chong worked with. Chinese-born artist Hong Zhu An, who has been based in Singapore for nearly three decades, was. “I came to know him through what I’d like to call a fateful encounter. A mutual friend introduced us back when he happened to be looking for a new gallery to represent him,” said Chong, who had been a long-time fan and admirer of Hong’s works.
“I really enjoy his work, the Asian aesthetics of it, and how his painting language is universal—such that international collectors feel close to his art as well. It is a joy for me to see his works being collected by museums in Europe or the US.” Besides representing him, she has also grown to be a close friend of his through the many projects that they have worked on together over the years. “I love his works so much that I am also a collector of his! Every few years, he develops a new series and on top of having the honour of representing him, I will always get a few paintings for myself too,” she quipped.
Art collections are often personal and intimate, as it often reflects the personal journey of the artist. Thus, Chong believes as a gallerist, the art she curates should connect with collectors, rather than finding mass appeal in a particular artist or art trend. It is then important to represent artists with different styles from across the globe.
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Apart from Lim and Hong, who are known for their Chinese aesthetics, Ode To Art also represents artists including Lee Jung Woong and Salvador Dali. The former is famed for his hyper-realistic still-life oil paintings on Korean rice paper, while the latter’s eccentric sculptures has had an enduring legacy in the surrealist movement. With every artist offering a different expression and experience in their art form, the gallery is better able to connect collectors to art that resonates with them.
We have always had a mix of international and local artists. Diversity is an important factor for our wide collector base, and we have found it very helpful for our corporate projects, with international firms based in Singapore and for art consultancies projects for developments or hotels, both in Singapore and overseas
— Jazz Chong
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Ode to Art had begun transitioning its services to online platforms, gradually growing its online presence in an ever-increasingly digital world. The gallery offers virtual tours through communication platforms such as Whatsapp or Zoom. Using these platforms, the art consultants can provide the collectors with a clearer picture of the artwork and the prospective spaces for exhibitions.
In addition, digital adaptations of exhibition openings as well as workspace tours with artists in their studios are held frequently on Facebook Live. This allows Ode To Art’s audience the opportunity to have direct conversations with the artists, regardless of their locales. However, it was important to Chong that Ode to Art did not lose the personalised aspect of its services that have come to define the gallery.
“They [collectors] place their trust in us to provide them with the best experience when trying to find an artwork that they resonate with,” said Chong. “We have seen the development of a mixed, ‘click-and-mortar’, or ‘phygital’ experience with our collectors. Visits to the gallery begin from the comforts of their own homes. Only when they are sure, will they make an actual trip to the gallery to see the artwork in person.”
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