Lim Wei-Ling: Tips on buying, collecting and selling art

Updated on August 8 2014

The Wei-Ling Gallery, led by its director and owner Lim Wei-Ling — was the only Malaysian art gallery to represent the country at Art Basel in Hong Kong — a testament to this gallery’s reputation alongside the big boys of the art world.

WEB-GO by Choy Chun Wei exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong
WEB-GO by Choy Chun Wei exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong in May 2014.

An artist herself, Lim’s passion for her artists and their work is clear as she takes us through the current exhibitions at the galleries. She is protective of her artists in a way only a fellow artistic spirit can be, seeing each of their works as a small piece of their heart and their soul, which drives her search for the genuine and true artist.

We chatted with Lim on the subject of collecting art and got a few pointers on how to build your own personal collection.

Account for personal taste

To Lim, collecting art is not just about seeing it as a business commodity. It actually began when she and her husband were building their first home together and looking to put something on the walls to decorate.

“At that point in time we had visited a couple of galleries and picked up a few things that we thought appealed to us,” Lim explains. A few years later, Lim and her husband had realised that as their taste in art evolved, and so too did their own personal ideas of what they wanted to collect.

The original galleries were happy to take one or two pieces back and help them trade the pieces, however there were a few pieces that had very little or no value and were difficult to move as a result.

Taking this as their first learning curve, Lim began to look for pieces that first and foremost she loved — that were interesting, beautiful and had something to say — but that would also have a residual value or were by an artist who would have a secondary market.

Research, research, research

“Go around to many galleries and look at art,” Lim says. “There is a lot of art out there. Don’t put money down on anything, just look. Look at what appeals and the price point.”

Lim points out that as the numbers get bigger, you need to start asking questions. “Why is it RM25,000 and not RM6,000 and how has it arrived at this number? Ask to see the CV of the artist, look at how long this person has been working, and when they graduated. What kind of training has this person had?”

Lim also explains that it is a good idea to look at how many and what kind of exhibitions they have already had, and where these were held, including any ideas on who they have previously been collected by.

Trace the artist’s development

“If the artist has a very strong CV with lots of exhibitions, and they have been painting for more than 10 years and so on — then the next question to be asking is, can you show me examples of this person’s work over the years?”

Tracing back through the evolution of the artist, will help you to trace the development of the artist. Lim sees development, the initiative to try something new and how far they push the boundaries as key in understanding the qualities of a serious artist.

Reaching New Heights With New Look, Mixed media on canvas,
Reaching New Heights With New Look is one of the latest works from Choy Chun Wei and is a staggering 141cm x 402cm.

“The gallery or the dealer, if they are representing this person, should have this information,” Lim explains. “You will be able to trace back the thread of where they have come from, how they arrived at this work, and how this work has grown and developed from something that he did for example ten, twelve or fifteen years ago.”

Tracing back the journey of the artist will also help to verify the value of the pieces you are considering. “Find out where the last show was held, and then you can research, for example if it was at Gallery ‘A’ then go back to Gallery ‘A’ and find out what series this was and how much it was selling for then.” This Lim explains will help to establish whether there has been any hike in the price of the piece.

The etiquette of selling artwork

There comes a time in a collector’s life when they may have outgrown a piece or become tired of it, and at this point, it may be time to sell or trade the piece. There is however, a certain amount of etiquette surrounding this decision, including how, when and to whom.

Having had difficult situations in the past, Lim makes it a rule of thumb in the gallery to refrain from selling to people she doesn’t know. She doesn’t want to encourage speculation, and see one of the pieces she has sold being sold at auction or in another gallery six months later. From a gallery perspective, finding homes for art is all about placing it with the right people that are collecting for the right reasons.

Courtesy needs to be extended to the gallery where you originally bought the artwork, to see if they would like to take back the work or trade it in.  Lim stresses that this does not mean you cannot sell an artwork, there is just a certain amount of etiquette involved in the process.

These guidelines and this approach to collecting have driven Lim in her journey with the artists she takes on at the gallery, and it is a journey that she sees as long term.

“We want to support and give a platform to our artists to grow and evolve and with the comfort of them knowing that we are there to support them whatever it is that they decide to do.”

Wei-Ling Contemporary, G212 ground floor, The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur 59200, +60 2 2282 8323, 

Wei-Ling Gallery, 8 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470, Kuala Lumpur, +60 3 2260 1106,


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Keirsten Clark left urban commuting, frosty mornings and chilly evenings of the UK behind for sunnier climes. She is a cake freak and loves to run -- everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @keirsten for updates on all things geeky and content related.