The Beginner’s Guide To Buying Art with Suherwan Abu of Taksu

Updated on May 2 2018

Art is an extremely personal language. The artist expresses emotions and conveys their message with each brushstroke. The audience reacts, their feelings evoked and their perception or judgement not always the same as the next onlooker. Then there are those of us inclined to purchase these works, out of pure love of a piece or maybe as shrewd investments. This interchange is a whole different language with more tangible sets of rules – the art of buying art if you will.

For first time buyers this process can be unnerving and adds a more complex layers of emotions that touches the wallet as much as the heart. Put your mind at ease for Suherwan Abu is here to help guide you through your first steps to becoming an expert collector. Suherwan is the founder of Taksu, a leading Southeast Asian contemporary art gallery and specialist since 1989. Aside from his work as a gallerist showcasing the regions finest work, he also leads Taksu Design — an art consultancy which caters for corporate projects, art leasing services, and special commissions.

Some of his projects include HSBC Hong Kong, National Art Gallery Malaysia, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York,  Four Seasons, Maldives and his latest, the new Andaz Hotel, Singapore to mention but a few. Follow this expert’s advice and you will be lachrymose over your new purchase for all the right reasons.

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What style should I buy?

As obvious as it may seem, always buy the genre and style that you like. There is nothing more important than how the artwork speaks to you as an individual. Some people might not like your choice but as long as you are in love with it then that’s all that matters. The worst thing someone can do is buy something that they are not 100% in love with. What is hanging on your wall should make you proud as an owner, not fill you with regret. For a first time buyer always look for something that is timeless in style as opposed to new trends. Good timeless pieces usually hold their value and will more than likely appreciate over time.

Artwork: Survival 15
Najib Ahmad Bamadhaj
Acrylic on wood panels
140 x 183 cm Vertical
2015)

What budget is best suited for a first time purchase?

Of course it all depends on how much you can afford to spend! For a local artist, anything starting from RM 5,000 and nothing more than RM 10,000. Malaysian artists are the best to buy in terms of value for money in the entire region. Other countries are very mature in the scene and the currencies pegged to the US dollar.  This means Malaysians artists are a lot more affordable because of the Ringgit and then once sold outside in the region in another currency you could be looking at turning a tidy profit. If you feel inclined to buy from foreign artists outside Malaysia then I recommend spending USD 2,000 to USD 5,000 only.

Artwork: Blocks
Mei Kei Ho
Acrylic on MDF
147 x 66
2016

Which up and coming artists should I look at?

Always look for artists who have been set for their first solo exhibition by reputable galleries then buy their works earlier from a group show if you can spot their stuff. Also do your research. Look at the younger successful solo artists now and see which galleries they were exhibited at. It’s easier to spot the next big artist if you let the professionals highlight them for you. A couple of names I could give you now from Indonesia are Anton Subianto and Dodit Artawan. Anton Subianto won the UOB SE Asian artist of the year in 2013 and Dodit Artawan is becoming renowned for his ‘Bottles and Barbies’ collections.

Artwork: Pool Party 1 (Come Join Us)
Dodit Artawan
Oil on canvas
150 x 200
2011

Which countries in SE Asia are the most exciting for new collectors?

Every country in the region has an exciting scene going on and many artists that are great to collect. Collect from any country you like. Art has no borders. That being said, most art will speak to you if you have a connection with that area so the heart is where the home is. If you live in Southeast Asia start of by collecting Southeast Asian artists, if you live in Hong Kong or the Far East then start with China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

Artwork: Viola Potion
Jamie Tan You Kean
Oil on linen
60 x 70 cm Vertical
2017

Can you remember the first art that you bought?

My first purchase was a batch of artworks in 1989 from Made Djirna, AS Kurnia, Made Wianta, Eddie Hara, Nyoman Tusan and Popo Iskandar all Indonesian. At the time the Indonesian scene was still coming up and these incredible artists were all very affordable back then. It was half a decade or so later in the mid-90s when auction house Christie’s started to recognise the talent in the region and took notice of these artists that they became not-so-affordable for young and new art collectors!

Artwork: Do You Like My Kinky Underwear? (We Don’t Need Another Hero)
Eddie Hara
Acrylic on Canvas
150x200cm
2014

Can you give examples of a couple works that you sell which might be of interest to first time buyers?

Fauzulyusri, Zulkifli Lee & Najib Badmahaj, Fazrin Abdul Rahman, Seah Zelin, MeiKei Ho (Malaysian)

Nilo Ilarde, Van Tuico & Art Sanchez (Filipino)

Jamie Tan & Justin Lim (Singapore)

Artwork: Light-Bulbs Thoughts 8
Nilo Ilarde
Mixed media
11.5 x 14 in
2018

The TAKSU group of companies comprise of TAKSU Kuala Lumpur, TAKSU Singapore, and TAKSU Design.

www.taksu.com