The Malaysian contemporary art market is booming as never before. Malaysian contemporary artists have always been quick to achieve fantastic critical success, both locally and internationally, and this has steadily been translating into immense commercial success. Following the laws of economics, the primary market is becoming tighter as works by major bankable artists such as Ahmad Shukri, Husin Hourmain, Tan Chin Kuan, Eng Hwee Chu or Zulkifli Yusoff are scarce due to the increasing clamor from collectors both private and institutional. Currently, collectors are looking to fill the gaps in their collections with key pieces, giving rise to a secondary market. It is here Artcube looks to step in and expertly guide the public via thoroughly researched and documented exhibitions and sales devoted to the development of a strong secondary market for Malaysian contemporary art.

In the short space of time since their 2013 launch, Artcube has been garnering a reputation as the dominant gallery for high end, critically acclaimed contemporary art. Artists they have represented such as Shooshie Sulaiman and Hamir Soib are seeing a dramatic increase in the value of their works, aided by recognition from international galleries, museums and collections. The access Artcube has to both artists and collectors gives them a keen insight into the values and trends dominating the market. Currently, fledgling auction houses cover Malaysia’s secondary art market. Artcube now looks to utilize their knowledge on the artists themselves coupled with a finely honed foresight into bolstering this new branch of the industry. The precise valuations from the gallery’s operational advantage act as a source of comfort for participants of this new market segment.

The insatiable demand for contemporary art presents an interesting dilemma to collectors both new and established. Access to pieces by established artists is difficult, often the works are snapped up shortly after entering the market. Even when new works become available, collectors are faced with the challenge of rounding off their collections with past major works, which are already out of circulation on the primary market. To counter this, Artcube aims to host one to two expertly curated secondary sales a year.

This first sale features several pieces that are deemed museum-quality. Amongst them are Ahmad Shukri’s mixed media work Wasiat For Sale Or Rent Series II. The rarity of this large 2008 piece from one of Shukri’s most acclaimed series, coupled with the artist’s current popularity, mark it out as a great addition to any Shukri collection. Excitingly, the gallery shows two early paintings by Eng Hwee Chu. 1991’s Black Moon 11 is from her game-changing series Black Moon, which has been extensively collected by major art institutions, and 1997’s Christ In My Life is widely regarded as one of Hwee Chu’s most significant paintings. Audiences are treated to Blue Night 7-Reborn by Tan Chin Kuan, whose other pieces from the Blue Night series hang in major institutions in Malaysia, Japan and Singapore. Another important find by Artcube is Layer Series Luminosity – Reproducing by the father of contemporary Malaysian art, Fauzan Omar. Not only are Fauzan’s early works scarce, paintings from the Luminosity series are almost impossible to come by. Considering the influence Fauzan has exerted over the contemporary art scene, not only through his ground breaking efforts in the field of mixed media but also as mentor to successful artists such as Shukri and Mohd Noor Mahmud, the appearance of Layer Series Luminosity – Reproducing is unquestionably attractive for serious collectors and institutions. Other paintings that hold great value to collectors are Husin Hourmain’s calligraphies from his stunning sell-out solo Awal Hurouf, Asal Hurouf, Heavenly Smoker by Ali Nurazmal and Zulkifli Yusoff’s trio of paintings from New Negaraku series. Alongside Wasiat For Sale Or Rent Series II hang works by the three other members of Matahati who have gone on to mass critical and commercial acclaim, the hauntingly beautiful Frozen by Hamir Soib, SCREAM!… and KEEP SCREAMING!! by Masnoor Ramli Mahmud and the audience delighting Leap of Faith by Ahmad Fuad Osman.

Studying trends it seems art markets operate on economic models that consider factors other than supply and demand. Art is bought and sold for values based on its cultural value, past monetary value and predicted future value. A thorough understanding of where each artist sits in the industry plus in depth knowledge on rapid developments are important for both buyers and sellers to be confident when entering the relatively new secondary market. Artcube’s abilities to identify, source and accurately value paintings such as the ones in this exhibit proves their dedication to developing the portfolios of their client base and affords them the reputation of being the dominant force in the secondary market for acquiring works of true value. Given the impeccable quality and pedigree of this first secondary sale, they are truly the new benchmark for Malaysia’s exploding secondary contemporary art market.

written by Zena Khan