We spoke to Datin Shalini Ganendra, owner of Shalini Fine Arts Gallery (SGFA) recently and got to know her and the business of collecting art. We started off by asking her how she got into the business of being a gallerist?
Art appreciation has always been a part of my life, so when I had the opportunity to start a gallery, it was a natural progression of committing to a passion with entrepreneurial sensibilities. I was, as you know, a Corporate Finance lawyer, practicing on Wall Street before I started SGFA. The gallery launched in Malaysia 1998 and at that time, the art scene was more private, with the absence of social media. I operated from a private bungalow by appointment and that was adequate.
Then there was a small enclave of collectors and dabblers, and much opportunity to develop a more comprehensive collecting practice. Little was known about Malaysian Art abroad, and when I first started showing in NY (about 5 years ago), little was known even about Malaysia. But tides change, and if you stay in the game consistently with a long term view – there is opportunity to participate in game changing trends. There is definitely a greater interest in art now – to collect and appreciate, as an emotional expression, investment vehicle and/or status symbol. There is also an appreciation of good advice, which is really an SGFA strength and why our clients keep coming back and recommending us.
2) What was the art scene like twenty years ago? How have things changed? Is it tough for a woman to run a gallery, seeing that two of the more famous galleries in Kuala Lumpur are run by women, one of which is yours? What are some of the challenges that you encounter?
As a professional who has never seen gender as an issue (and of course it is an issue in many spheres, but I just choose to ignore that!), I just move forward based on the strength of SGFA projects, innovation, delivery and reputation. You just have to present the best quality possible.
3) How does a novice collector start to collect and evaluate art?
For novice collectors, getting good advice is a recommended start, complimented by reading quality art publications, seeing as many shows as possible and participating in discussions – whether just to listen, or to actually share opinions/ask questions. SGFA has the Vision Culture Lectures, [excerpts from which will be published by UNESCO in December (see our facebook/website for the soft copy)], which program enters its 6th year. We have hosted curators from the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, ICP and other institutions, to share freely their knowledge of the art world – at free lectures at SGFA. These sorts of events are important because they give ‘insider access’ with accessibility – which I am a firm believer in. Appreciation is free, though collecting can be costly!
What are some of the criterias for you in curating a show? How do you select the artist to exhibit?
At SGFA, we recommend and represent artists who are sustainable and have the potential to create a global footprint. This is a key factor to not only investment, but to creating a solid and beautiful collection.
We show in December, award winner ZAC LEE, who is a current nominee for the Sovereign Art Prize 2015 having been a finalist last year. In January, we will re-introduce RU YI TAN, another award winning Malaysian artist based in Japan, who will create a psychedelic installation on site and also exhibit beautiful collage works. In March, we will show three leading SE Asian artists in New York for Asia Week and in May, back home, a group show of Malaysian talents working in three different mediums, clay, wood and oil. We launch the second year of the PavilionNOW project which will see a really funky architecture/design installation by an award winning local architect (soon to be announced).
We work closely with the artists and designers to curate shows that explain their intended messages, and also to present the works in a cohesive way, supported by well researched catalogues. SGFA is about Quality Distinction – and maintaining that reputation keeps me very happy and busy. We welcome all!
Come on over.
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Datin Shalini Ganendra
BA MA Hons (Cambridge), LL.M. ; Barrister, New York Attorney