Secret Singapore: Your Money Where Your Art Is

By Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea
19 May 2023

In the second instalment of Secret Singapore, we visit two international art galleries, an art consultancy, and an art warehouse for a closer look at investing in art.

Your motivation to acquire an artwork may have been different when you purchased it, and today, as you read about the growing prominence of the artist who created it and the uptick performance of his works at recent exhibitions and auctions, you begin see the piece in a new light—as potential capital investment instead of a mere signifier of your status and taste.  

There are as many reasons for collecting art as there are art collections, but most art acquisitions are buttressed by highly personal motives. In the primary art market, a buyer commissions or buys an artwork directly from the artist or a representative. He looks for something he genuinely likes – the foremost and lone consideration – and when he finds it, pays the price and brings it home. Yet as much as it does not offer a profit until it is re-sold, its value may potentially go up but never realized. 

It’s a different story altogether in the secondary market, however, where an artwork effectively turns into capital that can be re-sold for profit in venues such as auctions, both physical or online, and through private collectors and dealers. 

Today, profitability is a significant consideration even in some areas of the primary art market where art investors train their eagle eyes on the output of so-called investable artists. And why not? Art investments have outperformed, as reports claim, the S&P 500 index for well over two decades.

Be aware, however, that investing in art is not as simple as buying, hanging and selling. While some investable pieces are affordable, keeping them in utmost condition, documenting their individual journeys, ascertaining their provenance, and so on, rest on a network of professional services. And they do add to the purchase price.

In this second episode of Secret Singapore, we take audiences through a chain of services that keep the secondary art market bustling. Here are some interview highlights.


Stephane Le Pelletier, Director, Opera Gallery, Asia Pacific

Majority of our Opera Gallery selections are ‘investments’ so to speak, or rather they can hold great value in the form of assets or investments. The gallery has a dynamic clientele that ranges from new collectors that are looking to start on a strong foot, to more seasoned and already established collectors that want a certain piece of a certain calibre to add to their portfolio. 

Lately, we have been seeing an upward trend in the number of young collectors, who have both the purchasing power and the passion for collecting, especially when it comes to contemporary art. At the same time, we also have collectors from the older age groups who have been active in the art collecting scene for years. 

Judging how art performs over time in terms of their value is less straightforward than other more mainstream financial assets. It is much wiser to go by your own taste and being informed about the artist’s history. What do they represent? Where can we find their works today? 

These are shifting factors, and some matter more than others for each artist or time period in history. Firstly, is it a contemporary, a modern or an old master? These are a bit academic labels but very significant for the market context too. The contemporary art market for instance, has seen an exponential growth in recent years. This has a lot to do with the increase in young collectors entering the market and general democratization of the art market. As the demand for contemporary works of art increases, prices are driven up in both primary and secondary markets – not to mention the auction sector.  The art auction market is something that a lot of collectors look to for benchmarks in art valuation – auction results are readily available on the internet, which provides a means for collectors to monitor patterns in art appreciation. 

Another one: how big is the artist’s body of works? Is it showcased in any very good museums or part of good private collections? Most of what people are drawn to in museums and galleries are big names in art history –Picasso, Chagall, etc. The importance of these artists in art history guarantee their value in the art market, in almost inarguable ways. 


Valter Spano, Director, Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery

There are people who buy art because of pure passion—they simply cannot live without art. But if you go through the history of art as an asset class, it is the one that always beats everything – consistently. However, like all types of investment, it depends on what you buy, when you buy, at what price. I always say, buy what you like and start from there. At the end of the day, it is something that you will put in your house.

I come from a finance background, and my art collection started from a diversification of my financial portfolio. Once I realized that the pleasure of collecting art is much better than collecting shares, and that the return, in a way, is much more significant, my art collection grew tremendously.

Obviously, collecting depends on your budget. Some collectors, the blue chips of the blue chip, pay an almost unlimited amount of money for great art. But great art doesn't always have to cost so much money. If you know what you're doing, if you do your homework, you can buy amazing art that you can afford and that's how I suggest you start. 

Let me give you an example: When a Basquiat came out in 1989, some of my clients in bought pieces for US$4,000. They are easily about US$200 million today.

I always say that when you're spending your good earned money on a painting, do your homework. There is no guarantee (of appreciation), so buy what you like and never follow the trend. A trend may last 10 to 15 years and then it may dissipate.


Chong Huai Seng, Founder, Family Office for Arts (FOFA)

We know of collections that have been amassed over many years and are sitting in warehouses and storage rooms without seeing the light of day. The most straightforward service that we offer would be helping existing collectors to manage their art collections.

The collector is often a busy businessman who enjoys buying art but doesn't have a proper system to handle his collection, the invoices, artists certificates, and so on. His office may not be interested in tidying up the collection, and his family may not be inclined or equipped to do it either. That's where we can come in.

Beyond merely helping update the records, we also find opportunities to help them put together a collection that they can either pass on to children or introduce to friends, and business partners. We can help them organize an exhibition of their collection, and look into the possibility of publishing a catalogue for the show.

In time, when the handover is executed, there is a proper documentation which records the collection journey. With this more people can gain access to the collection than if it were kept in a storeroom somewhere.

We also hope to assist in getting the more important artworks shown in museums around the world if such pieces are required. As you know, showing artworks in museums can enhance their value due to the provenance.

At Family Office for Art, my daughter Ning and I are on a mission of sorts, to demonstrate what can be done to protect the integrity and value of private art collections. 


Unveiled at an exclusive presentation in Marrakesh in March this year, the Ferrari Roma Spider, the latest model from the Maranello marque, is a contemporary take on the pleasure-seeking Italian lifestyle of the 1950s and ‘60s. 

Designed by the Ferrari Styling Centre headed by Flavio Manzoni, the Ferrari Roma Spider aims to move the “La Nuova Dolce Vita” concept beyond city limits for elegant, carefree driving ‘en plein air’. 

This 2+ spider boasts a sophisticated fabric soft top designed not just to maintain, but to enhance the flawless proportions of the coupé on which it is based without disturbing that car’s elegantly flowing silhouette. 

Redesigning the coupé’s tapering, fastback roofline meant modifying the rear screen to incorporate it into the soft top so that it can fold below the tonneau cover when open. 

On the Ferrari Roma Spider, the original styling theme has become a body-colour band running across the base of the roof that divides the carbon-fibre active spoiler from the roof and rear screen, creating a seamlessly integrated tonneau cover. When the soft top is lowered, the active spoiler visually connects with the rear bench and head rests.

Unlike the more usual basic fabrics seen on most convertibles, a new material has been used for the Ferrari Roma Spider’s soft-top, giving it a sophisticated air. Special fabric weaves were selected and developed in colour combinations that highlight the car’s twin souls, one more elegant and the other sportier. 

The bespoke finish with two-tone weave draws on a palette of four colours highlighting the refined, haute couture nature of the fabric. The optional technical fabric developed specifically for this car gives it a sporty yet very sophisticated allure with an innovative weave creating an extremely striking iridescent red finish that further enhances the roof’s 3D surface.


Corum collaborates with Canadian artist Elisabetta Fantone on its next iconic Bubble watch which features the unmistakable face of Mona Lisa. The collaboration aligns well with Corum Bubble’s modern twist on vintage fashion. 

First introduced in 2000, the Bubble was modeled after the 1960 Rolex Deep Sea Special, an experimental dive watch which kept ticking from the bottom of the ocean and back. Out of this striking innovation, a new style was born with a thick sapphire crystal enclosing and magnifying the center dial. This creates an optical illusion through the gem-like lens which encapsulates the uniquely original designs. 

Fantone, known for mining inspirations from the Pop Art of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, dug even deeper to find the face that would fit the frame. Looking out from a pane of crystal, the tilted head and the familiar smile of Mona Lisa is counterbalanced by a white chest shrouded in a tapestry of colorful collage. The option of a silver or vibrant purple watchcase playfully compliment the image, while the silver curve of the hands delicately trace the design. 

This is the beauty that is evident in the wrist-borne miniature of Fantone’s work. Her international acclaim has spanned the fields of painting, film and television. The concepts behind her art overflow the canvas into every kind of creation, from painting a mural at Art Basel to her recent realization of the Bubble watch in which she captures her artwork in a timepiece of timeless significance.

Watch Episode 2 of Secret Singapore: Investing in Art (Segment 1-3)