Are modern Mongolian artworks investment-worthy? The founders of Singapore’s The Art Fund Gallery think so, learns foo mei anne
tucked into the row of 1920s conservation shophouses along Cairnhill Road, The Art Fund Gallery (TAF Gallery) is ensconced in the good bones of a colonial-era space, dignified in its creamy exterior and screened wooden windows. Walk past the inconspicuous five-foot-way in front of the grey-blue main door to step into a room that tells a different story: White walls framing unexpected torrents of hues and textures.
It is this stark bare building that really sparked a trio of first-time gallerists — Singaporeans Dr Lanz Chan and Mark Foo, as well as Argun Boldkhet from Mongolia — to bring in a colourful contemporary art collection.
“This space is actually our home office,” says Chan, a former fund manager who worked in Hong Kong and China for more than a decade. He’s been back in Singapore since 2017. “We simply decided to dress up our new office with art because we had plenty of white walls as well as a passion for the arts.”
But instead of hanging just one or two paintings and calling it a day, the business partners decided to bring in a 100-piece-strong collection, consisting works from 10 Mongolian artists, thus offering a platform for these creative names to showcase their work to the Singapore public. By appointment only, clients can view the natural world in manifold modern Mongolian artworks — iconographic horses, camels, the Gobi desert, a summer’s meadow, and more.
Together, Chan, Foo and Boldkhet have a wealth of professional experience in varied fields, such as finance, artificial intelligence, F&B, energy and environment. They can now add art dealing to their prolific portfolio.
Having come from the private banking sector, Chan continues to gravitate towards anything to do with investment. “At TAF Gallery, we’re focusing on investment-grade art. Many people in Singapore, including my mum, tend to buy print art, which could cost hundreds of dollars yet depreciates once it is sold. But if you buy an original piece, where each one is unique, it holds its value.”
Furthermore, the original artworks for sale at TAF Gallery are among the most reasonably
priced for quality that’s currently found in the Little Red Dot. Chan explains, “We price our art at relatively lower rates as compared to other local galleries because we have direct links to the artist. Also, this isn’t our primary business. We want to help the artists.”
One artist who didn’t need much help is Shagdarjavin Chimeddorj, although the 64-year-old is notorious when it comes to parting ways with his high-demand modernist works, most of which depict the ferocious body language of horses. Boldkhet, a friend and fan of Chimeddorj, had to, in fact, “beg” for the latter’s ink-on-paper works to be shown at the Singapore gallery. He managed to secure 10, each carefully framed and now sitting in a dark room on the second and highest floor of TAF Gallery.
“[Chimeddorj] is one of the most famous artists in Mongolia and also well-known globally,” says Boldkhet, who’s working on a start-up in Singapore to produce sustainable energy. “I occasionally visit his studio in Mongolia to look at his new creations — that’s how most collectors get their hands on his art pieces. The process could take up to a whole day and usually starts with chit-chat, then something to eat and drink. I’ve built a good relationship with him over time. I like his art because of the colours. He has never been afraid to use colours and I love it.”
His Excellency George Lkhagvadorj Tumur, the Mongolian Ambassador to Singapore, who visited during the gallery’s launch, agrees. He says he enjoys the variety of art at TAF Gallery, but shows particular interest in Chimeddorj’s works. “I am always impressed with Chimiddorj’s artworks as they have masterful strokes by the artist to express Mongolian lifestyle with modern touches.”
An up-and-comer who seems to be following in the footsteps of Chimiddorj’s vigour is Erschuu Otgonbayar. Better known as Otgo, this 38-yearold artistic genius grew up on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and now calls Berlin home. According to Chan, Otgo knows brand value and how to position himself. The artist’s signature is eccentric yet simple: An OTGO logo and his thumbprint hidden within his expressive acrylic paintings, mostly reflecting Mongolia’s culture of nomadic horsemen. There’s a spectacular op art piece by Otgonbayar that showcases overlapping herds of horses galloping across blue steppes.
But how do these art pieces fare in terms of returns? Chan answers, “Art value is a combination of aesthetic, social, commercial and brand values. Fine art, including Mongolian fine art, possesses investment value over and above its base or fundamental value over time as demand increases with appreciation among a more sophisticated society globally. It is widely expected for fine art to produce returns of circa 5 percent on average per annum or to double every 5 to 10 years.”
The trio is also looking to give back, by donating a portion of art sales to a charity of choice. However, they’ve yet to decide on a beneficiary.
Boldkhet says, “We have a big ambition and vision. Our priority now though is to help promote and expose young artists to all kinds of art form that is not available in Singapore or vice versa. We look to support green charities generously and are open to new partnerships with those who share the same vision.”
FROM LEFT: HORSE PLAY, SHAGDARJAVIN CHIMEDDORJ; ROARING HOOFS SILKY SKY, ERSCHUU OTGONBAYAR
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: SEASONS, SARANTSATSRALT SER- OD;UNDISCLOSED, ERDENEBAYAR MONKHOR; GOBI HERDS, NARANGEREL TSENDSUREN