Originally from Minnesota, US, Jim Amberson has been based in Singapore since 1998, with the exception of a two-and-half-year secondment to India. He works in corporate insurance management. Jim Amberson collected coins and stamps as a child but started collecting art more than 15 years ago. Some of his works have been loaned to museums and exhibitions the world over. Many of the artists he collects have become friends as he enjoys discussions about their practice and how these works fit into their oeuvre. Jim Amberson also travels around Southeast Asia to purchase art, particularly Hong Kong, New York, Melbourne, London, Milan, Paris as well as Basel.
Do you see art as an investment? What are the returns like?
It is an investment of time, passion and of course money. The returns are stunningly beautiful and engaging. I don’t think of works in a financial way as that detracts from the real purpose of art. However, it can be an expensive undertaking — I have works that command a significant return over what I paid and some no one would probably buy or perhaps even take as a gift! If I love the piece and feel engaged with it, I think it’s worth the investment.
What is the theme of your collection?
My collection is based on Southeast Asian contemporary art, with a few exceptions. I started collecting Indian artists when I was stationed in India from 2013 to mid-2015. There are several American photographers I collect as I like the dialogue when they are placed alongside my Southeast Asian pieces. I’m intrigued by photography and would like to challenge the notion of it as a 2D medium. Texture and materiality are also consistent themes.
How often do you edit your collection?
It’s not regular but occasionally I recognise I’m no longer engaged with a piece, and perhaps it should have an opportunity to engage with someone new rather than stay in storage. When editing, I will contact the gallery from which the work was purchased; I feel it would be the appropriate intermediary to place the work in a good home. I contact auction houses when the original gallery representative is not available to handle the divestment.
Do you also buy from galleries, art fairs and auctions?
Yes, although I prefer to buy from galleries as they are instrumental in building the recognition for an artist. It is important to develop a strong relationship with galleries. Gajah Gallery, STPI and Yavuz have programmes that emphasise on artists from Southeast Asia. There are other very good galleries in Gillman Barracks but I have yet had the opportunity to build any personal connection with these. I particularly enjoy my relationship with Gajah Gallery, which goes back more than 15 years. The team has played a key role in my evolution as a collector and helping me develop a more critical eye.
What do you think of the art scene in Singapore? Are collectors willing to share their works with the public?
I think it’s improved significantly over the years but Singapore would benefit from more passionate local collectors. In my experience, Singaporean collectors are very willing to share their collection and support the arts.
Do you think young people should be interested in art?
I think an interest in art is so valuable at all ages. Art inspires, communicates, challenges and enriches life!
SEE ALSO: THE NEW ART PATRONS: Ryan Su and Adrian Chan (1of4)