At home with art

Tay Suan Chiang, The Business Times, September 17, 2022

FOR most people, dust is best in the bin, but not to Lulu Sun, who runs a medical device company.


Perched on a glass cake stand on top of her grand piano is a small sculpture of a rat, made from dust. “Is this a dead rat,” the curious visitor might ask. Without battling an eyelid, Sun replies, “No, it is art.”


The rat is made by French artist Lionel Sabatte, who swept up dust from Parisian subway stations to create the piece. Sun, who was born in the year of the rat, was attracted to the piece because “who knows, some dead skin from rats might be in it too”.


A rat sculpture made from dust. PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN, BT


She adds: “The artist has sterilised the dust, so there is no worry about catching any germs.”


Sun wanted to be an artist growing up, but did not have the opportunity to pursue it, so she did the next best thing – collecting art.


She and her businessman husband consider themselves new collectors. It was a trip to Prague several years ago that started their art collecting journey.


“We fell in love with an oil painting that also incorporated some silver, and bought it, more so to remember our holiday in Prague,” says Sun. “That got us interested in art appreciation, and we began visiting art galleries and shows such as the Art Basel in Hong Kong.” She also turns to Instagram and contacts art galleries and artists directly to seek out new pieces.


Sun has a fondness for Sabatte’s works, and has 2 more of his paintings in her Bukit Timah home. One, a mix of oil and gasoline, hangs in the living room, while the other, titled Marriage, hangs in the master bedroom.



A bust of Venus by Chinese artist Li Hongbo. PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN, BT


Besides paintings, she also collects sculptures, such as a bust of Venus by Chinese artist Li Hongbo. It is made entirely of paper, which Li is famous for. Sun shares that acquiring the piece had been quite a journey, including frantic WeChat conversations with the art gallery before she eventually got hold of it, after meeting Li in China.


Then there is also a piece by local artist Dawn Ng, titled Time Lost Falling in Love. This is a video of an ice pigment block at various stages of disintegration.



Artist Dawn Ng’s video art. PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN, BT


“I was sceptical of getting this, since it is video art,” says Sun, who plays the clip on her TV. “But it has really opened my eyes.” For one, Sun appreciates that the art, which is stored in a USB thumb drive, is portable. She is considering buying more digital art.


While her collection comprises largely abstract pieces, Sun says she doesn’t have a particular style of art that she likes. “I tend to like pieces that have a positive vibe, and pieces that are more unique and not often seen,” she says. 


What’s also important is the opportunity to meet the artist. “Where possible, I always visit the artist’s studio, and I enjoy chatting with them,” she says. But she isn’t the sort to buy on impulse, often taking her time to better understand the artist and the art. 



Painting by French artist Gael Davrinche. PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN, BT


For Sun, collecting art is about beautifying a space, but she also considers its investment value. “I see art as an alternative form of investment,” she says. “But this is for the long term, so I’m keeping my pieces for at least 20 years.” She adds: “This is also why I tend to seek pieces by artists who have the drive and passion to create art for long.”


Sun says: “I enjoy collecting art because through the process I get to know how artists come up with their unique ideas, and overcome all challenges to make the ideas into reality.”


She adds: “Their art creation process and the final products always serve as inspiration for me at work and in life. Whenever I met difficulties, I always look to art for inspiration and comfort.”


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