Individual donations to the arts hit S$19.4m last year

Individual donations to the arts hit S$19.4m last year
Ryan Su, 29, received the Patron of the Arts award for the first time this year, and is one of the youngest private donors to be recognised. Photo: NAC

Individual donations to the arts hit S$19.4m last year

186 such donors among those honoured at National Arts Council ceremony

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s arts scene received a boost last year, with total contributions made by individuals more than doubling from S$8.2 million in 2015 to S$19.4 million in 2016. 

These 186 individual donors were among those honoured at the National Arts Council (NAC)’s Patron of the Arts Awards ceremony, held at the Conrad Centennial on Wednesday (July 12) evening.

Lawyer and private collector Ryan Su, 29, received the Patron of the Arts award for the first time. He was also one of the youngest private donors to be recognised. 

Su supported the Andy Warhol show, held at Gillman Barracks during Singapore Art Week in January 2016, through his own private foundation.  

Speaking to TODAY, he said: “We thought it was important to share art with the young people here and increase awareness of the arts, and since we were already collecting some of his (Warhol’s) works, we decided to take some of the works out (to) the exhibition for the public to view for free.” 

Su said that he hopes his investment in the arts would go a long way, even if it reaches people in small numbers, as long as it can “impact each of them greatly”.

“You might inspire the next leader in the arts or the next great artist, and they may eventually go out and proliferate this,” he added.

Besides the individual donors, 116 organisations including corporates spanning the automotive, health, hospitality, financial, retail and technology sectors also gave to the arts.

Instituted in 1983, the Patron of the Arts Awards aim to celebrate the contributions of arts patrons who leave their mark on the local arts scene, either financially or with in-kind contributions such as artwork loans and donations to art events and arts education initiatives.

The 2017 Awards, the 34th edition of the event, recognises contributions made between Jan 1 and Dec 31, 2016. A total of S$64.7 million in contributions to the arts was made by both individuals and organisations last year.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu thanked the contributors for their “invaluable partnership to the government’s investment”, which has helped “develop artistic excellence and capabilities, expand access to and appreciation for the arts, and unlock the social value of the arts”. 

Ms Fu said: “It is encouraging that in this economically challenging climate, we received a total of about $65 million in cash, sponsorships and in-kind contributions to the arts last year. This is almost double the overall giving to the arts five years ago. In-kind contributions, which include artwork loans, were also at an all-time high of over S$20 million in 2016, compared to about S$7 million the previous year.”

Mr Alexander Tedja, chairman of Pakuwon Group, received the Distinguished Patron of the Arts for the first time for his long-term loan of a collection of paintings to the National Gallery Singapore.

When asked about his reasons for sharing his collections, Mr Tedja said: “The arts have become a part of my daily life since I started my collection in the late 1980s. Everything is closely connected to, and revolves around, art. Exposing the public to the arts is not only for enjoyment, but to educate and inspire.”

While last year’s total contributions were lower than the S$136.1 million received in the previous year — which was largely due to Singapore’s Jubilee Year and increased awareness of the Cultural Matching Fund (in which the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth provided dollar-for-dollar matching grants for private cash donations to arts and heritage charities, and Institutions of Public Character) — the total number of donors has been steadily increasing since 2014.

In 2015, there were 226 awardees. This year, there were a total of 302 awardees — an increase of almost 34 per cent.

Addressing the awardees, Ms Fu said: “What you are doing here in many different ways is really allowing us to work towards this goal, where everyone in Singapore, regardless of race, religion and background, has the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy good art in Singapore.”