The Art of Acquiring: Richard Lim
How do art and buildings come together? We find out in this conversation with the manager of CapitaLand’s art portfolio.
You might not be familiar with Richard, but you might be familiar with aspects of his work.
As the manager of the art portfolio of CapitaLand, Richard is tasked with acquiring, displaying, maintaining, and promoting the artworks that bring life to our buildings: whether they be the amusing Jelly Baby Family outside Plaza Singapura, or Olafur Eliasson’s contemplative installation above below beneath above at CapitaGreen.
We spent some time with Richard to find out more about what he does, and what art brings to a space.
I’ve been interested in the creative aspect of the arts since young, and have been making art over the years. As I grew up, I started to have an interest in the economic aspect as well. I felt that these interests were two sides of the same coin, so I got a degree in Arts Management at LASALLE College of the Arts. Since then, I’ve been exposed to most aspects of the arts business: selling, buying, logistics, inventory/collection management etc.
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
Currently, the bulk of my time is spent managing the artwork commissions of projects to be completed. I am also wrapping up a periodic valuation of our collection. During a typical day, I have discussions with various stakeholders and artists.
3. What do you look out for for each art piece?
Each new project’s artwork requirement is different. Although artworks need not exactly match its location, certain cues may be taken from the project’s architecture and/or interior design. Generally, the artwork’s stature needs to match the type of building it’s in. For example, a piece chosen for a luxury residential project may be out of place in a heartland mall.
When it comes to paintings, the most important consideration would be that they need walls that can take the load. We also need to consider appropriate lighting. With sculptures, we speak to a few departments to determine the most suitable location, because there are other elements involved like ground services and electrical wiring. For all types of art, we need to consider the type of material and the maintenance needed, depending on whether it’s under shelter or in a public plaza. Different areas of the building have their own set of restrictions.
4. Share about a memorable, rewarding, or challenging moment you experienced on the job.
A memorable moment for me would be when we commissioned Ian Woo to create a 3m x 8m painting for Suzhou Center Mall in China in 2017. I had suggested to split the piece into multiple panels to make things easier for him. I should have known that artists like to challenge themselves—he rejected my suggestion and went on to create the artwork on an uncut canvas. The size did pose some logistical challenges when we were transporting and installing it, but it was a rewarding journey. This whole process is documented in our online showcase.
5. What do you think a piece of art can bring to a physical space?
Many studies have shown that art can uplift your mood. It helps to brighten up the space by adding colour and nuance. Well-placed art can also anchor a location and act as a placemaker/wayfinder—for example, people often use The Panda Family at Westgate as a meeting point.
Beyond this, Art Management at CapitaLand does more than just displaying art in physical spaces. Apart from staff and tenant wellness, the benefits include: community engagement, staff enrichment, branding, value protection, and benefits to the business.
To achieve these benefits, we have written art articles; published an art book during SG50; launched a website (art.capitaland.com, please visit!); organised art jamming sessions for staff, tenants, and for the public; led art tours to view the artworks inside office spaces; given talks/presentations, and participated in panel discussions.
6. Choose 3 artworks in any CapitaLand properties. What do the artworks mean to you, personally?
The first would be Illumination in the Key of Bloom by Ian Woo, which is the 3m x 8m artwork I mentioned previously. Another piece would be Flight and Forest by Han Sai Por, which is inspirational to me—Sai Por is a senior artist who still does hands-on work in a male-dominated industry, despite being 78 years old this year. The last piece would be Celebration of Life by Justin Lee, which was commissioned for Funan mall. When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited the mall, he was photographed looking at the artwork very intently, which made it memorable for me.
7. If you could live in a piece of art, which would it be and why?
I would rather live with than live inside a piece of art. It’d be nice to live with Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci—which was auctioned for US$450m, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold! If I live with it, that would mean I own it too (laughs).
8. What do you do in your free time, outside of work?
I guess I’m quite lucky in that my personal interests and work align nicely. Pre-COVID, I would attend exhibitions most weekends. I still read, online mostly, a lot about art and the art world. I try to be involved in the art world, even outside the scope of my job. I attend various events, in both my work and personal capacity. I also take part in panels and give talks whenever possible. I sometimes make art and take part in exhibitions. Outside of the arts, I also have keen interest in most things two-wheeled—for example, bicycles and motorcycles.
The first in an ongoing series, Know Thy Neighbour features interviews with CapitaLand’s Workspace community, with stories about who they are, and what they do.
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