The gallery takes the unassuming form of a small store in Tanglin Shopping Centre – but visitors to Mr Lim’s Shop of Visual Treasures can find themselves welcomed with works from Banksy to Takashi Murakami.
Lim Chiao Woon established the place in July 2021 as a way to pursue his passion for art, after wrapping up over two decades of corporate life and being diagnosed with lymphoma. “My family and I thought I should take it easy,” Lim says. “So I got this place… a wonderful place to start.”
He has showcased some of the works that he accumulated over the years, including Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama Progress print, KAWS’ vinyl merchandise and David Shrigley’s tooth sculpture.
But while he is happy to be trading with his collection, his main goal remains to “humidify the dry and stiff” Singaporean art scene. The shop’s first-ever show, FOOLS, is set up to help achieve this objective.
The show, which runs from April 1 to 30, features artwork from senior and young artists such as Jennifer Teo, Woon Tien Wei, Wen Chao, Samuel Chen and Kim Jihyun. Lim says he wants to highlight arts that are “uncomfortable”, “unsellable” and “not so decorative”.
“An issue I feel this country lacks is the appreciation of ideas and expressions,” he says. “As we develop a taste for collecting, it might be good for more and more people to be open to ideas and collecting things that affect them emotionally – and not just something to go with a sofa. Anything that resonates with the viewer, I think that’s key.”
The exhibition also features three silkscreened masks donated by Ai Weiwei, Lim’s friend and the inspiration behind the show’s name. Lim says he was having a conversation with Ai when he – “because I’m Singaporean” – asked about how the renowned artist’s son was doing in school.
“[Ai] doesn’t care about school,” Lim says. “’The world is okay with one additional fool’. Okay, that’s a good way to live. You’re more concerned about being who you are, doing what you believe in … I think it’s something to be said about, who are the real fools? I mean, think of Steve Jobs or Picasso – they are all, at some point, thought to be crazy or not making sense.”
Lim hopes the show will be “one small step” towards creating a culture where Southeast Asian artists can thrive and be encouraged to innovate with support from the public.
“I don’t understand how Singapore does not have our own Damien Hirst or Takashi Murakami,” Lim says. “We need to create a culture to actually make that happen.”
For more fascinating art, check out our Arts Section.