Culture / Art Republik

Art galleries in Singapore: Art Republik interviews Stéphane Le Pelletier, Director of Opera Gallery Asia Pacific

Art Republik talks with the gallery’s Director in Asia Pacific to find out more about the business and highlights from 2016

Feb 17, 2017 | By Nadya Wang
Stéphane Le Pelletier

Stéphane Le Pelletier

Opera Gallery was created in Singapore back in 1994, and now has branches in Paris, Monaco, London, Geneva, New York, Miami, Aspen, Hong Kong, Seoul, Dubai and Beirut. The global enterprise presents a wide range of modern and contemporary art to its collectors and visitors over 22 years across the globe and shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2016 alone, Opera Gallery Singapore presented a diverse line-up of artists, from Icelandic painter Katrin Fridriks and Chinese painter Liu Jiu Tong in a duet show ‘Energies Unleashed’ to a ‘Masters of Distinction’ show offering works by luminary artists such as Claude Monet and Pierre Bonard to ‘Infinite Diversity’ celebrating contemporary Japanese artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. The variety attests to Opera Gallery’s intentioned inclusiveness in presenting art in all its forms to their clients.

Art Republik speaks with Stéphane Le Pelletier, Director of Opera Gallery Asia Pacific, who oversees the gallery’s operations in Singapore, Seoul and Hong Kong, to find out more about Opera Gallery’s offerings, his view of the regional art market, and advice for art collecting.

Could you briefly tell us about Opera Gallery?

We have an assembly of top artists collected by renowned museums. Combined with the exclusiveness of the artwork, prestige of the artist and the reputation of our gallery, Opera Gallery is able to provide our clients with a valuable piece of art that is instilled not just with a sense of history and desirability but also as an investment grade artwork.

What sort of artworks do you offer?

We are known for our artworks by Masters such as Chagall, Monet and Picasso, to name a few. Besides our Masters Collection, we also represent internationally renowned contemporary artists, which include Spanish artist Lita Cabellut, French artist Andre Brasilier, British artist Joe Black and many more. Lita Cabellut is known for her vibrant, expressive portraits done on her signature textured canvas, Andre Brasilier for his sublime and tranquil paintings of landscapes and horses while Joe Black is presented by his intricate portraits of famous personalities made up of tiny plastic soldiers.

As director of Opera Gallery Asia Pacific, how would you sum up 2016?

2016 has been a successful and constructive year for Opera Gallery Singapore. We have participated in two art fairs and hosted five exhibitions in our gallery. Through the visitors and media exposure from these art fairs and exhibitions, it has brought greater awareness from the public to the artworks and artists we represent.

Could you discuss one or two exhibitions that you have been most proud of and/or were great successes in 2016?

I am proud of each exhibition that has been organised by our gallery. There are two which I find most notable, namely our ‘Masters of Distinction’ exhibition and our presentation at Art Stage Singapore. Both were successful in all aspects from the exemplary artworks featured, the overwhelming response and support from our visitors and clients as well as the strong media support given.

How did you begin working at Opera Gallery?

I began with the gallery in Singapore as the general manager, overseeing the day to day running of the gallery, with roles including increasing the local autonomy, sales and expansion of the business. Since then, I have curated numerous major art exhibitions – including artists like Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, Monet and Warhol.

Could you talk about the various roles you fulfil at Opera Gallery?

Currently, as the director of Opera Gallery Asia Pacific, I oversee the business direction for our galleries in Seoul, Hong Kong and of course, Singapore. I ensure the maintenance of a strong relationship with our clients, to create and build up greater awareness of our galleries and our artists, to discover new artists from this region and be constantly attuned to the art trend and art consumption patterns of this region. Being the director, I also need to ensure a strong and correct branding of our gallery in the region and how we are presented to the public.

What are the challenges in your work?

Looking for good-quality art pieces, up-and-coming new artists, artists with potential that can fit into our gallery’s direction, as well as curating the gallery space to make it attractive at all times.

And what are the rewards?

Building and developing of relationships with clients and the artists we represent. In a way, we grow together, exchanging, sharing our experience and interest in art.

What are in the works for Opera Gallery in 2017?

We will have a solo exhibition with Manolo Valdes in the third quarter of 2017. He is one of the most important artists of our time. This will be his first solo and most comprehensive exhibition in Asia where a detailed oeuvre of his extensive artworks will be featured, ranging from paintings to large-size sculptures that will line the boardwalk of Orchard Road.

There are more and more online platforms to purchase artworks from. As a brick-and-mortar gallery, what advantages does Opera Gallery offer to the art buyer that these online avenues simply do not?

Relationship is built on trust over time. Once a bond is established, the gallerist can assist the clients to look for art that is specific to their liking. At Opera Gallery, we strive to understand our customers and over time, we get a better understanding of their specific needs, requirements and preferences which enables us to give recommendations and advice that are specially tailored for them. It is this customised, personalised service, care and understanding of our customers which online avenues cannot provide.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Singapore, and how does it compare with others?

The gallery scene in Singapore has certainly become more vibrant and varied over the years with galleries representing a wide spectrum of artists and genres from different countries. Singapore is gradually getting in line with the more mature art markets of Asia such as Hong Kong, China and Japan in terms of the quality and representation of art and artists. Japan and Hong Kong has always had strong art markets and in more recent years, China has developed one too.

What changes have you seen in the past five to ten years?

The art scene in Asia has developed significantly, with art consumers gaining a greater depth of understanding, interest and appreciation of art. They are increasingly well-travelled and hence have acquired a greater knowledge of art in the international art arena. In addition, there is an increasing trend of people acquiring art as an alternative form of investment option to guard against the volatility of economic conditions.

What changes lie ahead?

With regards to changes that lie ahead, as art lovers and collectors are more tech-savvy, Opera Gallery has moved with the times and increased our online visibility via our website as well as social media. We are also moving ahead of the trend as young collectors are more open to mixed-media artwork as well as photography by introducing new media artists via our many exhibitions.

Who are your favourite modern and/or contemporary artists?

My taste varies. In my line of work, I get to see very good works not just of one artist but many. I am more drawn to contemporary works with unique creativity such as Lita Cabellut and photographer Gerard Rancinan. I also love the works of Andre Brasilier.

For art buyers out there, in your opinion, which is more important – the love of a piece or its investment value?

When it comes to collecting art, first and foremost and above all, it should be out of genuine liking for a work. As your collection expands, your expenditure on an artwork will also increase. It is a natural progression that you would gradually look out for the possible investment value and return on the artwork as well, looking beyond aesthetics to other aspects of the artwork such as its provenance and the portfolio of the artist.

‘Chevaux sous les arbres’, Andre Brasilier.

‘Chevaux sous les arbres’, Andre Brasilier.

This article was first published in Art Republik.