Cuturi Gallery seeks to make art affordable for the not-so-rich

Sheila Chiang
Lifestyle contributor
Kevin Troyano Cuturi, founder of Cuturi Gallery. (PHOTO: Cuturi Gallery)

SINGAPORE – In a first for the local art scene, Cuturi Gallery’s c/discoveries initiative will help support home-grown artists. For every artwork sold through this non-profit initiative, 80% of proceeds are channelled to the artist, while the remaining 20% goes towards funding future artists of the programme.

This 80/20 gallery formula is an industry-first and aligned with the gallery’s vision to be a next-generation gallery.

The c/discoveries showings offer an accessible starting point for collectors to discover and purchase high-quality works by fresh, promising talent at affordable prices.

Kevin Cuturi, the owner of Cuturi Gallery at Pacific Plaza on Scotts Road, said, “Before opening an art gallery, I was someone who enjoyed art and now being the gallerist, I have visibility of the insides of a gallery and the problems a gallery faces. With Cuturi Gallery, I wanted to have a different approach, a more open-minded approach, and to be more accessible.”

Young local painters Yunita Rebekah and Aisha Rosli, who are currently being mentored through c/discoveries, debuted their works in the gallery exhibition entitled Stages and Mirrors, which opened on 18 January and runs till 23 February. All five works in the exhibition were purchased by the third day.

Collecting art is an expensive hobby probably suited more for the rich. Art galleries often feel intimidating and you can be a bundle of nerves trying to walk into one, especially for young people.  

Cuturi Gallery. (PHOTO: Cuturi Gallery)

On cultivating a younger generation of collectors and to make art more accessible to younger people, Cuturi said, “Ever since I have been in Singapore and opening the gallery, I have seen that the interest from the younger generation is there. My mission with c/discoveries is to merge the art appreciation and the patronage – the purchase of the artwork – together. I want to make that shift easy by being able to promote very high quality art from young artists at a price where the future generation is not scared to buy at because the price can be an intimidating factor. I feel that this is the right time to incorporate the programme now.”

The prices of the artworks in the Stages and Mirrors exhibition ranged from S$500 to S$1,500 while those by the more famous French contemporary artist Lionel Sabatté, also on display, range from S$3,800 to S$25,600.

Kevin Cuturi is originally from Spain and previously worked in Amazon before moving into the art space. We asked him about his transition from a tech guy to a gallery owner. 

“Today, I still use the Amazon language. Amazon is a very customer-obsessed company, and I use a lot of the “customer obsession” terms. Over here, the gallery is not the main player. We have two customers – the artist and the crowd that appreciates and purchases the art,” said Cuturi, who has made Singapore his home for the last few years. “Sometimes we forget that the artist doesn’t work for us (the gallery). He is almost a client of us. So I like to say that we sit in the middle, the same way that Amazon sits between the end customer and also the supplier who would provide the actual products to sell.”

Running a gallery is no mean feat. There are high operating costs and there is major decision-making when it comes to purchasing a piece of art.

On how he eventually decides to purchase a piece of art, Cuturi said, “When buying anything under $20,000, I think from a visual aspect. Do I like it? And also from an intellectual aspect, does it talk to me? When that connection happens, I do an investigation of the value of the artwork.”

Lionel Sabatté with his sculpture "Licorne en thé - Thé sur structure métallique", made from dried tea leaves. (PHOTO: Cuturi Gallery)

“It’s not like you can tap on Google to find out how much it is worth. You rely on the information the artist and the gallerist will tell you. So I always ask the questions to the gallerist, ‘Why is this piece of artwork priced this way?’ and I need to be convinced before I purchase it. If it is something more than $20,000, then I will do more due diligence and try to understand why the market considers this piece of artwork at this price. And if I believe it is a fair price at the end of the day, I will purchase it.”

Is there anything like a bad piece of artwork? 

He laughed and said, “There is none, because at the end of the day, art is subjective. Sometimes you can have a canvas, take a pencil and draw a line, and that took the person one second. Or there can be a painting that took 3 months to complete. But it might be the same quality, if not, more, because of the originality. Art is also about the concept and idea behind it. But an artwork can be bad, if it has been sold at a price that is wrong. Then it is bad art, because it started from a lie. You see what I mean?”

Besides featuring home-grown artists, the gallery also presents world-class French contemporary and experimental artist Lionel Sabatté’s solo show Elemental Beings alongside artworks by Yunita and Aisha from 18 January to 23 February.

We spoke to Sabatté at the media preview of his art pieces and he shared that his use of materials which others might consider grotesque such as dust and fingernails was found to be “disgusting” in some cities he went to. 

“I love to travel because it is important for an artist to learn about other artists from other countries. It is very interesting to see how people from different cultures react to my works. It could be very different, especially with the materials I use. For some places where I show my sculptures, people are very afraid and they think they are very dirty but there are also places where people are more acceptable of my artwork and find them interesting. So it can be very different in different parts of the world,” said the 44-year-old Sabatté, who hails from Toulouse, France and recently won a French Academy Award for his work.

His works have been showcased at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal in Canada.

Oiseau en bronze sculptures by Lionel Sabatté. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo SEA)
"Grand Chef" by Lionel Sabatté. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Southeast Asia)

“Most Singaporean collectors are more interested in my paintings and I think they are more sensitive and feel what I do in my paintings. It is very interesting to see that they continue to follow me on my artistic journey,” said Sabatté, on the general response of Singaporean collectors towards his work.

Here’s more information on the exhibitions below:

Elemental Beings: A solo exhibition by Lionel Sabatté (18 January – 23 February)

Sabatté’s exhibition pays homage to the four natural elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. For instance, through Fire, his bronze creatures come to life, while through oxidation, Air takes on an important role in the process of his drawings. Earth and Water, through his cement mix, form the base of his concrete bestiary. 

Sabatté’s intention is to make us pause and reflect on our relationship with the living world and the environment that surrounds us. 

"The Girl in the Dirty Shirt" by Aisha Rosli. (PHOTO: Cuturi Gallery)

c/discoveries’ Stages and Mirrors featuring Yunita Rebekah and Aisha Rosli  (18 January – 23 February)

Rebekah will showcase paintings that trace her development in textural exploration and simultaneous deconstruction of her self-portrait and Rosli will showcase a series that feature androgynous maidens as manifestations of the psyche. 

"The Sun Creates For Me A Shadow" by Yunita Rebekah. (PHOTO: Cuturi Gallery)

Elemental Beings and Stages and Mirrors are being exhibited at Cuturi Gallery, 9 Scotts Road, Pacific Plaza, #02-16, from 18 January 2020 to 23 February 2020.