Singapore's corporate collectors also have been ahead of their time when it comes to collecting international artists - companies like Pontiac Land which were early collectors of Lichtenstein and Stella for its hotel and office projects - so it's not like Singapore art buyers are only playing catch up now.
But recent projects like The Singapore FreePort have really made a difference, thinks Veronica Howe, chief arts consultant (business development) at arts consultancy One East Asia International Art Group.
The Singapore FreePort's presence is ramping up Singapore's feasibility as an arts hub, she thinks. 'SinceÃ‚ Singapore's FreePort made its presence here, it has created ripples of 'positive' effect - causing the West to look here.
'Many international auction houses are turning to China for buyers - this is proven with many record breaking prices fetched at auctions and acquired by the Chinese.Ã‚ But this also means Chinese buyers are also interested in Western art - leading galleries like Ben Brown Fine Arts and Gagosian to set up luxurious gallery spaces in Hong Kong's Central district.' MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd, a MCH group company and organiser of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, has also inked a deal to co-present Art HK 2012.
'It shows where wealth is today - in Asia - for the next five years at least. Almost by default, Singapore is getting the spillover from Hong Kong. But this will eventually help in maturing Singapore's art market,' notes the Singapore-based consultant.
Taking note of the demand for art, global interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates , which has an office in Singapore, recently launched its arts consultancy arm as a standalone business unit - clearly with the view that the arts consultancy business can find a niche here.
Canvas Art - with offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Hong Kong - is HBA's newly integrated global art affiliate which looks at the whole process of procuring art for hospitality. 'Our art consultancy was previously just part and parcel of the HBA business, but we're now launching an individual identity to cater to other aspects of the market other than just hospitality,' says Sandra de Souza, director of Canvas Singapore.
'We wanted to expand and it's a good time to do it - especially now in Asia. The art side of things have now become pretty established,' she adds, citing its projects at Carlton Hotel at Bras Basah and The Ascott as recent clients.
'For the Carlton Hotel, we gave them our recommendations for artists and the galleries so they could negotiate directly with them, and we also guided where the works will be placed,' she explains. HBA has done more showrooms however, than hotel projects in Singapore.
Good news, but not all corporates are clued in to actual art prices, as one local artist has found out, to his dismay. A Singapore-based artist shared how a Singapore hotel group had asked to see his photographic prints for their hotel project, but they were prepared to pay only 1 per cent of his asking price and seemed quite surprised at the price of original art.
So, the galleries and dealers may come, but it looks like the Singapore market still has room to grow into becoming patrons of the international and local art market.