Young patrons on why they give to the arts

Lawyer Ryan Su shares time and art

Lawyer Ryan Su (right) and Singapore artist Robert Zhao Renhui (left).
Lawyer Ryan Su (right) and Singapore artist Robert Zhao Renhui (left).PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE RYAN FOUNDATION

Lawyer Ryan Su, 29, has an art collection kept in storage comprising works by Western artists such as Andy Warhol and abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler, both Americans.

"It is such a waste for these works to be kept in storage. What's the point of collecting more and more works? I wanted to help society in some way," says Mr Su, whose collection includes up to 50 prints, artefacts and paintings. He declines to reveal the value of his collection.

Last year, he incorporated The Ryan Foundation to organise exhibitions both internationally and in Singapore for public education.

In January last year, he organised a public exhibition titled Andy Warhol: Social Circus, at Gillman Barracks. It featured Warhol's polaroids of personalities in the 1950s to 1980s, such as actress Bianca Jagger and Warhol himself.

Most photographs were from Mr Su's personal collection.

Some of these polaroids were featured in Warhol's iconic silkscreen prints.

To me, patronage is not about giving money, but about giving advice, help and creating connections.

LAWYER RYAN SU, who organised a dinner this year to celebrate the work of Singapore artist Robert Zhao Renhui

 
 
 

To bring to life the world of Warhol, Mr Su created a room covered in silver foil, echoing Warhol's Factory, where many of the artist's legendary parties were held and where some polaroids were actually taken.

"We were criticised for catering to the mass market by people who were used to having white walls in galleries," says Mr Su.

But he ignored the naysayers. His focus is on promoting arts awareness in Singapore among young people, which he feels will only help create more appreciation for the arts in the future.

He also feels that arts philanthropy "needs a mindset change".

"In the past, people thought that to be a philanthropist, you need to be very rich. That's an outdated form of thinking. You can share more than your money," he says.

Earlier this year, he helped organise a dinner to celebrate the work of Singapore artist Robert Zhao Renhui.

The intimate dinner comprised people who were interested in learning more about the artist's practice.

Mr Su says: "To me, patronage is not about giving money, but about giving advice, help and creating connections. Those can well be worth even more than money."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'Sharing his time and art'. Print Edition | Subscribe