This is the first comprehensive and systematic examination of the Southeast Asian art market. It sets out to appraise the existence of an art market bubble by looking at developments in the trading of art in the region of Southeast Asia from 2003 to 2008. Although market activities take place at both primary and secondary levels, the regional auction market has been chosen as the window of inquiry due to reasons of accessibility, transparency and feasibility.
This research is anchored by the establishment of a database covering more than 6,000 transactions in Singapore and Hong Kong over 6 years. As no dedicated literature on the subject exists, the study involves a combination of detailed quantitative data analyses and extensive primary field work. It provides for many personal interactions with the region's dealers, auction house representatives, art historians, curators, collectors and artists from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. 14 such representatives come together on this 'virtual platform' bringing varied and sometimes conflicting points of view, working methodologies and ideas. It results in the formulation and adoption of an amalgamated methodology in advancing the study of art and market within Southeast Asia, with many themes being discussed and connected for the first time.
In analysing the sustainability of the art market, the research combines results of correlation studies between the art auction market and other financial markets to reveal dynamic macro factors at work. The relationship between art market performance and the validation of artists is then paired to uncover price mechanisms that underpin the market in 2008. Observable market symptoms and behavioral patterns are then systematically assessed against established notions of a bubble to evaluate its legitimacy. This study has the privilege of telling the collective Southeast Asian narrative of art and business for the very first time - from the inside out.