How Frederic and Carole de Senarclens discovered and transformed a spacious, high-ceilinged art gallery in Singapore with a combination of serendipity and Swiss precision
Some define luck as enthusiasm meeting opportunity, and Carole de Senarclens can confirm that truism, given how she and her husband Frederic relocated in 2008 from Geneva to Singapore and the Swiss couple then learned the hard way that selling fine art out of your home doesn’t quite work in Asia.
“In Switzerland, and in Europe in general, a lot of art dealers can work from their homes and sell high-end works of art,” she observes. “People actually appreciate being invited to your house to see new works, whereas here in Singapore we found that people were not attuned to that. Some thought they would be disturbing us by coming to our home, so we realised this was not the way to address this particular market. In Europe, the private space and the commercial space are not as separate as in Asia.”
So off they went, away from their 6,000 sq-ft Emerald Hill home, and eventually encountered a heritage building district on Armenian Street. Their arduous search saw fruition in 2011, when they finally opened Art Plural Gallery. “When we came to Singapore, there were no art clusters yet,” she recalls. “Dempsey Hill was not so obvious for art galleries and Duxton Hill wasn’t as popular as now, so we looked at shophouses with character; we looked everywhere. But we understood very early on that you had to be central and accessible, in a convenient location where you had parking space.
“When we were ready, we decided this neighbourhood was the most perfect. There were all the museums around, for people who are interested in art. When the agent said they had a four-floor building, we thought it would be the dream of any gallery owner to have such a wonderful space. We knew it would be a challenge but also a wonderful opportunity.”