Laura Peh is a novelist, founder of Cinnamon Art Publishing, and lives between Singapore and London. She has been collecting contemporary art since 2019 with a focus on socially-engaged practices from Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. 

We have the pleasure of welcoming you to our committee this year. What are you most looking forward to at Swab Barcelona 2024?

I am looking forward to experiencing the warmth of the art community in Barcelona again. The exchange and relationship-building with fellow collectors, galleries and art professionals are always the most fulfilling. Last year, I was also impressed to discover galleries from a diverse range of countries as faraway as Brazil, Lebanon and Argentina.

With your extensive cultural background, your passion lies in emerging art from Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. What draws you specifically to the art scenes in these regions?

My interest is in discovering and observing how the world is changing within the period that I am living in. I went through several phases in my life, but I feel my life only began when I was 28. This was when COVID-19 happened which resulted in having time to reassess my life and also focus my collection on socially-engaged artistic practices. It was life-changing. When I made a concerted effort to change my lifestyle and modes of thinking, I began looking at the world in a different way.

The world is changing quickly and we have already entered into a period of deglobalisation – a move towards protectionism and a less connected world. Western Europe and the US are no longer superpowers. Hedge funds are investing deeply in emerging markets where many countries in the Global South have been overlooked. And it is often in places where conflict, oppression and hardship exist, that artists possess the strongest convictions and deepest, most passionate feelings. 

Do you see any connections or parallels between Southeast Asian and Latin American art, particularly in terms of cultural influences or artistic themes?

Both regions are culturally very different, but have a similar population size (around 668 million), are rich in natural resources, and count agriculture and mining as their largest economies. If I could think of a simple way to put it, countries that make up Latin America are like cousins (with the predominance of Catholicism and the Spanish language across the region) and those in Southeast Asia are more like acquaintances (due to minimal shared elements apart from geographic proximity).

I take time to study the geography and history of each country before visiting, and am constantly surprised by what I experience in-person. I notice conceptually mature and impactful contemporary art coming out of Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand.

Who are the emerging artists that you would like to see featured in a global art scene?

The most talented of today’s generation are those who create original, intelligent artworks that are also understandable to people outside of their culture and country. To name a few under 38: Ting-Jung Chen (b. 1985, Taipei. Lives in Vienna), Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990, Singapore), Sofía Hinojosa (b. 1992, Mexico), Chalisée Naamani (b. 1995, Paris, of Iranian descent) and Marcos Kueh (b. 1995, Malaysia. Lives in The Hague).

With your background in music and the current rise of digital art, how do you perceive the intersection between music and contemporary art? 

Sound is a part of contemporary art mediums. One of the challenges of being a constantly developing human being is to constantly push yourself and never feel comfortable with where you are. That is also the most difficult part. Like music composers, the best artists do not simply use sound or audio as a decorative or accompanying element. They understand the complexity of integrating sound into their work to create an original and emotional experience, like opera. I feel that if more artists were interested in incorporating sound and mastered the use of it, it would be transformative for the future of contemporary art.