Profile: Stephanie Fong

Published on 7 June 2016

FOST Gallery owner Stephanie Fong operates with instinct and experience.

BY DAPHNE ONG

“It’s very primal. I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut when I see something good,” says Stephanie Fong, businesswoman and art connoisseur behind FOST Gallery. Fong is conveying how she decides which artists to represent, and in doing so, reveals a keen instinct that has helped her develop the 10-year-old FOST into one of Asia’s top galleries.

First joining the workforce as a lawyer, Fong quit the legal profession after qualifying for the Bar and worked in an international brand consultancy. She then attained her Master’s in Fine Art at Sotheby’s Institute, London, before returning to Singapore to launch into the art scene. “On hindsight, even though it seems I meandered into the art world, my past experience was instrumental in helping me manage the gallery.”

Derived from the first two letters of Fong’s first and last names, FOST is now synonymous with progressive contemporary art in Singapore. The gallery exhibits works by artists from around the world, with a special focus on artists based in Singapore. The gallery’s stable of homegrown talents include Song-Ming Ang, Heman Chong, John Clang, Jimmy Ong and Wyn-Lyn Tan. Others under its wing include Adeel uz Zafar (Pakistan), Rodney Smith (USA) and Phi Phi Oanh (Vietnam).

From FOST’s first site in a historic shophouse on Kim Yam Road to its current home at visual arts hub Gillman Barracks, Fong has worked hard to overcome the challenges she faced in the early years as a young gallery owner. “The biggest challenges were building credibility for the gallery and staying true to my vision,” she recalls. “But being able to make a business out of my passion is what I love best about it.”

Running a gallery today is not easy. In just a few decades, more museums and galleries have sprung up, churning out regular exhibition programmes and a line-up of art fairs. “I remember growing up, we only had one museum for everything, from natural history to art,” Fong says. “Now, in a rather short time, the art calendar has become quite busy.” She also notes that the market has gotten competitive.

As a sole gallery owner, Fong relies on instinct and experience. At the same time, she acknowledges that the gallery’s success was not a lone effort. “Any gallery is only as good as its artists, so kudos to the artists whom I have the privilege to work with. I also had amazing people who worked in the gallery over the years, and I am very thankful for their contribution at each step of the way.”

For more on FOST Gallery, visit www.fostgallery.com.

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