Cover One of the Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund beneficiaries, Decadance Co presented the multidisciplinary work "Fourth Wall: Duets", in collaboration with Fantasium Group, in 2019 (Image: Decadance Co)

His deep interest in the arts has painted a bigger picture for philanthropist Pierre Lorinet when it comes to the important role the private sector can play in helping the smaller arts organisations reach their creative potential

As a child, Pierre Lorinet loved anything related to graphic arts. His great, great-grandfather was a 19th-century painter, and his family still owns the summer house-cum-studio in the French region of Fontainebleau, where aspiring landscape artists often congregated. Paintings done by family members are still proudly displayed in their homes.

In his late teens, Lorinet took up photography and was later selected with fellow university students to work alongside renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado for a Magnum Photos project. Even as a student, he would buy posters of famous works such as those by Dutch Baroque master Johannes Vermeer, and as his means grew, his collection followed suit to include works by Sol LeWitt and Yayoi Kusama, among others. His recent acquisitions include pieces by Korean artists Nam June Paik and Haegue Yang.

Having benefited from artistic inspiration all his life, the French national, who was formerly in banking and commodity trading, and now sits on the boards of various organisations including Trafigura Group, Cocoon Capital Partners, Enterprise Singapore and the National Arts Council (NAC), naturally feels a sense of responsibility towards building the local arts ecosystem.

He says, “I’ve always appreciated art in all its forms, whether it’s performance arts, music or visual arts. So giving to the arts seems like a natural extension to support more creativity and organisations in developing their practice.” He has been based in Singapore with his wife Bolor and their three children since 2012.

In January, he was appointed as the chairman of the Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund, a joint initiative between NAC and the private sector to give small arts organisations a head start towards long-term sustainability. Since the fund was first announced in March last year, nearly $4 million have been raised, including the Cultural Matching Fund’s dollar-for-dollar matching of private cash donations to registered charities in the arts and heritage sector. So far, close to 20 arts groups have each received between $20,000 and $50,000.

The stART Fund aims to help small arts groups work towards an Institution of a Public Character (IPC) or charity status, enhance their organisational structure and governance processes, and expand internationally. It also encourages the production of quality works that build a vibrant local arts landscape. This includes programmes that increase public accessibility to the arts and celebrate Singapore’s multicultural identity.

“Supporting the arts is not necessarily just giving money to the organisations but attending events, being willing to pay for the quality of the events, buying paintings from local artists, engaging, and giving your time to support some of the arts groups. The smaller organisations don’t necessarily have all the fundraising or governance capabilities so it’s everyone’s role to see how we can contribute and help them to continue thriving,” says Lorinet, who also started the Lorinet Foundation in 2013, with his wife, to support vulnerable communities across Southeast Asia, Mongolia and France, with a focus on initiatives that promote access to education, employment, clean water and energy.

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And when it comes to the stART Fund, Lorinet has personally set the example by reaching into his own pockets to give to organisations such as puppetry specialists Paper Monkey Theatre, Teater Ekamatra, which presents contemporary English and Malay theatre, and Sculpture Society (Singapore).

He especially highlights the importance of children outreach programmes such as Mr Dong Guo and Hug the Tree by Paper Monkey Theatre. “One of the things that I remember from schooling in France is that we always went to plays and operas. We may not have liked it that much when we were kids, but at the end of the day, it was an outing that made you familiar with [the art form] and helped you to understand it better. That develops an audience for the future. So I think it’s very important to use this funding to help these groups create programmes that appeal to a broader group of people.”

As a beneficiary of the fund, Paper Monkey Theatre was able to boost its capabilities during the pandemic, which has forced many arts groups traditionally reliant on physical interaction to use digital means to connect with their audience. Artistic director Benjamin Ho says: “The fund has allowed us to actively engage professionals to revamp our website, and to translate our existing online content into Mandarin, which in turn enables us to engage a wider range of audiences more effectively.”

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Contemporary dance company Decadance Co, meanwhile, was initially cash-strapped when the pandemic halted its activities. With the stART Fund’s support, it was able to continue reaching out to senior citizens digitally, create new classes and projects as alternate sources of income, and hire a full-time administrative staff to support its expanded operations.

Lorinet says: “It’s easier for corporates and individuals to give to large well-established organisations because they are very visible, and they have the capability. Small arts groups don’t get the same exposure and are typically underfunded, so the stART Fund is there to help. You can give to the fund knowing that we will help to direct your contribution to the right organisations and make sure that the ecosystem remains thriving.”

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