Newly-formed One Piece Club Malaysia spurs prospective collectors to purchase their first artwork

Co-founders Bingley Sim, Brendan Siva and Jonathan Ong set up the club to open up artistic appreciation for everyone.

From left: Brendan Siva, Bingley Sim and Jonathan Ong are passionate about nurturing art appreciation among the new generation of collectors (Photo: Patrick Goh/The Edge Malaysia)

There’s something about art that is universal. No matter where you come from, it hits you in all the right places. When we ask the founders of One Piece Club Malaysia (OPCM) about what brought them together to establish a local chapter of the international club, they unanimously agree it was all for art’s sake.

The whole intention of the club — founded by successful businesswoman Hiroko Ishinabe in 2007 in Tokyo as a non-profit organisation and not to be confused with an anime of the same name — is to cultivate the appreciation of contemporary art by encouraging prospective collectors to buy their first piece of artwork and then, perhaps, at least one every year. From Japan, outposts of this club were set up in Taipei, Jakarta, Singapore, Shanghai and, most recently, Kuala Lumpur.

OPCM, formed by Bingley Sim, Brendan Siva and Jonathan Ong to encourage the growth of the art ecosystem in Malaysia, was launched on April 1 at the Urban Museum or Ur-Mu in Bukit Bintang.

“We couldn’t ask for a better host and turnout. Dr Tan Loke Mun, owner and architect of the gallery, kindly organised the entire party for us including the refreshments for the night. It was a great networking event and I was very happy to see young people getting interested in the arts,” shares Sim, an investment banker with a deep passion for collecting art.

That night, Tan Zi Hao, artist and a PhD candidate in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, spoke about his enormous fibreglass and metal installation, The Skeleton of Makara (The Myth of a Myth). Attendees were totally engaged and curious too.

This is precisely what the trio want to do more of: hold events led by experienced art collectors, gallery owners and senior artists.

Ong says they hope to introduce more people to art, make it accessible and less intimidating for the uninitiated.

“If you are starting out by yourself, the gallery visits and auctions can be quite daunting if you do not have someone to guide you. I just started collecting during the pandemic and know what a new collector would need in order to feel comfortable, assess the work and ask for the right information before buying.”

In a nutshell, the events at OPCM are all underlined by sharing — whether it’s by art experts or young collectors on their first art purchase.



“We are an informal collective with no vested interest,” stresses Siva, a lawyer by profession who spends most of his weekends meeting artists and gallery owners. “We see their struggles and that’s when I realised the [art] market is very small. We want to create a movement to encourage young professionals to get interested in collecting art and to show them that not all art is expensive.”

It can be affordable if one chooses to collect the works of young artists, he says. “And think about it — you not only get to support an up-and-coming artist, but also play a key role in helping a community and an entire industry to grow.”

Unlike Sim, who has been a seasoned art collector for more than 20 years, Siva and Ong’s collecting journey only started in recent times — spurred by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture’s Buy Art Malaysia RM500 rebate voucher to support the art industry during the pandemic.

“It was the push I needed and I hope there will be more such incentives,” admits Ong.

Siva acquired more works and realised the ultimate beneficiaries are the young artists.

“This is one government programme that benefited the community right away,” he adds.

“We are not doing this for profit. There is no commercial benefit to us in any way,” Siva points out matter-of-factly, stressing that OPCM is merely bridging the gap between those who want to learn more about art and young artists looking to expand their work.

“Since the launch, it appears that our model is correct because we don’t need any funds yet. All the galleries and organisations we approached for collaborations have very promptly offered to host and cover the entire cost of the event.”

“Yes, the support from the art circle has been very encouraging,” Sim chimes in. Initially, there were concerns about having to work extra hard to get the right partners in but the galleries and folks they spoke to have been so supportive.



They originally planned to hold one event per month, but have four lined up for May already. However, they are not promising the same frequency each month.

“All events are specially curated art experiences for members, like previews of shows before they open to the public as well as talks on important topics that would interest young collectors.”

“We thought it would be a challenge to get people excited but given the unexpected response, we are now looking at fitting everyone into our calendar of events,” says Sim.

Interested in becoming a member of OPCM? Visit its Instagram page at @opc_malaysia and fill in the form in the link in the bio. Membership is open to those interested in collecting art and participating in activities organised by the club, including visits to exhibitions, artists’ studios and collectors’ places. They are also encouraged to present their acquired artwork at the members’ exhibition or in a book, if the plans become ambitious along the way.

“There is no restriction on the amount to spend on an artwork; it is entirely up to you. The whole idea is to encourage new collectors. The club is not for gallery owners, accomplished artists, art dealers, art managers and the like, but we will have these professionals share their knowledge during our club activities,” states Siva.

The three also stressed that they will not be giving their views on which particular work or artist members should invest in.

For now, all events are free but a pay-as-you-go policy will be adopted for future activities should the need arise. What underpins everything they do is social conscience and a keen interest from the fraternity in supporting the plans they have for their art collective.

This article first appeared on May 1, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram