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Berlin Wall to Lehman Shocks Inspire Banker’s Singapore Art Show

Banker and artist Kai Fehr working on his oil-stamp painting
Banker and artist Kai Fehr working on his oil-stamp paintings. Source: Gallery Krisstel Martin via Bloomberg.

Kai Fehr grew up in Berlin with the idea that the wall dividing the city would always be there.

Its demolition starting in 1989 was one of the events that provoked the Singapore-based banker and artist to create a works about the transience of things that were once considered immutable -- the fall of the Roman Empire, the collapse of Pan-American World Airways in 1991, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008.

“When Lehman went belly up, it generated a feeling of insecurity,” said Fehr, 38, in an interview in at Gallery Krisstel Martin, where his first solo show opens today. “Everything can go bust. Don’t take anything for granted.”

While Fehr began painting at school in Berlin, it wasn’t until after Lehman’s collapse that he began to work on the show, called “Rhyme or Reason.”

Fehr settled on a method of stamping oil paint on canvas as in “Pan Am/Air China,” which shows repeating images of the logos of the airlines.

Another has stamps of a map of the Soviet Union and China, reflecting the possibility that the new superpower could one day unravel as swiftly as the old. A third canvas mixes images of an American eagle with the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome.

Fehr, who manages sales of non-performing loans at UniCredit Bank AG in Singapore, also collects art with his wife Andrea. The couple began buying works by Singapore’s Lee Man Fong, Vietnam’s Le Pho and Indonesia’s Affandi when they moved to Singapore in 2005.

“I saw what unbelievable quality you could get here at a good price,” Fehr said.

The intricacy of Fehr’s own works can be seen close up, with writing or dates added to many of the canvases to build out the central idea. The works start from about S$2,800 ($2,125).

His dual worlds of banking and contemporary art have taken a beating in the past two years, so it’s not surprising that his pictures convey messages of sudden collapse.

“Things can fall apart that you thought would always be there,” he said.

“Rhyme or Reason” runs from today through Dec. 20 at Gallery Krisstel Martin, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road, Block 39, Unit 02-01C, Singapore. Information: +65 6225 7939, or

(Adam Majendie writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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