Marcel Heijnen, Co-Founder of Chemistry & Artistry

Marcel Heijnen has found the move to art a stimulating one, especially in Singapore where there has been an explosion of creative talent.
What’s your story?
My story is one of ‘one thing leads to another’. To cut a long story short, I moved to Asia from my home country The Netherlands in 1992 as an in-house graphic designer for a large electronics company. Great pay and benefits but ultimately soul-destroying when it came to the creative content of the work. I took the plunge in 1997 and quit to start on my own and after a few years of freelancing I co-founded the design collective Chemistry ( After about 8 years of getting involved in fulfilling design projects for all kinds of clients I took a sabbatical to concentrate on autonomous music and art projects. The result was a music album and a series of art photography (, the latter leading to exhibitions, art fairs and eventually a coffee table book. The move to art was so much fun that along the way I co-founded a café-gallery called Artistry ( which has, since its inception in 2012, become a well-loved little venue for visual arts as well as performance arts like poetry and music.
So, at the moment I’m in that lucky position that I cherry-pick design projects, keep expanding my visual art series and exposure, work on music projects and help run Artistry by programming up and coming artists.
What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer explosion of creative talent I’m seeing in the past few years in Singapore, both in the visual arts and music scene.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My curiosity was probably evoked by my dad going to exotic places like Japan when I was still a boy. He’d return with stuff like digital watches and beautiful spinning tops. Later, my parents moved to Taiwan and visiting them there, combined with side trips to Singapore, Hong Kong and Bali, in the late 80s really opened my eyes to Asia. It made me want to move here.

Artistry Cafe Gallery
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Both Singapore and Hong Kong rank first for me. Cities that are conducive to business but also have a growing and thriving arts scene.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The Chinese proverb, ‘It’s better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of an ox,’ always stuck with me. In other words it’s better to run a small company that is your own than be part of something large and sluggish. I have always kept my own business ventures as small and lean as possible.
Who inspires you?
David Sylvian, my favourite musician, as he managed to work ‘the reverse way’ and slowly disappear from the mainstream into sheer avant-garde creativity that explores the boundaries of songwriting. Besides that, he’s a great photographer too.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That we’re probably just 30 years away from singularity, the moment in time when artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence and be able to self-replicate and improve itself autonomously.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Not much. I’d love to do all the same things, but maybe be more courageous and start them earlier.
How do you unwind?
I meditate. Play or listen to music. Watch a movie. Hang out with friends.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’m not one for beaches or resorts but rather, I like to explore cultures and cities. So my pick would be Kyoto, which is probably my favourite city on earth as it strikes the perfect balance between bustling city life and rich cultural background with a huge dose of Zen-ness.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Abundance by Peter Diamandis.
Shameless plug for your business:
Need some Design Thinking done? Visit
Need some great art on your wall? Visit
Need some excellent coffee? Visit Artistry Gallery Café at 17 Jalan Pinang, Singapore
How can people connect with you? /

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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