2019.06.28    -    EPISODE #4

Lawrence Van Hagen

London | Founder of LVH ART, Art Advisor and Curator


Let us introduce you to Lawrence Van Hagen, the fourth guest of the digital project #HouseOfMolteni. Art curator, young and talented.



Lawrence Van Hagen

London | Founder of LVH ART, Art Advisor and Curator

Let us introduce you to Lawrence Van Hagen, the fourth guest of the digital project #HouseOfMolteni. Art curator, young and talented.

Today, we are in conversation with LAWRENCE VAN HAGEN, founder of LVH ART and curator of the What's Up exhibitions.

1 | Tell us a little bit about yourself...

My name is Lawrence van Hagen. I was born in Paris to a German mother and a British father, and now live in London. I am curator and an advisor. I curate commercial art shows called What’s Up, which, in a way, are like a survey of what I believe people should look at today, in terms of the artist they should learn of and invest in.
Apart from London, where I live, I also do these shows in New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. I chose these cities in particular because I think they are art hubs for those particular regions in the world. New York for the Americas, London for Europe, then Hong Kong and Seoul for Asia.

2 | Art and design are two passions of yours. Where does this passion come from and what do they mean to you?

I was raised in a home filled with pieces of art and design. Especially art, of which my mother has a large collection. Mainly fine art, but there is also a considerable collection of design furniture and vintage lamps.
For me personally, art comes first. I am in the middle of furnishing my house in London at present, and what I’ll do is place all the art in my home and then see what kind of design can go alongside the paintings, sculptures and installations I have. I’m now looking a mix of Italian mid-century designers, such as Gio Ponti and Parisi, but also much younger incognito designers.
Everything I tend to like is quite of a sober nature in order to not clutter too much.

After all, my motto for everything is ‘less is more’. So I tend to have a minimal number of items of furniture and try to focus on the art to filling up the room.

3 | Considering the complexity of your job, how do you discover a work of art or a true artist?

First and foremost, artists are discovered mainly because of their work. That’s actually a big part of what I do today for my exhibitions. I show my clients what I believe ‘is up’ at the moment. The shows are called ‘What’s up’ for that reason, so I can show them what’s up today and what artists to look out for.
Usually I will do this through visiting galleries and art fairs all over the world. Lately I went to Frieze Los Angeles, a contemporary art fair where you can meet lots of artists and many more even after the fair, through their recommendations and connections. This is especially effective for getting to know the younger generation of artists. Personal collections are also a good way to discover unknown talents and so is Social Media. I visit art pages and read blogs, or even go through Instagram.
When I look at sourcing an artwork for a show, I have to ensure that it works well in the overall exhibition and I must also believe it is the best work of the artist. I focus on this aspect as my exhibitions are group exhibitions and usually tend to show one work per artist.

When it comes to my particular collection, I have to like it 100%. If I like the artist, I tend to acquire a range of work across several media and at different stages of the artist’s life.

4 | How can you tell what is art and what is not?

4 | How can you tell what is art and what is not?

To an extent everything can be art if it is meant to be art. If an artist conceives a particular work as an art piece, then that it is what qualifies it as art. For me, working in the art and fine art industry, art is a painting or a sculpture, but then I also view poetry, music and film as art. They are all art forms, part of this creative bubble of things created by humans. Even science is art.

5 | What type of works of art do you keep in your house, which ones in your living room and which ones in your bedroom?

In my living room I have quite a few works. A stunning piece by a German artist called Georg Baselitz, one of the iconic expressionist painters, and one by Donna Huanca, a Bolivian-American artist in her late thirties. I would consider her an emerging contemporary artist, although she is becoming very known nowadays.
Then I have a beautiful bronze sculpture by an artist called Anthony Pearson, which I have showed in my exhibitions multiple times. Also a lot of little works on paper by different artists, such as Sterling Ruby, Celia Hampton, Loie Hollowell, and Akashi, an amazing sculptor based in Los Angeles who works with glass and bronze.
Two of my favourite pieces are in my bedroom. An incredible work by Kenneth Noland, one of the best known American Colour Field painters, which I have dialoguing with a piece by Adam Pendleton, who does very political Black Lives Matter canvases and installations. This one is 3 meters tall, a very dark painting that I wake up to every morning. Some people may think it is a bit dark, but I actually love it.

6 | Can you describe the moment when you actually fall in love with an artwork and decide “That is going to be part of my personal collection”? What happens in your heart and in your mind?

6 | Can you describe the moment when you actually fall in love with an artwork and decide “That is going to be part of my personal collection”? What happens in your heart and in your mind?

When I see an artwork that I love, I am mainly driven by the classical terms. If we talk about a painting, I focus on the subject of that painting, the colour, and the materials. For example, if I focus on one by Dona Huanca, as I have two in my living room, it has a huge amount of blue pigment on the work, which reminds me of Yves Klein. The colour is so strong, that just looking at it excites you. Her own working process is pretty incredible. She does incredible painting of performing dancers. First, she will paint them with pigments and take pictures of parts of their bodies. These are subsequently printed on very large canvases, which are then painted over with similar colours used on the dancers. So you have the print effect and on top you have the pigment. It creates a sort of a figurative/abstract form that you would not recognise as apart of a body. That whole process excited me a lot.

7 | How would you describe the relationship between your house and the art it contains?

The house must have high ceilings. In London, it is often a challenge to find a place that can house large paintings, so I was very lucky to find a beautiful home that I love, with 4.5m high ceilings that allow me to display large works of art. Not being able to live with your artworks would be a pity. This happens a lot, with people buying art pieces that then go to storage, as they do not have the necessary space in the house.
I also love smaller artwork. I have a long corridor in the house with lots of small drawings of assorted artists. It is probably one of my favourite walls because it is varied and different.

8 | Although art has a main role in the nation’s culture, Italians are often unaware of the Art surrounding them. Would you agree?

In Italy, I definitely agree. I work a lot in China, but that statement would not work over there. In Italy, France, and even London, everywhere you walk there is art, from the buildings to the sculptures. Let’s not even talk about the culture in the city itself, its exhibitions. Paris, for example, has the most incredible exhibitions all year round, more contemporary ones, which is more a focus to me, but also Rome has a great exhibition.

9 | What was your first connection with art? Where were you and how did you feel about it?

My first connection with art is definitely linked to my mother. I give 100% credit to my mother. She is still my mentor to this day. She not only filled our home, but also took me to galleries, museums and auctions all around the world from the age of 6. I still remember the first auction I attended in New York, at Christies. We talk about my business on a daily basis and work very close together. We discuss what we like, what we should potentially like in the future what we should add to our collections or to the shows

10 | Can you tell us about the travelling related to your passion of arts?

I absolute love travelling. The synergy between art and travel is something that has driven me 100% towards arts. When I finished my studies I was working on a travel start-up. I wanted to have this big online travel business, organising unique experiences all around the world. To raise funds for this business I decided to organise an exhibition, which was the first ‘What’s up’ show in London. We had two galleries in Soho, 50 artists, mainly contemporary. The show was a huge success. Then I had a second show, which was sold out, and I realized that I really enjoyed working in arts. But, I also realized that this would have allowed me to travel around the world anyway, so now I go to every art fair, be it in Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Istanbul, New York. There are a lot of incredible events linked to art around the world. Like museum shows, particular installations, the Biennale opening in May. It is probably the best week of every two years I have. I absolutely love it.

However, not taking into account art, I travel leisurely all the time, every week. I just had an amazing trip to the Svalbard islands, one of the least inhabited places of the world. These are the type of adventures I really like. A couple of months ago I went to a magic place called Siwa, an oasis in Egypt, where everything is made of salt and mud. Absolutely incredible. What is even more incredible is that there is no electricity. The place I stayed at, called Adrere Amellal, was filled with candles, so very romantic. A big art collector lives next door, and has only one power generator, which he uses for one thing only: a James Turrell light installation. Where could you see this if you were not travelling?

11 | Do you have any favourite art destination, when looking for a new artist or even inspiration?

My family has a small art centre in Paris called More Young Americans, which exhibits artist from North America. My main focus in the US are the fairs in New York, Miami and LA. I also do extensive studio visits to see all the galleries, whether they are new or established ones. And all the museums, of course. Last I Christmas I went to Marfa in Texas, the town of Donald Judd, one of the most iconic American artists. Here they have the Chinati Foundation, based on his ideas, which has the most insane art installation in the middle of the desert.
You are 6 hours from Austin, in the middle of nowhere. It is a huge place for inspiration, to sort of see how I would curate. The Chinati Foundation shows 10 artists, and each artist has its own room. My exhibitions tend to have 50 artists, and I usually focus on one or maybe two works from each artist. So this has inspired me lately to think about focusing on 10 artists and showcase multiple works by the same artists by also creating individual rooms.

12 | How does innovation affect your work?

In terms of the artist themselves, whether their creations are Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality or video, it brings a huge amount of diversity and excitement. I always try to incorporate these kinds of mediums in my exhibitions.
In terms of the work itself, it provides a much easier interaction and communication with clients, wherever they are in the world. Think of client databases or digital catalogues.
It allows you to be even more competitive, more immediate. If you send a picture of an artwork by Whatsapp, it immediately gets shared and cause what we call a ‘burned painting’ effect, one that everyone wants to purchase. I am quite old school, I do things at a steady pace. I still do printed catalogues. In the market, the biggest collectors are old school and they prefer a printed catalogue, one they can go through page by page.

13 | Do you have any secret passions or hobbies?

My number one passion is definitely travel. I also love sports. I used to play polo, which allowed me to go to Argentina 2-3 times a year. Nowadays I play a lot of tennis, as I am very lucky to have a tennis court in front of my house. Obviously art is a big passion. One cannot work in this field if not passionate about it. Another passion I have is to organise things. Although not a real hobby, a big part of my job requires organizing events, finding various locations that are not actual locations. I love to organise trips as well. Funnily enough, I have a mini travel agency named after my nickname Lolo (Lolo Travels), and everybody tends to call me for the best advice on where to go and what to do. I am the king at finding 1st class travel at economy prices, so they all tend to call me for that.

14 | You regularly host exhibitions in London, Paris and New York, having an incredible success. What is your secret?

14 | You regularly host exhibitions in London, Paris and New York, having an incredible success. What is your secret?

There are a few secrets, and one is that I am truly committed and I do not take no as an answer. You have to be resourceful, or as they say in France, débrouillard, which means that you are quick in finding solutions, which tend to be my forte. For example, for my latest show in London, I got the space only 2 weeks before. It was an old and totally run down shop: I had to demolish it and modernise it as an art gallery. I went to 3 different builders and each builder ended up letting me down. But when you have a vision, persistence and dedication, it always tends to go well. Another aspect to take into account is relationships, whether these are with, the galleries, the collectors or the artists who lend me the work. For my next show in Hong Kong, I have important works coming from private collections, hence I must have good relationships with those individuals. The same applies to the buyers, who you must convince that the artwork is truly worth purchasing. I do not have a big gallery behind me, so I have to build my own clientele.

15 | How would you describe London in one word?

The best word to describe London is International. Anywhere you go, you find someone from somewhere else. A melting pot of nationalities, of people with different interests, which make this city so vibrant. It is a unique feature that no other city in the world has. Think about New York; it is very cosmopolitan, but most people are American in New York. Rome is Italian, Paris is French. London, being an Anglo-Saxon city in Europe, gathers different nationalities. I picked London because it is very international. Most of my friends are of different nationalities; I have very few English friends.

16 | What are your favourite locations in London?

16 | What are your favourite locations in London?

There are a couple of places that I really like a lot. The first is The River Café, which is a great place for lunch and dinner in the summer, outside on the river, and with incredible food. The second the South Kensington Club, which has an amazing tea room, a great gym and a lovely restaurant providing healthy food. It also has a Spa with a Russian Banya, where you can get a leafy branch massage. London is city of private members’ clubs and you have to be member everywhere. This one though, is one of the only members’ clubs with a health aspect to it. Hertford Street Club is another amazing members’ club I go to often. Also Annabel’s, which has just reopened. It is a decadent building, full of crazy furniture, design, art and people. A place where they organise incredible events. These are my favourite places.

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