An Interview with the Art Dealer and Curator Lawrence Van Hagen in Mayfair, London
Lawrence Van Hagen is a young curator and collector working between London and Paris. We met at Café Boulestin in Mayfair to hear about his much-anticipated exhibition What’s Up featuring fifty young contemporary artists. With a blend of both emerging and established artists, young collectors will be exposed to a range of mediums from painting and photography to sculpture and video art. The exhibition runs from the 14th-30th April between Soho Revue Gallery and the neighbouring Union Club on Greek Street in the heart of London’s Soho. Highlights include Jonas Wood, Shio Kusaka, Mark Flood and Sterling Ruby alongside a plethora of fresh talent. Lawrence has followed many of the artists since their earliest beginnings like Zane Lewis, Flavie Audi and Alexander May.
Lawrence grew up in the art world and remembers waving a Sotheby’s paddle at the age of five. Since then he’s continued to explore the private collections of world-renowned art dealers, collectors and gallerists as well as artists studios and galleries. By the time he left school, Lawrence was already hosting his first auction at Phillips in collaboration with Simon de Pury, raising over £1m to fund public school bursaries for underprivileged young people. Lawrence’s family also have a successful art advisory business specialising in post-war, modern and contemporary art within which his role is acting as the intermediary between a network of young collectors and artists. To stay current he constantly travels between art fairs – Art Basel and Frieze Masters being his favourites – whilst ensuring that he visits their smaller counterparts like NADA at Art Basel, Miami.
When in Paris, Lawrence helps run the Tokyo Arts Club at Palais de Tokyo hosting art talks from a broad spectrum of internationally-renowned artists. He also helped set up the private art centre More Young Americans in Paris to attract more artists to the city, especially those they support in LA. When asked about his collection of art, Lawrence didn’t hesitate to speak passionately about each of his favourites from the photographer Alex Prager to Anish Kapoor and his protégé Lauren Keeley’s panels. As illustrated by the breadth of his knowledge of contemporary art, the artists in this exhibition are the true choice of young collector who understands his generation’s outlook. With plans to take the exhibition to Munich and perhaps even Hong Kong, go and see 'What’s Up’ on London’s art scene.
What's the story behind your upcoming What's Up exhibition in Soho?
What’s Up features 50 of the most exciting young contemporary artists from around the world, brought together in a dynamic survey. The show's title - with its multiplicity of meanings - points to a consideration of a particular strand of the contemporary art scene, the artists to discover today. I've focused on a younger generation of artists, both on those who are followed within the art market such as Katherine Bernhardt, Brian Calvin, Ella Kruglyanskaya or Matthew Brandt as well as those who are just on the cusp of success.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?
I've always followed my passion for art, but after graduating from UCL and then the Imperial College Business School I decided to follow art as my chosen career path.
How important is nurturing that personal relationship with the artists you work with?
It is very important, because I try and meet all the artists I show or at least talk to them to understand how they work and what their career aspirations are. If I am selling their work, it's crucial not only to be able to describe them and their work as eloquently as possible, but also to understand whether or not they are serious and ready to build a career. I also love meeting artists, because they often introduce me to others, leading to the discovery of exciting artists and work.
What piece of your personal collection would you like to be remembered for?
I've collected so many different artists who I continue to admire as they develop. I want to be seen as an early supporter of emerging artists who will eventually by picked up by established collectors, museums and galleries.
Can you tell us about the process of curating your exhibitions?
I believe that it's important to meet as many people as possibly to build a kind of trust. The process of curating What’s Up took over 6 months, because extensive research over the past few years meant that my list of about 250 artists had to be slowly boiled down to 50. I then had to contact all of the artists and galleries to officially consign the various works I wanted. After which I organised all of the shipping from cities like New York, LA, Berlin, Milan and Paris to London. I've just finished receiving all of the works, which will lead to finalising the exhibition catalogue and physically curating the works together for the show's opening.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I am happy to be born today.
What do you think of the art fairs, which do you prefer?
I go to at least six art fairs a year in cities like Miami, New York, Basel, Paris, London, Brussels, Rio and Hong Kong. Fairs are important not only to discover what is on today’s walls in terms of both known and new art, but also to meet and network with people you could work with. Although, for clients art fairs can be a little overwhelming, because there is so much to see and so much pressure to buy. I would like to think that my show is a kind of mini art fair, but one that supports the artists rather than the galleries.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Which (established) contemporary artists would you bring together in an ideal exhibition?
Come to the What’s up exhibition and you will see. These are all the artists that I love, support and collect.
Which galleries in London do you visit for inspiration?
I frequent all sorts of galleries from Gagosian, Simon Lee and White Cube to smaller ones such as Roman Road. I also love visiting art centres such as the Zabludowicz Collection and the David Roberts Foundation. In terms of the larger galleries I regularly go to the Serpentine, the Royal Academy, Tate Modern and Victoria & Albert museum.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Yes, I believe that creative expression comes in all forms. One might prefer a certain form of creative expression, but that does not mean that the other kind isn’t valid and true.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
My career has only just begun, but I would imagine that everyone questions their career goals on a regular basis.
What is your favourite art gallery and why?
David Kordansky in Los Angeles – I just love all their artists.
What is your daily routine when working?
I rise early and stay focused throughout the whole day. Working on my start-up at the same time as curating exhibitions can be challenging, but being organised is key. I don't have a 'daily' routine as such, because things change everyday.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
The time I spent working in China during past internships with companies like Louis Vuitton, Uber and Alcatel Lucent.
What advice would you give to a young curator following in your footsteps?
Be friendly, meet the artists and above all follow your taste and believe in the artists that you are promoting.
Are there any websites you rely on for a view of the art world?
ART PRICE, ARTSY, ARTNET and INSTAGRAM to discover new artists
Why do you love what you do?
I get to meet amazing people, travel the world and inspire people to love art.
14 – 30th April 2016
Address: Soho Revue, 14 Greek Street, London W1D 4DP & Union Club, 49 Greek St, London W1D 4EQ
Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 10:00 – 19:00 (or by appointment)
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com