Art Collector Questionnaire

Art Advisor Lawrence Van Hagen Shares Why His Dining Room Is Designed Around Subtly Sexual Artwork

All images courtesy of Lawrence Van Hagen.

With a market that moves as quickly as the art world does, it's necessary to maintain a regular diet of the latest news and developments. London-based art advisor and curator Lawrence Van Hagen has taken it upon himself to deliver such information in the form of an exhibition series, titled simply "What's Up."

The LVH Art founder grew up in the art world and now works in tandem with his Paris-based mother, collector and curator Susanne Van Hagen. The pop-up shows bring together a selection of emerging and blue chip artists in locations including Seoul, Paris, and Hong Kong. 

Despite his international presence, the collector continues to make London his home, covering his walls with the likes of Tracey Emin, Daniel Richter, Donna Huanca, Issy Wood, and Christina Quarles. Here, Van Hagen opens the doors to his Chelsea apartment, letting CULTURED in on his provocative dining room decor and ever-changing wall art. 

What do you think makes the London art scene distinct?

One of the great things [about] London’s art scene is the art schools. Schools like the RCA, RA, Slade, and Goldsmiths continue to create and nurture incredible young artists that are taking the contemporary art world by storm (such as Issy Wood, Rachel Jones, and Pam Evelyn, to name a few). Similarly, London offers such a vast range of galleries—from the most established international galleries, to small, cutting-edge independent galleries that can be found all around the city.

From top left, clockwise: Emily Mae Smith, Rogue Wave Study, 2016; Anthony Cudahy, Pasolini’s Dream II,  2021; Paula Kamps, Short Cover, 2017; Sara Anstis, Grey Dog, 2019.

Where does the story of your personal collection begin?

I have been fortunate enough to live with art from a young age as my mother is also a life-long collector. The very first work of art in my collection was actually a gift: a small work on paper by the artist duo Muntean and Rosenblum. However, the first significant piece I bought for myself was an abstract painting by Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca. She is an artist I have championed for many years now, featuring her in many of the shows I have curated throughout the years. 

How does your taste differ from that of your family?

My personal taste is very minimalist. I have always been drawn to the great minimal American artists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Sol LeWitt. In an ideal world, my house would be filled with just these artists. I find their works to have a calming and contemplative presence. Recently, I acquired a "Magnatron Series" piece by James Turrell, who is another minimalist artist I particularly admire.

As an advisor and collector, what is a piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their collecting journey?

Firstly, buy at a level that makes sense for you and your budget. Start off small if you need to. Secondly, completely immerse yourself in the gallery scene. Go to as many exhibitions and auction previews as you can. The more you see, the more you will begin to build and hone in your personal taste. One of the best places for a new collector to visit are art fairs. They provide a unique opportunity to discover hundreds of galleries and hundreds of artists all in one place. Finally, seek advice from someone you trust. 

Tracey Emin, It was almost like physical love, 2016.

Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors?

My dining room. I thought it would be fun to curate a room filled with works that are all a little provocative. Each of the works have subtly sexual elements that slowly appear the more you look at them. Almost all the works in the room are by female artists, such as Tracey Emin, Christina Quarles, and Sara Anstis, which was also important for me. The work by Quarles in this room is particularly special as it was gifted to me after I helped with a donation of one of her paintings to the Guggenheim.

Which artist are you currently most excited about and why?

I just bought two works while I was in Miami in December, during Art Basel. One is a painting by a young artist called Dustin Emory, who creates these incredible monochromatic canvases which explore the human response to confinement, which were on view at NADA.

Another is a work by WangShui, who uses aluminium as their canvas, spreading oils as thinly as possible to illuminate intricate abrasions made on the panels. Both of these artists are particularly innovative, and I am excited to see what they have in store for the year ahead. 

Daniel Richter, Haparanda (Tyska II), 2020.

What factors do you consider when expanding your collection?

When I’m considering acquiring a new work for my collection, I first look at what shows the artist has been a part of (whether that be in a commercial gallery, group show, or museum exhibition). I see if I know anyone else in my network who also collects the artist. I look at which upcoming projects they have. Lastly, I try to find time to meet with the artist and visit their studio to better understand their creative process.

Is there one piece that got away, or that you still think about?

There was a small Lenz Geerk painting that I tried to buy at a virtual art fair being held during the pandemic. Sadly I missed out on the opportunity as it was sold to another collector whilst I was negotiating it. He’s an artist I am keen to add to my collection.

Left to right: Sam Gilliam, A Series 4, 2015; Donna Huanca, High Roze, 2017; Ha Chong-Hyun, Conjunction 22-07, 2022.

How has your collection changed as your home and space has changed?

I am constantly moving pieces around to create new dialogues in my space. However, I do sometimes get attached to certain works being on certain walls in my home, so it can sometimes be tricky. 

A lot of my clients come to my apartment, so I’ve created a living room that really showcases the variety of my taste. My collection is a combination of emerging and established artists so I’m always trying to find the right balance between displaying the two together. In my living room you might find a large Wolfgang Tillmans photograph paired alongside a small Sean Scully work on paper, or a highly-textured painting by Korean artist Ha Chong-Hyun hanging above three delicate suede canvases by emerging British artist Poppy Jones.

Want to read more from collectors around the world? Read Oleg Guerrand-Hermés's six-step process for discovering new artists, David Cancel's strategy for helping Puerto Rican artists find their way into museums, or how Erin Leider-Pariser discovered collecting while working at Beth Rudin DeWoody's personal trainer.