Lawrence Van Hagen on mixing art advising, curating and collecting
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Lawrence Van Hagen matches his sofa. When we meet in his west London flat, he is wearing a pristine white T-shirt and off-white trousers, blending in with his massive modular cream bouclé sofa. “My partner found it in an online auction,” he says of the undulating seating by Italian designer Ennio Chiggio. “It was mislabelled, bright orange, stained, literally falling apart; it was horrible.”
Freshly upholstered, it is the centrepiece of a living room that is both Van Hagen’s art-filled home and the hub of LVH Art, the advisory business he started in 2016. Today, he has clients around the world and employs a small team across Paris, Hong Kong and London.
“I invite a lot of my clients here, so I love showing artists that I collect and that they could potentially too,” says Van Hagen, 30. He has just landed back in London from Seoul — where his latest What’s Up selling show coincided with Frieze art fair — and is preparing a project for the PAD London design fair next week.
At Van Hagen’s home/gallery, visitors are met by one of Antony Gormley’s cast-iron Blockworks sculptures, standing in a window next to a large abstracted figure by German graphic designer-turned-painter Daniel Richter. “I love placing emerging or mid-career artists with much more known ones,” he says, pointing out a grey-on-black striped Sean Scully. But it’s the vibrant painting by Bolivian-American artist Donna Huanca that he talks most excitedly about: “This is an artist I love. I’ve owned several, sold many, and really promoted her as much as I can.”
Van Hagen inherited the collecting gene from his mother, Susanne Van Hagen, a curator and art collector. “She would take me to the auctions in New York when I was seven or eight years old,” he says. He admits to this stroke of luck: “Who wouldn’t use that kind of advantage?” But “you don’t want to be seen as the guy who’s following his mother around. I work extremely hard.”
On first appearance — from the voluminous hair down to the yellow suede moccasins — and judging by a scroll of the boat trips and buff bodies on his personal Instagram, it would be easy to dismiss Van Hagen as a well-connected globetrotter. But LVH Art has clients across Europe, Asia and the US, both young and more established. “I do think I have a specific aesthetic that some people appreciate — and that has always been a bit of a selling point,” he says. In his office at home, an oil-pastel abstract by young British artist Rachel Jones is combined with mid-century Brazilian furniture by designers Jorge Zalszupin and Joaquim Tenreiro.
The dining room is “a bit of a sexual room”, he says, pointing out a Tracey Emin nude but also a suggestive painting by Katherina Olschbaur — a “great Austrian artist who lives in Los Angeles” recently taken on by gallery Perrotin. A gallery wall of small works includes artists who will be in the London spotlight during Frieze: a drawing by superstar LA-based painter Christina Quarles (showing at Pilar Corrias), a painting by Anthony Cudahy, a hotly tipped American who will be at Grimm and Hales galleries.
As well as the obvious commercial aspect of his What’s Up shows, an unusual way of doing business on the fringes of an art fair, Van Hagen is interested in “creating great experiences”. Last October, during the first Paris+ par Art Basel fair, Van Hagen commandeered the home of designer Benjamin Paulin for his show California Light & Space and Beyond, with artworks by the likes of Larry Bell.
In Seoul, he took a similar approach, setting his show 12 Masters in interior designer Teo Yang’s home — a traditional timber-framed hanok, built in 1917, in the city’s historic Bukchon district. “I was surprised and excited when I first saw the artwork selections,” which included Andy Warhol, Lee Ufan, Stanley Whitney and Yayoi Kusama, says Yang. “In the peaceful atmosphere of a hanok residence, they created a dynamic environment.”
The at-home intervention is becoming a signature of Van Hagen. At PAD London, he has curated the booth of JCRD Design to combine mid-century Brazilian furniture and work by American minimalist artists. “I’m especially excited to see Lina Bo Bardi design pieces in dialogue with Donald Judd’s paintings,” says Luiz Kessler, the gallery’s founder.
In December, Van Hagen’s career will take another turn: he is curating an institutional show of Pop art at the newly opened Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai. Centred around the theme of love, power and fame, it will pull together some of the movement’s major works, from Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to Robert Indiana and Claes Oldenburg.
Given his tri-pronged approach to the art world — collecting, advising and curating — what happens if both Van Hagen and a client eye up the same piece? “It’s really the business that’s a priority,” he says. “I can’t buy everything. I mean, I wish I could . . . ”