Millennial art advisor Lawrence Van Hagen explains how he collects artists of his generation
Lawrence Van Hagen is putting the finishing touches on his new home, a bright and airy apartment filled with art and design in London’s Cadogan Square. The 27-year-old collector is a day art advisor, having founded LVH Art, specializing in post-war, modern and contemporary art.
Since 2016, he has found a successful sales format by organizing a series of pop-up exhibitions, titled “What’s Up,” designed to raise the profile of emerging artists by putting them in dialogue with more established names. So far, the shows have been staged in five different countries, from France to South Korea.
The program reflects the personal tastes and collection of Van Hagen, which includes emerging names of his generation, such as Issy Wood and Christina Quarles, as well as industry heavyweights like Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz.
We caught up with the collector at his new home in London to talk about the work of art he covets the most, and the very delicate sculpture that visitors can’t seem to keep their hands on.
What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?
I bought my first Donna Huanca painting for less than £ 10,000 in 2016. It’s amazing to see all the career milestones she has taken since then and how her practice is developing. I grew up in a family of art collectors, but it was the first great work of art that I bought myself, which is why I feel particularly attached to it. I couldn’t live without it! He moved with me from house to house.
I first met Huanca in 2015 and immediately fell in love with her practice. There is a very mystical element in his paintings and his performances: the intensity of colors, textures and shapes. Since then, I collect his works and place them in the collections of my clients. She is one of the most impressive artists of our generation and I have no doubts that she will continue to push the boundaries and surpass herself. His exhibitions at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna and the Marciano Art Foundation in LA were groundbreaking.
What was your most recent purchase?
A large format canvas by Daniel Richter. I love the intensity of the colors against the presence of fragmented bodies, it is beautifully disturbing. His recent works take a path between figuration and abstraction that creates these surrealist landscapes loaded with symbolism and references to the history of art. However, they escape a single interpretation, which makes his work even more interesting.
Coming from a German family, I developed a special appreciation for German artists and I think Daniel Richter is one of the most important artists in German painting. He was born in Eutin and now lives and works in Berlin. At the beginning of the 90s, he studied in Hamburg with Werner Büttner, one of the protagonists, with Martin Kippenberger, of the revival of the expressive tendencies of painting in the 80s, then worked as assistant to Albert Oehlen. These artistic influences are evident in his work, but he has managed to create his own style and his own vocabulary, and I find it fascinating.
What works or artists do you hope to add to your collection this year?
The first artist on my list is Martha Jungwirth. I have already placed a few in my clients’ collections and this year I would like to buy one myself. Her process is a direct rhythm involving the body, with fingerprints and even scratches remaining as a visceral record of her presence in the work. It’s loaded with passion and soul, and it’s really moving and emotional.
Another artist on my list is Loïe Hollowell. I bought one of his beautiful works on paper a few years ago and would like to get my hands on one of his paintings soon. I love the way she explores the female body in such a bodily way: the textures, the shapes, the colors, the three-dimensionality of the canvases. His most recent work is breathtaking.
What is the most expensive piece of art you own?
A magnificent “Abstraktes Bild” by Gerhard Richter. I am very happy that not only is this coin the most expensive in my collection, but it is also the most important and the most historically relevant. Richter is widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary artists in the world, and he is possibly the greatest living European artist. I am very proud and honored to own this painting and to be the guardian of its work, which is among the most important museums and art collections in the world.
Where do you buy art most often?
Artist workshops when possible, otherwise galleries and fairs. Art fairs can be a bit overwhelming, but I always find something that I like, or something that I’ve been eyeing for a while. I also love shopping in galleries, but for me the greatest joy in collecting art is getting to know the artist on a personal level and being able to buy directly from his studio.
Is there a work that you regret purchasing?
Not really. I always say “buy what you like”. And that has always been my premise. Of course, there are works that I like better than others, or works that I have that don’t really have much value, but that’s not something that matters when you buy out of passion. .
What work have you hung over your sofa? And in your bathroom?
In the living room above the sofa, I have works by Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz. The dialogue between the two is remarkable. Both being post-war German artists, they create a narrative fueled by 20th century history, and they transcend beauty, they are eternal and transcendent.
In the TV room I placed a Tern (Stars) photo of Thomas Ruff from 2012 and above the tub I have a photo of Alex Prager from 2010. They are both very important and interesting photographers, the first disciple of Bernd and Hilla Becher, the second disciple of Cindy Sherman.
What’s the least practical piece of art you own?
The most delicate Kelly Akashi sculpture that everyone seems to want to touch. I love this sculpture. It’s funny because Akashi is known for creating sculptures and installations that emphasize the reciprocity of touch. I think it’s safe to say that his work really lives up to these claims!
My sculpture is as fragile as it is beautiful, it is a bronze cast of two intertwined hands, capturing a momentary gesture in a perpetual existence.
What work would you have liked to buy when you had the chance?
A hero painting by Vojtech Kovarik and another Lenz Geerk. Kovarik is a young artist from the Czech Republic who paints figuratively, depicting mythological heroes who challenge assumptions about sexuality and gender. His brightly colored compositions give rise to punchy paintings that evoke the strength of sculpture, making the characters in his paintings even more Herculean. Conversely, his stereotypical hyper masculine subjects display postures evoking fragility and introspection.
Geerk is another artist that I love. I own one of his works but I will always regret not buying a second when I get the chance. His paintings depict people on the brink of excitement, creating psychologically charged paintings that bring out hidden emotions in the human psyche.
If you could steal a work of art without getting caught, what would it be?
A painting by Cy Twombly “Bacchus”. In the 1950s, Twombly wrote that the act of painting could spring from “an ecstatic impulse,” and I find that these paintings convey a similar intensity: the energy of uninterrupted movement through large canvases. Entitled after the Roman god of wine, the red color of Bacchus’ paintings evokes both wine and blood, encompassing both the sensual pleasure and violent debauchery associated with the god.
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