When he’s not working his day job as a creative director at design firm The Establishment Group and a partner at lifestyle store Supplies & Co, Ken Tan is indulging in collecting art. Over the past eight years, the 38-year-old has amassed a healthy collection that appeals to his love for subcultures. We step into his home and his world of art. What a gorgeous home!
Did you design it with your art collection in mind?
Knowing where the art will go is easy. You just have to give the works plenty of wall space for them to breathe. For the rest of the home, I preferred it to have no design. It’s not minimalistic, because that in itself is a movement. I just went with what’s practical: white walls and cement floors.
Which of these works was your first serious buy?
When I did a website for (English electronic musician) James Lavelle about eight years ago, I asked for an artwork by (American graffiti artist) Futura instead of monetary payment. Futura is behind the famous Pointman figure that has appeared on many James Lavelle albums, which I used to listen to growing up. I didn’t realise how valuable the artwork was until someone offered me US$30,000 (S$37,500) for it!
Do you look for pieces that will be of value in the future?
I feel that “affordable” art – works that are typically below $10,000 – cannot appreciate in value. That is why my wife and I always consider pieces that are priced from $10,000, and we try not to follow trends. We buy really slowly, maybe a piece a year. But first and foremost, the art needs to make me happy when I look at it.
Besides the price, what other factors would you consider before buying an artwork?
You have to see where the artist is heading – the kinds of galleries he works with, and the institutes he’s associated with. This way, you can be certain that there are people interested in his work.
Which galleries do you frequent?
I often go straight to Etsuko Nakajima, the gallery director of Galerie Perrotin. But you have to develop a relationship and prove that you’re a serious buyer. This is because the art world is now filled with people who just buy and sell.
Do you have a favourite piece that you won’t sell?
A painting that resembles a car seat, by Japanese artist Kaz Oshiro, whom Etsuko recommended. He creates sculptures of ordinary things, such as speakers and microwave ovens, with canvas stretchers. Some say his art is gimmicky, but he references great artists like Frank Stella of the minimalist movement and sculptor Claes Oldenburg.
Which artists are you keeping an eye on now?
I’m going back to the comic-book style, so perhaps a piece by Gary Panter. He was part of the Los Angeles subculture movement in the 1970s and 1980s.