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Luxury Jeweller Lauren Khoo On How To Start Building A Truly Personal Art Collection

Meet the new generation of art world players who don't fall into the industry's traditional roles. Here, luxury jeweller and art collector Lauren Khoo shares her tips on how to start building an art collection – from avoiding the hype to buying from female artists.

You know this architectural studies and visual arts-trained independent luxury jeweller for her witty designs that draw inspiration from the likes of Jeff Koons and gummy bears. More recently, she made headlines for designing four pieces for Oscar de la Renta’s Spring/Summer 2020 show – her first runway project – adding to her list of accolades that includes being the first Singapore designer to be stocked at Moda Operandi and Dover Street Market.

Her other beloved pursuit that only those who follow her personal (and private) Instagram account might get a hint of: travelling the world to collect art. While regular posts of her willowy, often Cecilie Bahnsen-clad frame poised in front of gallery walls might have all the makings of the intellectual girl’s OOTD moment, she’s a serious art aficionado (runs in the family, she says) who started her collection eight years ago at age 25.

American Pop Artist Richard Prince’s Untitled (original), 2012, is one of Khoo’s favourite pieces from her own collection.

Her first purchase: Tracey Emin’s I Can’t Believe How Much I Loved You neon light sculpture, which she acquired from the Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York. “There’s just something so poetic and heartbreaking about it; the feelings that run through a viewer’s mind when they first lay eyes on it,” she explains.

While art collectors (and Khoo) can be notoriously private, she’s also intent on dispelling preconceptions that collecting art is an elitist, intimidating affair. Here, her tips on starting a collection, honed through years of experience:

Buy based on love, not financial returns

“I believe that true art collectors buy because they desire to wake up to their pieces every morning. Liking a work and whether it has the potential to increase in value isn’t mutually exclusive. If the latter happens, then great. How an artist performs in the secondary market (where art is resold) is a good indication of how the art market – not collectors – responds to their work.”

Get the feels, then do your homework

“Most of the time when collecting art, there’ll be something that triggers a feeling – it could be an artist’s belief or even their background that jolts something in you. And when something catches my eye, I’ll research the artist. It’s also good to know an artist’s CV as it gives a good indication of their career (progression).”

Look for clarity & context

“How substantial a piece of artwork is has nothing to do with its value. In my opinion, a substantial work by an artist is one that’s representative, clear, strong, distinctive and should be studied in relation to where it stands within the artist’s portfolio. A piece that I recently acquired for under US$10,000 (S$13,700) is a drawing by (Canadian contemporary painter) Marcel Dzama that’s a clear representation of his ouvre, and one of the strongest work I’ve come across from that series.”

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