We spoke to the gallerist of the moment — Lawrence Van Hagen

If you want to know about what art to be buying right now then this is the man you need to talk to

Lawrence Van Hagen fell into the art world almost by accident. An entrepreneur since he was a teenager, the gallerist’s first love is travel. “My nickname was Lolo, so I started a travel-booking service called Lolo Travel — the tag line was, ‘How low can you go?’” he remembers. “I would book the travel arrangements for my friends’ parents. I still get geeky over plane seats.”

He certainly spent enough time in them. “I worked five summers in a row in China when I was still at school,” he says. “I shadowed the managing director of Louis Vuitton when I was 13 and went back to China every year after that.”

Following a computer-science degree at UCL, Van Hagen dreamed of setting up a travel tech company. To raise the necessary funds, he decided to put on an art show. “My mother has always been involved in the art world and as a child at birthdays and Christmas I would ask for paintings instead of other presents,” he says. “And many of my friends would ask me what artists to buy, so it seemed natural to me.”

The inaugural show, What’s Up, in Soho in 2016, had an 85 per cent sell through rate — formidable for any exhibitor, let alone a first-timer. “The idea was based on the notion of what’s up on walls today, who are the artists to look out for right now,” he says. “And suddenly I realised, ‘Damn, I really love what I’m doing.’”

Since then, Van Hagen has become something of an unofficial counsel for first-time art buyers of any age. I suspect some of that success comes down to his singular demeanour. On the sunny roof terrace at 5 Hertford Street, in an Italian charcoal double-breasted suit, the 25-year-old bounces with an infectious energy and a near-omnivorous knowledge of the contemporary art scene.

“I put on an average 40 to 50 artists per show and I believe in every single one of them. I don’t only put up market artists, either.” To Van Hagen, transparency is key. “Sometimes I tell my clients, ‘This is a really beautiful painting. I don’t think it’ll be worth 10 times the price next year, but I absolutely love it.’”

Van Hagen also makes a point of meeting every artist he exhibits. “The art is only part of the story. You need to know where it came from,” he says. “And you need to think about where it’s going. I’m very careful where I place these artists — you can ruin an artist’s career if you sell to the wrong person.”

As for the future, Van Hagen’s outlook is as international as you’d hope. “I feel that the market in Asia has only been tapped to 1 or 2 per cent of its potential,” he says. “I’m looking at places such as Korea — I’d love to grow What’s Up over there.

“What’s great about what I do is that my work is my passion and I do it on a daily basis. Life is pretty straightforward when that’s the case.”

Everything you don't need to know about Lawrence Van Hagen

  • School house: Newlands (Harrow)
  • Most valuable piece on his walls: 1969 Kenneth Noland called White Heat
  • Favourite art on his walls: Painting by Donna Huanca or sculpture by Matthew Ronay
  • Favourite holiday destination: Patmos, Greece
  • How many shows he has hosted: 6 between London, New York and Hong Kong
  • First exhibition: Berwick St, Soho
  • Instagram Followers: 11.5k

This came from our July/August issue. To read more like this subscribe to get every issue sent direct to your door…

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