LOFT spoke to Ben Brown about purchasing high-end art photography for the home.
The owner of Ben Brown Fine Arts gallery recently collaborated with Tim Jefferies (featured in the upcoming Issue 4) for the Westminster Terrace – a recent luxury residential development in Tsuen Wan.
What should buyers be looking out for when they buy photography for the home?
My advice is to decide from the outset what you can afford and to buy the best you can within your budget – never compromise.
Are there any particular artists that are popular with buyers?
I believe some of the best work is being done by photographers in Germany, particularly Düsseldorf, and Japan. Of photographers still working, Candida Höfer – who is part of a group of renowned photographers who trained at the Düsseldorf School of Photography under Bernd and Hiller Becher – is one of the most respected and most exhibited, with more museum shows than any other photographer at the moment. Hiroshi Sugimoto is another of the greatest living photographers and there are lots of exciting young photographers emerging internationally.
How does art photography compare to the fine art markets?
Photography is cheaper, meaning that you can own better images for less than you would pay for the equivalent fine art pieces. It’s unavoidable – prints by definition are capable of being reproduced multiple times. For US$50,000 you can own a great print by Vik Muniz, possibly the greatest living Brazilian artist, whereas it would be much less likely to find a piece of fine art of the same caliber for that price.
Is there considerable interest locally compared to the international market?
We sold a significant numbers of prints by Candida Höfer at a show this summer all to Hong Kong buyers. We deal in a lot of prints by Candida Höfer, mostly selling to Belgium, France and Switzerland amongst other places.
And finally, what are the best avenues to go through when you’ve decided to follow through on your initial interest?
Come to my gallery. There’s nobody like us in Hong Kong.
Ben Brown Fine Arts represents international fine artists and photographers showcasing in two London galleries and a branch in Hong Kong. 301 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central. T 2522 9600. For more information you can email them at email@example.com.
LOFT gets a rare face-to-face chat with interiors guru, Steve Leung
Interior designer and architect Steve Leung has led the design pack in Hong Kong for over 20 years. And he is still going strong – in enough demand that he can pick and choose projects on a whim and with enough experience to power up original ventures of his own.
LOFT interviews the designer at his awe-inspiring head quarters in Kowloon Bay – where the vibe is more New York art gallery than office. Steve settles into a pristine white sofa in the huge harbour view boardroom looking cool and collected in his trademark round glasses and white jacket, and looks back on exactly how he ended up with this empire.
The story begins with architecture – which Steve trained in, graduating in 1981 in Hong Kong and starting his own practice in 1987. Ten years later, though, he restructured the company, splitting it into Steve Leung architecture and Steve Leung Designs. ‘Why? Because I wanted to practice both disciplines at same time. I was equally devoted to both – as opposed to doing one as a secondary firm as many architects do.’ Inevitably, though, one discipline took precedence. ‘When I first set up the firms, I was doing about 85% architecture and the rest interiors. Now it’s almost 100% interiors. That is my passion. Practicing architecture is not easy – I find interiors more interesting and promising in terms of job satisfaction and profitability.’
He obviously made the right decision. Steve Leung now employs more than 300 people with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. ‘70% of our turnover comes from China and despite the international crisis, we have enjoyed steady growth elsewhere in the world, too.’ So what exactly has he been working on lately? The company has a portfolio spanning residential projects to restaurants and hotels – and with no real niche, it’s always a pleasure to hear the latest. ‘The Conduit Road project (see right) is something I am really proud of. It’s a contemporary, Manhattan-style residential project which was a new style for us and turned out amazingly well. I also loved working on the Hyatt Hotel in Shatin and the Crowne Plaza in Causeway Bay.’ The future will also see the company doing a restaurant for the Four Seasons in Guangzhou, as well as the Renzo Piano-designed Shangri-La hotel in London, set to be the tallest building in Europe.
With such a broad spectrum of clients, what would Steve say is his signature style? ‘People tend to call me minimalist; which I both like and dislike. I would say rather than minimal, I am contemporary. But that can be applied in very different ways. I apply different styles according to my clients.’
More recently, Steve is learning to apply himself exactly as he likes; that is, without a client – with a new concept over in Happy Valley. The idea is that he will design and style entire properties before the client has moved in. ‘It’s a bit like high fashion; you don’t go to Armani to tailor make your suit, you go the fashion house to pick the style you want.’ As a compromise, Steve will make small alterations to the property on a client’s request – but the interiors are for the most part done and dusted before the client buys. ‘It’s like prêt-a-porter, these apartments are ready to buy!’
It’s ideas like this that show Steve as an innovator in his field. And his plans don’t stop there. Steve’s next foray is into the restaurant business. ‘I will be opening up two new restaurants before Christmas this year in Causeway Bay. One is Japanese and the other, an Italian – with a chef I am flying in all the way from Tuscany. I love food – and I sometimes feel that restaurants are run from a business perspective rather than a customer perspective. I want good service, good food, good music, art – the whole experience. Detail is so important and I want everything to be right, from the menu design to the staff uniforms.’
The hospitality brand will be called 1957 – Steve’s year of birth – and there are plans to venture into boutique apartments and hotels after the restaurants. ‘I can combine everything I know into these projects, which is exciting.’ And he’s right. So watch this space.
Steve’s Property History
- 1983 – Buys his first apartment in Aberdeen. Priority was a good harbour view and close to water for Steve to practice water sports.
- 1991 – Buys a 1400 square foot apartment in South Bay Tower for HK$4 million. ‘I couldn’t really afford it but I realised I had potential to make more money so I took out a mortgage and went for it.’
- 1995 – Designed a project in Stanley called Stanford villa and ended up buying two units for his wife, two children and parents.
- 2004 – Bought a townhouse in Stanley called Stanley Court where all his family are currently based.
- 2010 – Buys a holiday home in Niseko, Japan from Capella properties. Designed famed Japanese architect, Ando.
Who’s the Mug?
The artist and designer famous for his moustache mugs shares his top 10 inspirations with LOFT
- Drawings by Hans Bellmer
- Watching Austrian swingers being ruthless on Croatian beaches
- 70’s porn from the Castro, San Francisco (I love their moustaches!)
- My German grandmother’s childhood drawings depicting Third Reich swastikas in between innocent bouquets of flowers
- Buddhist meditation and Hatha yoga
- Sacred ghost ceremonies in my mother’s native village in the New Territories, HK
- The Jewish area up the road where I live in London
- Quilt making
- 20’s and 30’s fashion
- Swimming in the sea
To find out more about Peter go to www.peteribruegger.com
The New York designer on his inspirations
What inspired your ‘bite’ cutlery?
Although my work is normally high-spirited and vivid, which is a direct reflection of my personality, “Bite” was created during a time where I was feeling particularly despondent. I was simply frustrated with the unfairness of life. Millions of people are overeating and millions more are dying of starvation. I wanted to create a piece that highlighted this disturbing dichotomy
How did you come to be involved in design, is it something you grew up wanting to do?
I grew up wanting to be Super Man. Unfortunately during my senior year in high school I was forced to put away the cape and choose an occupation that was a bit more realistic. Since I was planning on being Super Man for the previous 17 years I was at a loss for direction. It was at that point that my art professor said, “Mark, you realize that you can be an artist and get paid for it don’t you?” I didn’t know that. But when I heard those words my life had changed. My childhood hobby became my life’s passion.
You do lots of public art – what kind of challenges does this pose?
There are too many challenges to list. However, it is the challenges that makes public art the most satisfying creations to complete
What project are you most proud of?
I am most proud of an installation I did at the Cleveland Museum of Art for their Summer Solstice event in collaboration with Cleveland Public Art. Comprised of nearly 100 eight-foot weather balloons, a dozen 22-foot steel poles, and rope, “White Cloud” was a soft, organic complement to the symmetrical grandness of the Museum. It was my largest installation and not only required months of planning but also a lot of luck. Unfortunately, we were short on luck. After two weeks of installation we were forced to remove the piece the morning of the event because of weather conditions. 5 people saw the completed installation instead of the 5,000 people that attended the event. Yet, it was the most beautiful piece I have ever created.
Have you any plans to come over to HK?
Unfortunately, I have not been to Hong Kong. However, I have plans to come early 2011 and will be creating dozens of temporary public art installations throughout the city. So keep your eyes peeled!
Where do you live and how would you describe your house?
I live in Brooklyn New York in a 12,000 sq. ft. loft space in an old tea factory. I built the space from the floor up. I would describe it as simple and functional. I haven’t left in about 11 days. It’s perfect.