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At House with Artwork Collector Lumen Kinoshita

At House with Artwork Collector Lumen Kinoshita

Lumen Kinoshita reveals the stories behind the many artworks in her home and her guiding principles as a collector.

We’ve all – at least once in our lives – found ourselves guilty of falling into the trap of correlating the elegant with barren and tasteful with dull. And when certain thrice-told quotes, such as Coco Chanel’s famous, “Before you leave the house, take at least one thing off,” or Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s “Less is more”, are being used as universal guiding principles, uniqueness and individuality ultimately become diluted into oblivion.

This is not, however, the case for Lumen Kinoshita, patron of the arts, financier and philanthropist. While I’ve heard quite a few tales of her expansive art collection, I couldn’t imagine the scale of it. When I enter her spacious apartment in Mid-Levels, the whirlwind of colour dizzies my head – in the best sense. The observable collection (because there’s much more to it than meets the eye) of objets and artworks is hard to describe in a single word. Two things are clear: it has Kinoshita’s name all over it and it inspires curiosity. My eyes are immediately drawn to a Neolithic pot, which occupies the table in the foyer and, along with some of the rugs and Suzani textiles in Kinoshita’s collection, was acquired through the late Charlotte Horseman – an illustrious Asian art dealer and a close friend of American businessman Jim Thomson, who mysteriously disappeared in Thailand in 1967.

Lumen Kinoshita and her collection of blue-and-white ceramics

As Kinoshita leads me into her living room, I try to make my eyes focus on a single point or object, but it proves impossible. It’s a veritable treasure trove: the number of artworks per square metre could rival the Amber Room in St Petersburg’s Catherine Palace or the Golestan Palace’s Mirror Hall in Tehran. There’s a nook dedicated to ink art and calligraphy – these artworks, much like their owner, conform to no convention.

Kinoshita largely attributes her penchant for ink art to her father, an avid collector himself. “My father took me to a lot of exhibitions when I was young,” she tells me. “I remember when he took me to meet Chang Dai-chein [the prolific 20th-century Chinese artist known for his expressive splashed-ink landscapes], I was convinced he was a character from a movie, with that long beard of his and the way he dressed!”

Kinoshita’s eclectic dining room, with Simon Birch’s painting holding court

“This is Koon Wai Bong,” says Kinoshita, pointing at an ink-painted fan attached to a peculiar bamboo machine that sets it in motion. “He’s what we call a modern ink painter – I think he now teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.” Next to it is Sui Jiango’s porcelain Discus Thrower, which was once on show at the British Museum, and then more ink. Next to the Four Seasons (a quadriptych of Chinese calligraphy scrolls) is a painting by Ding Yanyong, whose colourful and often humorous depictions of 20th-century society subverted the entire genre of Chinese ink painting. “This piece has a great sense of humour and a child-like quality, similar to early Van Gogh, that draws me in,” Kinoshita says, “which often lacks in traditional, scholarly ink painters” – the kind of art her father preferred.

Then we see more Neolithic pots and antique rugs, which reflect her affinity for “things that feel earthy, raw and handmade.” As it also happens, these pots also have an enduring connection with Hong Kong. “For the longest time, Hong Kong was one of the only places with such a thriving antique pottery scene. Come ’97, a lot of dealers were selling these objects they brought in from the mainland quite aggressively – these are a few remainders from everything that was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in China.”

Kila Cheung’s artwork in Kinoshita’s hallway

There’s also a Marni chaise longue from its first furniture collection, which exudes the artisanal quality we’ve all come to love about the brand: as a part of a charity initiative, it’s entirely hand-woven from coloured wires by Colombian ex-convicts. Kinoshita tells me she bought six chairs in total to support this good cause, though I only get to see one of them.

As we continue our perambulation, I ask Kinoshita about the most special piece she has on display. After pausing for a moment, she takes me to the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and points at a red taxi door hanging on the wall. Huh? “This is by local artist Kila Cheung,” she explains. “It’s very much a real cab door with a smoking cat painted on it. A lot of people were trying to get this piece, and he’s become quite popular in Japan,” she adds. “I bought this during his show in Tai Hang village, which has a lot of mechanic shops with taxis parking on the side. It felt so atmospheric.” Kinoshita describes her collection as “eclectic and personal. I’ve been buying more and more Japanese art lately, because I have the accessibility.” She explains. And, as expected, a collector as prolific as Kinoshita also has a compendium of local art. “I’m assembling a capsule collection of Hong Kong artists. I’m getting there, but I feel like there’s so much variety here these days, that sometimes I get distracted. That’s why I try sticking to big names and a particular theme.” She did, however, buy a sculpture from a young graduate student this year, but it was too large for her to bring home.

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Kinoshita in her woven Marni chaise longue

In the dining area, an impressive arrangement of blue-and-white porcelain holds court: vases big and small, as well as various statuettes. “I put these out for Chinese New Year – some of these are real antiques, others are replicas,” Kinoshita explains, pointing at the largest vessel, which features an image of Qing-dynasty Guangzhou at the time when the city had just opened for foreigners, who weren’t allowed to go further than the harbour. On closer examination of the vase, I see 13 flags drawn on it, each one corresponding to an American, Japanese, British or another trading house.

“I’ll show you how my blue-and-white collection started,” Kinoshita tells me as she walks towards the shelves, picks up a vase and throws it to me. My heart drops, and my face turns that lovely grey shade of a corpse before shifting to red. In my hands, I’m holding a plush toy shaped like a blue-and-white vase and mercifully not shards of delicate porcelain. It’s a real “gotcha” moment.

Judging from Kinoshita’s eclectic and ever-expanding collection of art and artefacts, you’d be correct to assume she’d leafed through hundreds specialised texts, and volumes of literature and history. Yet she assures me that beginner collectors don’t have to become experts. “While many emphasise the importance of research, I say worry not. Instead, let your intuition lead you. Once the interest is sparked and when you fall into love with a piece, then you can follow up with keen research, especially if it’s a big-ticket item. The quest for learning about an artwork, movement or artist will fall into place naturally.”

Source: Prestige Online

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