From the Heart
Fashion guru Marleen Molenaar shows Leanne Mirandilla around her home—a showcase to a stunning art collection that was decades in the making
Fashion guru Marleen Molenaar’s home showcases a stunning art collection that was decades in the making
We’re shown into fashion maven turned art agency founder Marleen Molenaar’s abode in the Mid-Levels on an afternoon before she’s hosting a dinner party, following a private art tour she’d given to a group of collectors from Belgium the day prior. Upon entering her home, we’re immediately greeted by an art installation by Yuki Kimura. Venturing deeper reveals a treasure trove of works that any gallery would be proud of—a large photographic work by Yasumasa Morimura takes pride of place in the living area, while Mt Fuji Girl by Aida Makoto lingers seductively over the bed in the master bedroom. More pieces by the likes of Nobuyoshi Araki and Daido Moriyama hang in the corridors and in thoughtful corners throughout the home.
“I realised how important it is to be in an environment that I like aesthetically”
Contemporary Japanese photography is the theme du jour, but plenty more of her collection sits in storage, including Chinese contemporary art, pieces by Hong Kong artists and abstract expressionist works. Molenaar regularly rotates out the artworks in her home to ensure that every piece gets its chance in the spotlight; the current arrangement has been on display for the last two years.
While she might be relatively new to the art business—she set up her art agency, Nieman Molenaar, two years ago—she’s no stranger to the world of art collecting, having built her personal collection over the last 25 years. “The first piece I bought was a Chinese contemporary artwork by Qi Zhilong,” she recalls, though her aesthetic interest began well before that. “I collected postcards and posters of paintings I liked as a student,” she says. “I liked Matisse and David Hockney. My parents were also very aware of their aesthetic environment.” She recalls her first home, a small apartment furnished with designer pieces that her mother had purchased: Arne Jacobsen chairs, Arabia service ware and two Stelton teapots, one of which she still keeps in her home today. “It all played a very important role in my life. I realised how important it is to be in an environment that I like aesthetically.”
Molenaar and her family have resided in their current abode for the last five years, but they didn’t move there by choice—the other building in the Mid-Levels they’d called home for close to 15 years was slated for demolition.
“Art gives me joy. I want to share it so that it can give other people joy”
However, discovering their second home was a stroke of good luck—a true serendipitous event, some might say. “I saw this apartment 25 years ago when I had just moved to Hong Kong,” she explains. “[My agent] was showing me around and this was the second apartment that she showed me.” At the time, Molenaar and her boyfriend decided on a home closer to the city, but when she heard of an opening in the building during her second apartment hunt, she picked up the phone and called up the building management immediately. “I showed it to my family and they all walked in and immediately started discussing what should go where. That’s when we knew, okay, this is the place we’re going to rent. A week later, we moved in.”
Molenaar’s career in fashion originally brought her to the city—she was sent here during a stint with Esprit, going on to work for Warner Brothers, Benetton and Nike before establishing her own brand, Marleen Molenaar Sleepwear. But her experience with the arts made founding her agency an obvious next step. “I curate. I’ve done it all my life, so that’s why I made a business of it,” she says. The agency works with emerging artists, providing them a platform to gain recognition with the goal of eventually connecting them with a gallery. The company also introduces more established artists to new audiences. While her network spans the globe—from New York City to her native Holland—she finds that Hong Kong, with its swiftly growing art scene, continues to be the perfect base. “Art gives me joy. I want to share it so that it can give other people joy,” she says. The obvious love and care that she’s put into building her home collection is true evidence of that.
Treasure Trove The Mid-Levels abode houses an eclectic collection, from contemporary Japanese photography to abstract expressionist works
Different Perspectives Tomes about art and other subjects of interest pack the shelves behind the dining area. Colourful tiles grant the spacious balcony plenty of charm, as well as planters that have been installed since the 1960s
Wall to wall From left: Beautiful metalwork and vintage tiles are part of the charm of the heritage building that Molenaar’s home is located in; the pastel hues of a piece by Nobuyoshi Araki blend perfectly with the original blue tiles and pink bathtub in the bathroom