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

Hong Kong Tatler Homes - - FRONT PAGE - Pho­tog­ra­phy EDGAR TAPAN

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

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