Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Life in the Day: Pearl Lam- From The Sunday Times

From The Sunday Times
May 4, 2008
A Life in the Day: Pearl Lam
Lam, a powerful player on China’s fashionable art scene, is the daughter of the late Hong Kong business tycoon Lim Por-yen. Single, she runs her art export business from her penthouse in Shanghai and her homes in Hong Kong and London

I get up around 7.30. My Filipino housekeeper, Venus, wakes me — unless I get up before her, then I’ll wake her up. I live on the top floor — the 22nd — of a building my family built a few years ago in the French Concession district of Shanghai. It’s beautiful. My room looks out onto a tropical landscaped garden, so the first thing I see in the morning is a Chinese pavilion, lots of bamboo, lotus flowers, plum blossoms, banana plants, magnolia, and a pond where I put my big goldfish for good feng shui.

I love the energy of Shanghai. It’s very cultural, unlike Hong Kong, which is sophisticated but a cultural desert. I never used to want to live here — it was too near Hong Kong, my mother’s home, and I wanted to be free from familial obligations and pressure. But I love it now. It’s taught me how to be Chinese.

I normally check my e-mails in bed and read the online editions of the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. There’ll be around 200 e-mails — by the time that’s done I have to rush. I’m always late for appointments. I have a quick bath (I hate showers) and throw on some make-up. My hair needs lots of blow-drying, so sometimes I’ll leave it messy. Breakfast is blueberries and Diet Coke. I’m addicted to both. It’s crazy. I can eat 20 boxes of blueberries a day, and drink lots and lots of Diet Coke. It’s my only vice.

My day consists of meetings, meetings, and sometimes three meetings at once. I travel a lot, so when I return to Shanghai I’m like Marlon Brando in The Godfather: people have to queue to ask me questions. I’m a control freak, and very spoilt, probably because I’ve always been in charge. It can be a fault, I admit. I represent a number of Chinese artists who’ve become very popular among international collectors — Chen Changwei, Shao Fan, Xue Tao, Luo Xu — so there’s always a load of work to do: commissioning new works, organising exhibitions and openings. We have 30 staff worldwide, and every month there’s an exhibition either in China or abroad. We’re currently focused on Luo Xu, who has a solo show in New York, and then he’s doing the Chelsea Flower Show in London, where he’ll create a garden as installation art.

To avoid rushing, and because the traffic jams in Shanghai are terrible, I’ll often ask people to come to my apartment for meetings. There’s plenty of room — about 10,000 sq ft. It’s too eclectic to describe. It’s been called a “psychedelic baroque penthouse”. Whatever, it’s very me. Every piece — whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, a vase or a piece of furniture — is an art piece. A mixture of ancient Chinese artefacts and western and Chinese contemporary art and design. What you won’t find in my home is Chinese political art — very popular with foreign collectors right now. I don’t like it. This is a shallow western understanding of Chinese contemporary art, created for export, with too much international language and not enough Chinese sensibility. It’s important for me to show the world who the Chinese truly are. Integration is our cultural reference point, and most Chinese artists are multidisciplined. We have never segregated high art and decorative art and design, like you do in the West. Our collectables have always been things like jade and porcelain — not oil paintings. And if you look at old Chinese paintings, it’s not just about painting; it’s also about calligraphy, poetry and storytelling. So my gallery is about cross-fertilisation.

Lunch for me is normally meat — any kind of meat. I don’t eat vegetables. Being Chinese, I love food, and I eat a lot. I try to avoid lunch meetings — the amount I eat can be embarrassing. I can eat anything from street food to five-star, as long as it’s good. But I don’t have fixed meal times. That makes me think of my parents, where everything was formal and strict. Fixed is boring.

I stay slim thanks to my very high metabolism. I don’t work out or play sport. I have a beautiful gym with all the Pilates machines, but I haven’t used it yet. Part of the reason might be that I don’t really do relaxation. I like stress. I can’t stop — and it’s not just the caffeine from the Diet Coke. You’d never find me taking a walk in the park, for example. I relax by shopping. I’m a shopaholic. I love purple. I never wear bland things. I like Alaia, Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga… I also relax by giving parties. My dinner table seats 60, so I need a lot of help. I have three or four full-time staff and several temporary ones. Some people can’t enjoy their own parties because they care so much about every single thing. I’m not bothered. I love meeting people: artists, fashion designers, art collectors, journalists, hedge-fund guys, the whole gang. And I like disagreement. That’s the fun part. It’s so boring otherwise. I don’t drink alcohol. I’m allergic to it. I’m also allergic to nature, or pollen. I get nasty rashes all over my body if I come into contact with plants — or alcohol.

The day flies by for me. If there’s no dinner party, I usually go out with friends. When I get back I read the newspapers or Vanity Fair. I go to bed at 1 or 2. I need very little sleep. It’s a waste of time. I don’t recall my dreams.

I wish I did. My mind moves ahead too fast.

Interview by Scott Athorne. Photograph by Ryan Pyle

No comments: