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Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and DJ Kevin Poon is a serious collector of art, sneakers and watches

Kevin Poon's cultural influence extends far and wide, so it's no surprise that he's an avid collector  with Singapore looming large on his horizon in 2023.

Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and DJ Kevin Poon is a serious collector of art, sneakers and watches

Kevin Poon and Pharrell Williams (Photo: Instagram/@kpee)

Hong Kong-based Kevin Poon is a man of so many interests that he defies easy description. Fashion designer and DJ, creative entrepreneur and collector, he was a key cultural influencer long before the word was associated with social media.

Given his range of passions, it's perhaps unsurprising that Poon is also a polymath when it comes to collecting and art. In 2019, he opened Woaw (World Of Amazing Wonders) Gallery in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district, then last year a second space in the heart of Central, home to an eclectic and compelling mix of established and emerging international artists.

One of the most recent posts on his Instagram shows the Untitled Miami exhibition at Woaw Miami by Stickymonger, aka Joohee Park, a Brooklyn-based artist who crafts large-eyed, manga-like portraits. Joining Poon at the exhibition? His long-time friend and collaborator, the legendary American record producer, rapper and songwriter, Pharrell Williams. His most recent initiative came with Hot Concrete: LA to HK, a show at Hong Kong's K11 Art Mall that brought a taste of the West Coast to the Fragrant Harbour. Curated by Woaw Gallery, Sow & Tailor from LA and Ouyang Art Consulting, it featured artwork from 30 artists including Greg Ito, Mario Ayala, Kara Joslyn, and Darren & Candice Romanelli.

Poon known as KP tells CNA Luxury why the show in Hong Kong was about more than just the art.

"It was bigger than the show, it was kind of a signifier that a lot of people were coming back to town. People were gathering again, giving hugs, feeling good about sharing again. So it was a perfect kind of reunion, of sorts. The art is important, but part of why I like art so much is that it brings people together. Now is the time for inclusivity there's a lot of divisive stuff going on."

Today he is known for his collections, not only of contemporary art especially the American designer KAWS but also sneakers, watches and more recently wines. It begs the question where his love of collecting came from?

"When I was a kid, I'd collect stamps and stickers, coins, lighters, CD players, MD players, gadgets. I was just fascinated by things, really. Collecting didn't used to be a thing, you just liked it, there was no value to it, it was just for fun. You'd get to talk to people about it and share. Now these sorts of collectibles are gaining traction, it's getting talked about, people are on to it."

There is a common thread which runs through his eclectic collections, namely the era and the effect it has on him.

"I'm into vintage stuff, so anything like 70s, 80s, 90s is a fun period," he said. “I want it to make me feel happy. I think that's a common thread. I generally don't buy things that depict too much sadness. I have to like it and now my wife has to like it too!"

Instagram and other social media platforms have had a huge effect on collecting and collectors alike. Countless accounts chronicle the aspirational and extravagant. Some flaunt, some share, but Poon sees positives in the vast world it has opened up, suggesting that it has democratised the world of collecting:

"Sometimes people don't get to see all the watches, or all the art, or all the cars,” he continued. “Going to any dealership can be intimidating, but now with the plethora of things that are available to research and see online, you can almost be an expert before you even make the purchase."

Vintage watches have long been a passion for Poon and he namechecks Singapore as home to some of Asia's most knowledgeable and passionate collectors. For his own collection, he is adamant that what counts, above all, is condition: That all the parts are original.

"All the parts have to be original,” he said. “So the lumes are intact and are not re-lumed, there haven't been many polishings or tamperings with the bezel or the face. I would take that over having the box and papers."

Poon smiles as I mention the legendary Rolex Paul Newman Daytona, one of the world's most exclusive and sought-after watches. A yellow gold 1969 model, the 'Paul Newman Lemon', is set to be sold at Sotheby's New York, with a guide price of US$700,000 (S$943,743) to US$1,400,000

"You can't buy everything, right? You gotta choose your battles. Obviously there have been many opportunities where I'm like, I wish I got that. Like the Cartier Crash, I was looking at that on Antiquorum, I think it was like HK$450,000 (S$78,030) at the time and it was already expensive for what it was and then it went to like HK$4 million or something."

The Cartier Crash in question started life in 1967, an iconic design from Cartier in London which, some assumed, was inspired by Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory with its famously melting clock. Others thought that the design came from Cartier's Baignoire Allongee model, which was melted and deformed in a car crash. Both plausible, but the truth is apparently more prosaic, coming from a collaboration between Jean-Jacques Cartier and artist Rupert Emmerson, who together sought to play with Cartier's visual identity by stretching it to its limits.

(Photo: Kevin Poon)

Missing out on such an icon begs the question about the ones that got away, the collecting deals that Poon was offered that he didn't end up taking? He neatly turns the question on its head.

"I think everything happens for a reason, there's a lesson in everything. It's like Michael Jordan said ­ you miss 100 per cent of the shots you didn't take."

Singapore is looming large on Poon's horizon in early 2023, thanks to the opening of the latest site for Woaw, at Ann Siang Hill in Chinatown, and Southeast Asia's largest ever art fair, ART SG. He'll be in town for both, excited as always at new opportunities and new horizons. As he said: "Arts and culture are having a really important time right now and Southeast Asia is having a good moment."

(Photo: Kevin Poon)

Despite being an avid collector with a remarkable diversity of interests and passions, reflected in an enviable range of collections, Poon remains level-headed and dispassionate about their ultimate importance and value.

"At the end of the day, things are just things. Family is what brings you the most joy, relationships. One thing I do appreciate about collecting though is the relationships you build through acquiring, trading or whatever it may be. There's always a story, I love a good story behind stuff. The provenance is important, the people you meet, the friendships you build and the lives you touch."

Call it buying with purpose, where the tangents and the experiences are worth just as much as the craftsmanship. That's the definition of a true collector.

Source: CNA/bt

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