Kai and Wendy Tan

Collector Profile:

Kai and Wendy Tan are less interested in art world trends than they are in emotional serendipity and the accumulation of knowledge over the course of many years.

By Kim Brockett OCT 2017

Originally from Malaysia and Hong Kong respectively, Kai and Wendy Tan moved to Australia over a decade ago from the UK to settle in a leafy inner suburb in Melbourne. Spanning everyone from British painters Howard Hodgkin and Ben Nicholson to Barbara Hepworth and Elisabeth Fink, the Tan's collection is decidedly contemporary, with works by Martin Creed, Ryan Gander, Fiona Tan, Gilbert & George and Yinka Shonibare sitting comfortably next to Australians Hany Armanious and Bill Henson. Acquired over the course of more than two decades, their collection is very much a passion shared by Kai and Wendy, who pride themselves as being ‘slow collectors’ – a process that often involves years of research before taking the plunge.

Let’s begin with a question that always begs to be asked! What was the first artwork you purchased?
Kai: Our collection was mainly developed when we were living in the UK. We’ve collected for probably 25 years now. Our first main purchase was a little painting by [English painter] Beryl Cook, who was one of those artists who was never accepted by the art establishment, because her work was too decorative or whimsical. But we really liked it, and this was 25 years ago, and we bought it from her art dealer in Plymouth. We were just so incredibly excited about it back then! We’ve since moved on from that. One of our most recent purchases is Maurizio Cattelan’s Punizioni (‘Punishments’) (1990).

How has your collection evolved over the years?
Sprinkled around the house is a lot of art from Wales, which is where we were based for a long time. I [Kai] chaired the board of a.. Subscribe to read this article in full

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