The Collectors Circle: Art Collector Shanyan Koder’s Remarkable Private Collection
Shanyan Koder spent much of her growing up years unlike most little girls—curating her family’s art collection. So it was only natural that she became an art collector herself after she began curating her own collection. Her personal collection has been largely influenced by her family of art collectors and philanthropists as well as her parents, Canning Fok Kin-ning and Eliza Fok, who are equally passionate about the arts.
“My father studied music as an undergraduate and is a professional concert pianist by training, and we have always shared a passion in the arts together. Even today, we speak almost daily about something that has struck us as interesting in the art or music world,” said Shanyan, who was born and raised in Hong Kong and later studied English and Law in Cambridge, UK.
Over the past few decades, she assembled for her family, and herself, a remarkable collection of global artworks and objects that span different eras of history. Shanyan’s personal collection is one of the finest examples of cross-category collecting. It contains masterpieces and objects in the collecting realms of antiquities, works on paper, European and American art, Impressionists, and Post-Impressionists. In addition, some of the biggest names of modern and contemporary art are represented, including René Magritte, Sanyu, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among others.
Shanyan, who has two daughters with her financier husband Matthew Koder, has built a life centred on art, family and philanthropy. She has lived across three continents and her life and passion for the arts has taken her all over the world. The art world entrepreneur remains an active patron of the arts and philanthropist and is currently an ambassador for Borne UK, a Council Member of London’s Serpentine Galleries, and sits on the board of influential contemporary art gallery Unit London.
(Related: 5 rising female stars of the art world)
Formerly from Goldman Sachs and Sotheby’s, she also founded Hua Art, a digital platform which champions Chinese contemporary artists, and a bespoke art advisory business Shanyan Koder Fine Art where she has placed works by Impressionists, modern and contemporary artists such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Takashi Murakami and Zeng Fanzhi to name a few, for discerning private clients. More recently, she co-founded a British tech company Global Showcases.
It is no wonder that this highly accomplished woman is the muse for famed jeweller Buccellati and internationally known interiors artist Sera Loftus. She is revolutionising the way people think about art and transact in the ever growing age of digital technology. This petite lady is a power player and definitely a woman to watch in the industry.
In the first part of the Collector’s Circle series for Tatler, Shanyan shares insights and valuable advice for new art collectors.
How much of an influence do you think your parents had on your interest in art and subsequently how and what you collect ?
Shanyan Koder (SK) My parents had everything to do with my love for fine art. They fostered it, instilled my passion in fine art. I grew up breathing art. Our lives revolved around a combination of fine art, performing arts and music.
When I was a child, my family collection started off purely in the Impressionist period—we collected works by Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, Degas. As a ballerina myself, I grew up particularly loving Degas as a painter and a sculptor. We then moved on to collecting the Post-Impressionists and Modern masters—Chagall, Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso.
As I became more prominent in representing the family collection, we continued to move on through the art movements. We added the Surrealists—Dali, Magritte, etc. We added some prominent Chinese modern masters like Chen Yifei and Sanyu. Currently, we have moved further into collecting Contemporary Masters such as Warhol and Basquiat. I love how my family collection continues to evolve; it makes everything so interesting and dynamic.
(Related: A Dream Holiday Abode For An Art Collector)
It makes sense thinking about it now, that my own private collection, which is a mixture of emerging and established contemporary artists, follows a more classical aesthetic. I collect across the art practices ranging from paintings, sculpture and installation, abstract and figurative, but each work I own carries a sense of the classical, a touch of romance. If you look at the art in my collection I think you would see elements of history, you will see hints of religious faith, you will see celebrations of the beauty of the human figure, the beauty of life, the beauty of death.
It’s interesting because as a mother myself, I would now naturally ask myself the same question in reverse—how much influence would I have on my daughters’ interest in art as they grow into young women? I hope the answer will be a lot.
Do you remember the first piece of art ever given to you?
SK It was my graduation gift. An exquisite Degas charcoal on paper, Woman in the Bath. It meant a lot to me growing up as a ballerina who had a great love for ballet and all of its intricacies. Degas was also my favourite Impressionist master.
You have two lovely little girls, how do they react to some of the pieces you keep at home in London and Hong Kong? Do you now buy art with the intention of leaving a legacy behind for them?
SK Well, I hope they like them! They often talk to me about my Butterfly painting, Eden, by Damien Hirst. It hangs in our living room in London and they love spotting new butterflies, talking to me about the colours and the iridescence of some of their wings. With regard to the legacy point—yes, to some extent it must be a thought that comes to me at some level, perhaps subconsciously. I primarily collect works that speak to me first; it must strike a chord within me, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.
(Related: Here's Why Having Art On Your Walls Can Make Your Home Picture-Perfect)
Could you share what were the three best pieces of advice given to you on collecting art and by whom?
SK My father always said, “Don’t get carried away chasing a work of art”, while my husband encouraged me to buy what I love. Finally, my art teacher taught me trust my own instincts.
What do you think life would be like if you did not have a strong interest in the arts?
SK Gosh, this is an interesting one. I honestly can’t imagine my life without art! But I think life without art would be quite... monotonous. Art adds colour to my life. It adds another level of dynamism and energy to my life, perhaps a bit more sparkle.
(Related: Living With Art Founder Zak Lo Found His Creative Calling By Opening A Gallery)
What art fairs, shows, auctions or other arenas do you feel are worth attending for new collectors? Do you have any advice for them?
SK There are so many art fairs and galleries and auctions to visit in the world, the list is endless and I can see how it can be overwhelming for a new collector. My favourite art fair has always been Masterpiece London. It is held in Chelsea, London every summer, and is just beautiful and understated with a good mixture of galleries in fine art, design, sculpture, antiquities and fine jewellery. My advice: art is so subjective and personal, don’t follow the trends for the sake of a good investment. Follow your heart, trust your instincts, and buy what you love.
You’re the muse for luxury jeweller Buccellati and interior designer Serra Loftus, how does it feel to be the inspiration for an artist’s work?
SK I feel very blessed to be working with such talented artists and artisans from different fields of the creative world. Buccellati’s craftsmanship has long been recognised as one of the world’s most intricate and beautiful. Sera is one of the world’s most celebrated interior designers. It gives me great pleasure to be their muse, I feel very lucky.
- Photography Ricky Lo for Hong Kong Tatler