Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon

By Randy Lai

Gallerist, restaurateur, clotheshorse – at work, Kevin Poon wears a lot of hats. Which is precisely how he prefers it. For nearly 20 years, the Hong Kong-based renaissance man has been at the centre of Asia’s cultural maelstrom: initially, by orchestrating a string of hi-profile collaborations between CLOT (a clothing label started alongside entertainer Edison Chen) and brands including Nike and Sacai; and more recently, for his work in the hospitality and art-retail spaces.

 

Kevin Poon outside WOAW Gallery, Central, Hong Kong in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Kevin Poon meeting us outside his latest venture, the WOAW Gallery, in Central, Hong Kong.

 

When we meet Poon for an extended tête-à-tête earlier this month, he had just cut the proverbial ribbon on his latest venture – WOAW Gallery. Surrounded by the sculptures of Bas de Wit and impish Rhys Lee paintings, it’s apparent that the space is intended to spotlight contemporary art that is cosmopolitan and youthful in its perspective. Poon hopes the gallery’s location – at the literal and metaphoric nexus of Hong Kong island – will drive interest from a diverse range of audiences. Moreover, it’s symptomatic of a life-long aversion to idle hands: in a period reviled as one of the most turbulent in Hong Kong’s history, Poon remains bullish about the cultural prospects of his hometown. Case in point: before the year is out, Leading Nation (his hospitality outfit, co-founded by local restaurateur Gerald Li) is set to launch two new dining concepts – despite the constant, often daily setbacks engendered by the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, this preternatural instinct for dabbling makes Poon ideal for a bout of classic Q&A. In this instalment of Obsessions, the veteran entrepreneur offers a range of anecdotes that are nothing if not eclectic in scope: we discuss CLOT’s recent collaboration with Polo Ralph Lauren; hear why he’s unapologetically sentimental when it comes to watches; and reminisce about Kanye West’s first performance in Hong Kong...

 

Before we dive in, tell us more about the new space. My understanding is that this is the latest outpost for your multi-concept lifestyle business WOAW, which has a sharp focus on group shows, installation work, and contemporary art more generally?

Well, the original concept for WOAW was simply a platform for showcasing stuff that I liked, which we felt Hongkongers wouldn’t have the opportunity to see anywhere else. And at the beginning, that involved everything from records and cameras to vintage eyewear. Basically, as my interests evolved, so too did the concept for a dedicated WOAW space.

 

Just to be clear [motioning at the surrounding exhibits] it didn’t begin as a showroom for painting and sculpture?        

Not strictly, no. Over the years, we’ve put together shows consisting of interactive art, digital installations – whatever my team and I happen to find original and captivating. You know, Hong Kong is already home to so many conventional ‘galleries’…

 

Landscape of painting of woman on wall in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

A painting by Rhys Lee, on the walls of the WOAW Gallery as part of their “Stay Tuned…” exhibition.

 

...I wouldn’t say the number is insubstantial.

Right. But so many of these are exclusively high-brow – even today I don’t think there’s enough galleries that exist ‘in-between’. That factored in strongly to our thought process when we were designing [this new space]. We wanted to showcase talent that isn’t necessarily repped out here in Asia, in a beautiful space at an accessible location. But beyond that, we don’t have some super-strict mandate – it’s very much ‘go with the flow’.

 

Let’s talk a little more specifically now about the first group show you’re holding here. What can you tell us about how “Stay Tuned…” came together? 

The show was curated by Sasha Bogejev, an editor at Juxtapoz. I’ve always enjoyed Sasha’s writing and his eye for contemporary – he has this knack for recognising nascent talent, so naturally, I’m always curious to hear about the artists he’s recently been into. That’s kinda the nutshell version of how we started working on this new show for Hong Kong: we selected five international artists who are all extremely different; and basically gave them free rein to treat “Stay Tuned…” as their own playground for artistic discovery. I think that comes across in the really colourful spectrum of influences: graffiti, surrealism, Roman sculpture. 

Going forward, we hope to do shows [like this] every six weeks and make each as transformative as possible. Our next one could be a solo exhibition, something interactive – we’re trying to make things fun.

 

You’re best-known alongside Edison Chen for co-founding CLOT in 2003 – an important player in the global streetwear movement. However, here in Hong Kong people also regard you as a prolific entrepreneur. Just briefly, can you break down some of the other projects you’re into which have more of a localised/community focus?

Man, first off, I’ll just say that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many different people; and while our customers might think of me and Edison as the ‘face’ of CLOT, we have a big team who support and work with us.

But back to your question: adjacent to this gallery, we’re going to be opening a new neo-bistro called Margo soon -- that’s a concept I’m into with Gerald (co-founder of Leading Nation) and much of the team behind The Diplomat and Elephant Grounds.

 

Kevin and Randy sat at table in distance in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Poon shedding some light on his projects outside of the art world.

 

Can I assume ‘Margo’ is a loose allusion to the wine-growing appellation in Bordeaux? 

[Laughs] I mean, you could look at it that way, but it’s mainly named for a mutual friend of ours. Mind you, the culinary programming is going to be brasserie-inspired and there’ll be lots of French producers on the beverage side – so you’re not entirely wrong.

 

Just staying on the dining and lifestyle component of your business a bit longer, where does the impulse for these kinds of experiential concepts come from? Have you always been passionate about dining – as Hongkongers so infamously are – or was there a ‘Eureka’ moment that kickstarted all the work you’ve been doing in the field?

I’ve always enjoyed dining out, yeah. But more than that, what interests me are ‘experiences’. I think nowadays, people (especially Gen Z and the Millennials) are more into experiences than they are simply acquiring stuff…

 

True. When I see the direction the retail sector is going (particularly in Asia) it feels like the classic ‘buy & sell’ format just doesn’t cut it anymore – you have to go further.

Oh, for sure. And honestly, it’s been tracking that way for a while now. I remember when we opened our first WOAW location on Gough Street – I wanna say 8 years ago – what really made that concept work was the fact it included a cafe. The original idea was to sell all kinds of niche beverages – hard-to-find stuff from Japan, the U.S. and other parts of the world – but Gerald convinced us to try our hand at making and selling iced desserts.

 

Hand on shoe in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Kevin talking in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

“What interests me are ‘experiences’.”

 

I see. Soft serve, affogatos, ice cream sandwiches – that kind of thing?

Exactly. And to be blunt, when we were initially just selling beverages, we had no customers. So I thought, “you know what? Let’s just try this”, and that ended up becoming the nucleus for Elephant Grounds. In a way, that’s something pretty standard nowadays (selling snacks in a fashion/art environment) but it gave us the infamy we needed to open all over Hong Kong; and now we have branches in Beijing, Chengdu, even the Philippines. [Laughs] That’s a big change-up to what I first started out doing – organising parties in the music industry.

 

This wouldn’t happen to be around the same time CLOT organised Kanye West’s first concert in Hong Kong, would it? I feel that we have to address that.

Yeah, in 2006. I mean, Kanye’s visited a few times since, but the first time he performed in Hong Kong we [the CLOT team] did kinda invite and end up hosting him. Initially, I was introduced to him through Don C in New York. In the course of talking, he revealed that he’d never visited and was keen to come out. We eventually managed to fly him over, right around the time he was dropping Touch the Sky...

 

Oh, the Late Registration era.

…[laughs] at the time we had no real experience promoting concerts. I remember we didn’t even have a venue! Luckily, my friend’s dad had this drive-in theatre setup in what is now the West Kowloon Cultural District. But back then, it was essentially just a vacant piece of land with a screen on it.

 

Barebones [laughs].

Yeah. So we were like, “uncle, do you mind if we use this space?”, and we really had to work to convince him. We had to sell him on the whole concept; figure out how to get the venue licensing; even the flooring wasn’t up to code for hosting a large-scale event.

 

Hand on chair arm in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Poon’s career has been varied, to say the least.

 

No kidding. And did everything come together in time? 

I mean, we ended up losing a bunch of money [laughs]. But it was a fucking epic moment.

 

Fascinating. I’ve thrown us off-track a bit, so let’s circle back to retail. When CLOT collaborates with an internationally renowned brand like Stüssy or Nike, what exactly does the design process entail?

I think [long pause] each brand is different, right? But the one thing that we stress is mutual respect. That’s first priority if we’re gonna work on something collaboratively.

 

Obviously, only reveal as much as the lawyers will tolerate [laughs] but can you give us any concrete examples of brands you really enjoyed working with in the past?

Oh, Ralph Lauren – Edison and I did a collab with Polo for Chinese New Year that I’m pretty proud of. Ralph is something of a god of ours…

 

[Laughs] Can’t imagine why. But seriously, in what sense?

In the sense that he has an incredibly specific style. One that’s elegant and extremely easy to recognise, you know? Beyond that, he’s just the man – whether you’re talking about his philosophy toward designing clothes or the way he envisions a whole lifestyle.

 

Poon stood in gallery at a distance in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Poon’s personal style is certainly detached from the classic Polo look.

 

Right. So how did you guys end up working with Polo, specifically?

The process took us about two and a half years. [Ralph Lauren Corporation] is quite a big company. In many ways I’d say they’re a very traditional, reserved company – you gotta remember that up until we came onboard, the only other brand they’d worked with was Palace.

 

Right – another left-field choice, but very much locked into contemporary culture. Were they keen on CLOT for similar reasons?

To be honest, I think that what they saw in us, first and foremost, was an interesting cultural perspective. At CLOT, whenever we do a collaboration, the nucleus of it is always to bridge the culture between East and West. We make no apologies on that front – it’s an integral part of our DNA. When I was growing up in the States there was a lot of racism against Asians; and one of the more vicious stereotypes about Chinese people was how we’re only capable of bootlegging stuff.

 

Actually, in my experience, the ‘copycat’ trope is one of the more charitable ones… 

Correct, which made many of us young overseas Chinese super frustrated. Even when we were represented in mainstream culture (e.g. Hollywood) there was always this dorky, kinda emasculated connotation – which isn’t representative. So on some level, CLOT has always been about pushing back against that.

 

Even today, do you get the sense that the fashion industry and consumer forecasters handwave away ‘Chinese consumers’ as this sort of monolithic entity? I feel like there should be more nuance there. 

Oh totally. Just like any other big market, there are so many subcultures coming up all the time. That was another big reason why Edison and I started this: at the beginning, we were trying to capture a slice of all the interesting stuff that was coming out of Japan – because we didn’t feel a lot of it was getting the props it deserved. And with the Ralph Lauren collab, the underlying rationale was similar: putting our best foot forward, showcasing clothing for global citizens, but still with a modicum of our own cultural flair.

 

Poon stood in the gallery by sculpture in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Poon stood in the gallery by artwork in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

A cross-section of art found in the WOAW Gallery.

 

As somebody operating at the junction between art, music, fashion and wider contemporary culture, has your experience in each of those worlds had a mutual influence on how you collect? 

I’d definitely say that the ‘culture’ around collecting is becoming more of a melting pot – nowadays there’s much more back and forth between industries. Like, Dior would do something with KAWS…

 

...the Fragment Design collaboration with TAG Heuer? 

Right. But it doesn’t even need to be that structured – we’re part of a culture in which the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton [Virgil Abloh] can be a DJ, or a well-regarded artist like George Condo can design album art for Travis Scott. You know what I mean, right? It’s like a lot of the old boundaries (which were super arbitrary to begin with) are now falling away – and that’s kinda how I like to live my life too.

 

You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself?

Right. And I think nowadays, in part because of technology, everyone has the ability to wear a lot of hats. Your phone literally opens the door for you to become a photographer; there are so many resources online now if you want to get into making records…

 

But don’t you think we’re sort of being bombarded by mediocre content as a result?

Oh, no doubt. I’m not saying it’s easy, but the barriers to entry have definitely gotten lower. I see a lot of younger creatives who are coming up at the moment – many of whom are 15 or 16 – and they can do, like, 20 different things in a single afternoon. And I think that’s actually pretty cool: they can design a piece of clothing; paint something; make cool drinks. I dunno, the list is potentially endless.

 

Poon and Randy talking at table in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

I’d definitely say that the ‘culture’ around collecting is becoming more of a melting pot.”

 

Over time have you found certain underlying themes that tie together the different kinds of collecting that you’re interested in? Can experience with sneakers and sculpture converge in a meaningful way with, say, watch collecting?

I think so. I’ve been a very peripatetic collector for a long time. Back in the day, I even had a phase when I was really into vintage lighters.

 

I see. Dupont or Dunhill, perhaps?

It wasn’t so much about specific brands as it was lighters that were really rare and difficult to source. Again, that was the case with vintage eyewear; basketball cards; and now, fine art and watches. For me, the common denominator really does seem to be rarity, with condition coming in a very close second. When you’re collecting backwards into history, managing to find stuff that’s in near-perfect condition can be really fun.

 

“At CLOT, whenever we do a collaboration, the nucleus of it is always to bridge the culture between East and West. We make no apologies on that front – it’s an integral part of our DNA…”

 

That’s an interesting reversal of the status quo we’ve seen in the watch community – especially in vintage over the last few years. In the vast majority of cases, even if a watch isn’t all that rare (technically speaking), when it’s in ‘new old stock’ condition something about that pristine nature enables you to experience the object more vividly.

There’s also a very particular psychological element attached to an object’s condition which I find pretty exciting. How did the previous owner manage to preserve it for so long? Did they get the urge to use it for its intended purpose? That kinda thing.

 

Would it be fair to say then that the history of human interaction with certain objects is what really interests you? Because I think we have a tendency to forget that lay-people – particularly those outside the car and watch collecting communities – may find the idea of owning something that’s lived a previous life a little... 

...creepy [laughs]?

 

Purple statue in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

“There’s also a very particular psychological element attached to an object’s condition which I find pretty exciting.”

 

Well, they often have to be ‘sold’ on the concept of vintage. Whereas our readers (I’d assume) are the total opposite – they’re attracted to provenance.

I mean, I kinda understand the desire people have to ‘clear the energy’ when it comes to pre-owned clothing, watches and whatnot, but for the most part, if these things are well-kept and you actually feel a sense of connection to the previous owner, I think that’s okay.

 

By most accounts you’ve been involved in the art world for over 15 years. In that time, what has the most significant change to your taste been?

I’d probably say that my confidence has improved. In the beginning, I wasn’t really certain of my own tastes – I was collecting more as a means of supporting my friends. Whereas now, I actively seek out artists whose work encourages me to broaden my taste. Oh, but the one fundamental that’s stayed consistent the whole time is I have to like the pieces I’m collecting. Or at the very least, my wife has to [laughs].

 

You’ve mentioned collecting artists who encourage you to broaden your tastes. Care to proffer any recent examples?

Man, that’s a hell of a question! I’m hesitant to drop names, because some of these are already incredibly difficult to get. But, let’s see: recently I’ve been really interested in Sayre Gomez – an American artist based out of LA, who creates these super evocative landscape paintings. The Barcelona artist Javier Calleja: there’s a rather interesting mural of his work that we commissioned for the space at La Rambla by Catalunya...

 

Corner of gallery in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

A hint of what you could expect at the WOAW gallery right now.

 

I’m detecting a theme here, and that’s large-format environmental paintings? Often with a certain dreamlike quality?

Yeah. I think it’s the scale that really excites me: simply because it’s so physically difficult to work on these large canvases and they’re a challenge to present properly.

 

That feels especially pertinent in Hong Kong – where a reasonable amount of living space comes at such a premium.

Right? There’s a stronger sense of gratification when you manage to find the right space here to set up and display these kinds of artworks. But I always enjoy the challenge.

 

Alright. Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk watches.

Cool.

 

Did your interest in the culture emerge as a by-product of art collecting?

[Long pause] My curiosity in both areas emerged around the same time. Going back to what I was saying earlier about ‘melting pot’ culture, I kinda just discovered everything simultaneously. But I do remember that my first real dip into watches was centred on vintage – this was in the mid-2000s when the CLOT team were sourcing our first wave of brands, going to Japan aggressively. That’s when we first met Hiroshi [Fujiwara].  

 

Underside of wrist, palms together in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Poon’s interest in watches dates back a few years at this point.

 

Ah, Fragment. Again [laughs]. What a way to get into the hobby!

Yeah. He’s such an OG. We still occasionally meet up, and when that happens, he’ll sometimes mention (in passing) what he’s been into lately. But more than that, I really enjoy talking with him about ‘missed opportunities’ – those pieces I  hesitated on when I had the chance to acquire.

 

A lot of that going around these days [laughs]... 

That’s another aspect of the collecting mindset that transcends your field of interest. We’re constantly agonising. “What if I hesitate and miss out?” “Am I jumping in front of a bullet?” Actually, these days, more often than not, I feel like I’m always missing out.

 

Do tell.

Well, it’s not exactly an unusual story, but I’ve always regretted that I didn’t get into yellow gold ‘Paul Newman’ Daytonas early on. The reality is that during every stage in life, those watches are always going to be expensive. Sure, maybe they were worth less 8 or 9 years ago relative to what they sell for now…

 

“I’m not saying it’s easy, but the barriers to entry have definitely gotten lower. I see a lot of younger creatives who are coming up at the moment – many of whom are 15 or 16 – and they can do, like, 20 different things in a single afternoon…”

 

I seem to recall Christie’s auctioning an example in Hong Kong (a 6264) three years ago for around US$1.35 million.

...but even when they were trading for four figures, these were still expensive watches, objectively speaking. So at the time, it was just another one of those things that seemed a little too aggressive for me, you know?

 

But I think that mindset is ultimately a good one, no? Maintaining a strict philosophy of always trying to find value, no matter how impressive your means…

In my personal life I’ve found the stuff that’s hardest to get ends up being what you tend to treasure the most. I don’t know if it’s like that for you, but when I think back on the collectibles that came too easily, I have a hard time remembering much specific about them. But, all the things I had to jump through fucking hoops to get – that stuff is somehow better for it.

 

Kevin Poon WOAW Gallery obsessions contemporary culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Artwork in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

A look inside the colourful space of the WOAW Gallery.

 

Let’s move on. We briefly touched upon this when we were running through the CLOT collaborations, but do you think there’s any connection between your cultural heritage (someone who’s ethnically Chinese, growing up on the West Coast) and watch collecting persona?

Oof. Good question. I mean, as you know, watches are a deeply familial pastime in Chinese culture. Like many of us overseas, my mom was always big into Rolex – so I grew up associating the brand with maturity, success, and overcoming adversity.

 

The marketing of its watches as ‘professional’ tools might have something to do with that. 

Just to add to that, I remember when I first started working out of college, I’d want to spend the little bit of money I’d saved on a watch – almost certainly a Rollie. From there, that symbolic appeal in watches began to grow. I was collecting them as a way to mark certain milestones in my career.

 

Again, something a lot of our readers will surely relate to. 

Right. But that’s why I don’t like selling watches – because I get so emotionally attached. People love to draw the comparison, but it’s nothing like a stock or those kinds of index-traded commodities…

 

Audemars Piguet openwork on wrist in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

The frosted gold openwork from Audemars Piguet is an intriguing addition to Poon’s collection.

 

Something where the entire purpose is to obtain a return on investment.

...you know what I mean? Sure, the language of the gray market bears some similarity (e.g. “this has gone up”) but I’m convinced the majority of people don’t actually enjoy selling their watches.

Let’s just say you make your first US$10,000 straight out of college doing some sort of interesting hustle (as an example) and you end up using that to buy a watch – you’d probably want to keep said watch as a kind of memento right?

 

So in keeping with that logic, is watch collecting still very much a kind of celebratory ritual for you?

I think so.

 

I see. That’s certainly a much more relatable perspective than that of the collector-scholar archetype, or the speculators who come in, scoop up all the popular references they can find and then immediately flip them... 

No, I’m definitely not in either of those camps. To me, the watches are only as valuable as the emotional response they evoke. I guess that lately that’s why I’ve been so obsessed with AP (also because of my buddy Austen).

 

“But I do remember that my first real dip into watches was centred on vintage…”

 

Ah, Chu yes? Real quickly, let’s explore that. When we first sat down, you briefly alluded to the fact that you’ve really thrown yourself back into watch culture recently – is AP one of the driving forces behind your renewed curiosity?

I think friendship is the essence of it. When you’re collecting anything (but watches especially) you have to have a few like-minded people who you can bounce ideas off. If not, the pursuit can get a little lonely – because the people who aren’t into the culture don’t really understand it either.

 

No, they look at you like a crazy person [both laugh]. To put it politely.   

For sure. So dudes like Austen reignited my interest after a period of inactivity. You know, it was only recently that the culture has started to gain mass traction again: there was a good while of time when being ‘into watches’ was just…

 

Quaint? 

...well, people might characterise you a certain way. Aggressive materialism is something a lot of people nowadays don’t aspire to. So, I’ve gradually begun collecting again – but trying to be more low-key about it.

 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15202 owned by Kevin Poon in Obsessions Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Audemars Piguet 15202 on wrist in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

“When you’re collecting anything (but watches especially) you have to have a few like-minded people who you can bounce ideas off.”

 

Not quite the phrase I’d use to describe the reference 15407 you’re wearing [points].

Well, sometimes you gotta show the ‘young people’ what time it is [both laugh].

 

Duly noted. Now let’s take a minute to discuss watch culture from a – how shall I put this? – ‘intersectional’ perspective. Considering how rigid the world of haute horlogerie is (even today) what are some lessons you suspect the industry could learn from the more disruptive elements of the fashion and art community?

I mean, just speaking for myself, I’ve always collected with a fashion-adjacent mindset; and all along, I think the educational aspect could be handled better. I know most watchmakers do tours of their manufacture, but in a sense, that’s very old-school and not open to the vast majority of people who might be interested in collecting.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a few brands are already addressing this (AP does a particularly good job engaging the public over Instagram and through their long-term partnership with Art Basel) but I feel like the industry, at-large, could be more democratic. It’s cliche, but social media really changed everything. Before, you’d go to a trade show at the start of the year, the watches would appear in a magazine 6 months later; and in the interim there would be zero engagement with the wider public. Now, those releases are instantly shared and talked about amongst so many different types of people. It’s somewhat analogous to the art world, which was previously dominated by a handful of these super intimidating players who now have to share the space with smaller galleries because of digital amplification.

 

Poon at table talking in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Poon is able to see the similarities in the shifting art and watch collecting worlds, from his unique perspective.

 

Do you feel that brands could benefit from taking themselves a little less seriously? Not mentioning any names, but there are certainly a few which can feel – like the galleries you mentioned – unrelentingly sacrosanct.

Adopting a more inviting posture would certainly be helpful. To me, that means more workshops, ‘activations’ and events that are open to the public. Even relatively young brands should be thinking about starting a museum – you don’t necessarily have to be Patek Phillippe to justify it. Whether it’s watches, art, or fashion, a lot of people in the general public have their first memorable experience in that kinda setting. You mightn’t even end up buying anything: it’s more about getting to know the subject matter.

 

We’re already in the ballpark of my next question, but where do you stand on artists collaborating with watch brands? Is there any long-term viability to there, or is it more of a wave?

I think [pauses] that people always love a ‘special moment’, you know? Sometimes, these collaborations are the catalyst for that. On some level, all relationships reach a point that’s terminal but these collabs, they crystallise a moment in time when an artist and a watchmaker come together that may never happen again. They may not even work together a second time…

 

Audemars Piguet 15202 on table in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London
Audemars Piguet openwork on wrist in pocket in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Two pieces from the same brand but with very different feels.

 

Unless you’re talking about Tadao Ando. He’s three for three at this point. 

Right. But I think a partnership like that works because it’s authentic, you know? Just as in the old days when you had the connection between Cartier and Rolex. Of course, if a brand saturates you with these sorts of crossovers all day long then they get mundane pretty quickly. But, in the vast majority of cases, the artists I follow – who would be interesting ‘gets’ for watch brands – are really doing their best to create something authentic – it’s not insincere.

 

To close things out, do you anticipate pop culture’s current obsession with luxury watches will remain sustainable? We seem to be at a point where the hobby is visible in almost every single cultural medium.

That all depends on how crazy those Instagram algorithms become [laughs] and on whether certain brands go too hard on trying to hijack the public’s interest – there has to be a balance. And that has so much to do with the long game: the watch brands who are going to remain at the centre of the ‘cultural moment’ are those who are thinking 30, maybe even 40 years ahead.   

 

Poon stood by doorway in Obsessions: Contemporary Culture with Kevin Poon for A Collected Man London

Thank you for speaking with us Kevin.

 

Many thanks to KP for making the time to give his eclectic, culturally attuned perspective. As always, we would also like to credit Amanda Kho for her extensive photography, taken throughout the course of this interview.



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