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October 31, 2021

Spotlight on collector Dan Nguyen

Article by Dan Nguyen & newcube

3 minutes read

man in plaid shirt in front of painting
Dan Nguyen and Ilana Savdie's A High-Pitched Complicity

Dan Nguyen is a New York-based physician, entrepreneur, and avid collector of contemporary art with a particular focus on artists of Asian descent. He is the co-founder of The Here and There Collective which aims to make space for narratives often overlooked in the Western art canon through on and offline programming focused on Asian diaspora artists, curators, and collectors. We had the pleasure to speak to Dan, one of our earliest supporters, and learn more about his passion and dedication to art and artists.

Hi Dan, it is a pleasure to speak to you. You have a unique, but certainly inspiring, trajectory in the art world and we are excited to learn more about you. 
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you came to enter the contemporary art world?
I was born and raised in New Jersey. I actually aspired to become an artist and took many art courses throughout high school. When I presented the idea to my parents, they were vehemently against it. I am a first generation Asian American so being an artist was not something that was desirable or acceptable in my culture. I ultimately became a physician and also attended business school to get my Master of Business Administration simultaneously. However, my passion for art never left and I ultimately entered the art world from the collector’s side, first with prints, but then slowly started to acquire more unique works. 

What made you want to start collecting and what was the first artwork you acquired?
Since I could not make artwork, I decided it would be better to just collect it! Even before I began to think about buying art, I was always going to museums and galleries to learn. The limiting factor was getting the money to afford a unique artwork. Then in 2013, I stumbled upon Bitcoin and invested in it. 2017-2018 was a good year for cryptocurrencies and I used some of those returns to focus on buying art. The first artwork I ever bought was a print, which I won’t disclose. Let’s just say my collection has grown a lot since then.

Would you say there is a specific focus that drives your selection of artists and artworks? And how many artworks do you now have in your collection?
I tend to focus on emerging and early career contemporary artists. Initially I was drawn to figurative works, but my eye has since expanded to appreciate more abstract works. The only philosophy I adhere to is that I buy works that have an important historical context in the period in which they were created, while also having a unique visual language. I stopped keeping track, but it must be close to 100 works now. 

artwork with people in living room
Shantel Miller, The Meeting Place, 2019. Private Collection, UAE

The Here and There Collective that you recently co-founded focuses on artists from the Asian diaspora, tell us a little more about this initiative and where it is heading? 
This project was co-founded with Steven Abraham and Lisa Young, who are both amazing collectors. In light of the political and racial tensions in 2020, we saw many BIPOC artists and various communities coming together to support one another and it was beautiful to witness. We spoke about how that was lacking among Asian collectors and artists. Moreover, the pandemic caused a lot of negative sentiment among Asians and we are continuing to hear about acts of violence against Asians even today. We felt it was absolutely necessary to create this initiative to inform others that there are so many talented Asian artists, each with a unique story to tell. Right now we are interviewing and featuring artists weekly, but we would love to curate group shows of Asian artists. Additionally, we would love to create some kind of residency program for Asian artists while also providing them with resources like legal advice, healthcare services, etc. I would love to use the proceeds from group shows to create some type of award/grant to be given to artists each year.  

Your early involvement in the cryptocurrency world is certainly inspiring. What is your take on the direction this world is taking and what do you think lies ahead with cryptoart and NFT’s?
I think with any new technology, there are many people who will rush to learn and get involved. Particularly when the technology is built on the idea of decentralization, and reducing barriers to entry and eliminating “the gatekeepers”. I also think just like we saw with ICOs in the crypto space in 2017/2018, and DeFi in summer of 2020, there is going to be a lot of money being made, followed by a healthy correction, in which quality projects will survive. I am bullish on NFTs and NFT art because I think it is here to stay. I don’t think it is going to replace analogue art, but rather, be supplementary to it. It is an additional medium in which artists can expand their creative abilities, and reach a wider audience. If used correctly, it is a powerful medium that can benefit all stakeholders.  

Have you continued acquiring works during this past year with Covid? And how, if at all, has your collection or choice of artists changed since the start of the pandemic?
Yes, I actually acquired more works in 2020 and 2021 than any other year. It’s been such a historic time for many reasons, and great art tends to be made during times of distress. 2020 was one of the hardest years for me emotionally as I work in the hospital. Art was my way of coping with stress, and that couldn’t have been more true than last year. A lot of the artists I purchased in the past year or two were artists I had my eye on for some time already. The fact that their works were reflective of the period made it even better. 

picture of couch with painting hung on wall
Home of Dan Nguyen with painting by Alejandro Cardenas and sculpture by Alejandro Cardenas x Case Studyo
Two paintings hung on walls
Dan Nguyen's home, works by Arghavan Khosravi and Kate Barbee
painting hung on wall in above a table and chairs
Dan Nguyen's home, artwork by Lenz Geerk
picture of couch with painting hung on wall
Home of Dan Nguyen with painting by Alejandro Cardenas and sculpture by Alejandro Cardenas x Case Studyo
Two paintings hung on walls
Dan Nguyen's home, works by Arghavan Khosravi and Kate Barbee

What has been your most recent acquisition? And what is your dream acquisition that you have not attained just yet?
My most recent acquisitions are works by Ilana Savdie and Blair Whiteford, which lean in the more abstract direction I mentioned before. I would love to get works by Jade Fadojutimi, Maia Cruz Palileo (a large canvas), or Maria Berrio. Of course there are true DREAM works that if I had all of the money in the world I would try to acquire, but I am giving you my more realistic goals. 

What would your predictions be for the art world in the next 5 years?
Abstraction becoming more popular and sought after. More and more artists making NFTs, and major galleries building their own NFT platforms. Additionally, many mid-career artists who are being overlooked as everyone rushes to chase the newest MFA graduates, will make their triumphant return to the spotlight. Prices for new artists cannot sustain at these rates, and artists with sustainable careers and strong CVs will make their way into newer collections.

Last but not least, from newcube’s artists, who would be your favorite one and your favorite artwork?
That is a tough list to choose from, but it would have to be Shantel Miller‘s The Meeting Place. The work has an interesting perspective and provides just enough context to tell the viewer what may be happening (clothing, body language, position of each person in the room). However, the viewer still has the freedom to form his or her own interpretation. Other than Shantel Miller, I also particularly like Reihaneh Hosseini‘s I’m Not Running, Citizen by Jesse Aridoux and Summer Love by Brandon Elijah Johnson.

Woman leaning out a window
Summer Love by Brandon Elijah Johnson
Crowd of people descending escalator into subway
Reihaneh Hosseini, I'm Not Running, 2020

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