I recently wrapped up the JF Chen Collection auction with Christie’s, which celebrated my 40-year career.
Together with my daughter, Bianca Chen, I’ll continue to collect and develop relationships with emerging artists.
“Back in the day, I had no clue about anything in life, much less the art and furniture businesses. It all happened gradually. The story is that I spotted a shop full of Chinese antiques on Melrose Avenue. I knocked on the door, and the owner refused entry. I was persistent, and he finally opened up and said that the store was for the trade only. I took it as a racial slight and decided that I wanted to open my own antique store. I eventually did—right behind the shop that refused to let me in. I started with 800-square-feet, but kept running out of space and expanding. Now, we have several buildings filled with a mix of midcentury, Asian and European pieces—many from the Eastern Bloc. I buy what I like. It’s hard to describe why or how I choose, but when I put a Chinese vase with a Danish chair and a modern bronze table on the side, they speak to each other. I’d like to be remembered as someone with a good demeanor in trading arts, and for my artists to remember me as someone who helped them get started. Trying to distinguish what works can be very difficult, but after 40 years, I think I have the hang of it.”