Art has long been the passion of Talenia Phua Gajardo, but the former architect quickly realised she had to market her product differently to a generation more likely to turn to their phones than the auction house. In response, she founded Artling, an online art gallery that would tap the potential of an art market that was growing “at about 19 per cent a year online". Now three years old, the site offers contemporary Asian art from over 120 galleries and 800 artists from 22 countries.
Upon graduation, Gajardo worked for a few years with the late starchitect Zaha Hadid, before founding her own interior architecture and design practice. Her latest endeavor is Luxglove, an online marketplace for pre-owned and vintage items including art, watches and rare whisky.
Being online is really important now. We’re all mobile and everyone’s on their phone. Your brand will lose out if it doesn’t have a website or an app, if it’s not discoverable. People are now more open to buying expensive items online, but they need to trust the brand.
My favourite buildings in Singapore are the Colonnade by Paul Rudolph and The Gateway by IM Pei, which looks completely flat from certain angles. It’s rather underrated and people are always surprised to hear he designed it.
I’ve worn black since I was young – it makes up 95 per cent of my wardrobe. I find colour and pattern distracting. I was given a lot of grief for it but then I walked into Zaha Hadid Architects and everyone was in black – I felt right at home!
You pick up a design language after working with Zaha for years – like being super-curvy – that isn’t necessarily yours. She’s as fierce as they say and also amazingly charismatic. I worked with her on (Russian property magnate) Vladislav Doronin’s massive Capital Hill Residence in the Barvikha forest near Moscow. He wanted to be above the trees, hence the huge tower. You can take a lift to the top at two speeds – really fast or slow for a more scenic route. We started the project in 2006 and they’re still working on finishing it.
My favourite local restaurant is Hashida Sushi at Mandarin Gallery – the chef is young, rebellious, has great stories and will tell you how the restaurant came about, where he got everything from. My favourite Peranakan place is Violet Oon’s restaurant at National Gallery. In London, I like the old-school restaurants like Scott’s – I sit outside of course. Also La Bodega Negra and Chiltern Firehouse – I think Nuno Mendes is one of London’s best chefs.
I like collecting weird things like crystals because they’re beautiful. I have amethyst, quartz and pyrite. I tend to pick them up on my travels, which means my suitcase is often literally full of rocks! The most expensive one cost a few hundred dollars. I’ve more than 60 pieces so far and am building a special display case for them.
Art has always been my biggest expense. I like Sterling Ruby, Handiwirman Saputra and Mary Weatherford. My first, most important purchase was a Tracey Emin piece that I bought for about £500 when I was in university. It’s a scratchy drawing – classic Emin – called No Idea Why They Can Jump So High and it’s very rude.
I’m half-Chilean and would love to visit Chile as I haven’t been back in 15 years. I want to visit Patagonia – buy a jeep, do a tour of the whole coast and sell it at the end.