Pearl Lam talks personal taste: Part Two

The gallerist adds Dongbei dining, Riga street stalls and London facials to her style file

Pearl Lam photographed at her London Penthouse
Pearl Lam photographed at her London Penthouse | Image: Shamil Tanna

My style icon is the French interior and product designer Andrée Putman, who sadly died earlier this year. She’s an inspiration because she always carried herself with grace and elegance, wearing chic, tailored outfits. Even late in life she was full of energy, constantly challenging the ordinary with her great sense of wit, innovation and style.

An indulgence I would never forego is having a little time to myself to enjoy an Indian massage at home when I’m in London, and chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat. They are deliciously indulgent. Sadly, they don’t have a shop in Shanghai – yet. 46 Piccadilly, London W1 (020-7287 8500;

The last item I added to my wardrobe is a pair of black trousers by Maison Martin Margiela for H&M. They are a classic cut and take me through from day to evening.

The late Andrée Putman
The late Andrée Putman | Image: WireImage

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Dêgê border between China and Tibet, which has breathtaking mountain views and makes me forget that – being a city girl – I’m allergic to nature. The Tibetan monks were very surprised I made it so far in my platform shoes.

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a Baltic Sea amber bracelet. I bought it from one of the street stalls in Valnu Iela, Riga, selling a huge range of beautiful amber jewellery, which Latvia is famous for.

The last music I downloaded was Madonna. My PA downloads music for me so I have no idea about the names of songs, albums or artists, but, as he is a Madonna fanatic, she’s inevitably all over my playlists. I like house and techno music with a beat – but I don’t keep track of who does what.


The people I rely on for grooming and wellbeing include my Hong Kong hairdresser, Ivan Chow, who comes to visit me at home; he has been doing my hair for years now and knows exactly how I like it styled. For facials, manicures and pedicures, I find Antonia Georgiou, who comes to my home in London, is always very reliable and keeps things simple. Antonia Georgiou, Ivan Chow, Time Salon, Central, Hong Kong (+852-2810 4778).

A recent “find” is Yu Shi Yu in Beijing. I call it the fish-head restaurant. It serves Dongbei, a style of traditional cooking, or peasant food, from northeastern China. It consists of a steaming bowl of fish, vegetables and chilli in the middle of the table with corn patties cooking on the side. There are also cold noodles, mounds of Dongbei tofu and “1,000-year-old eggs” [pickled and preserved for several weeks]. For dessert they serve sweet filled bread and caramelised sweet potato. Jiuxianqiao Beilu, 2 Hao Yuan, Yishu Qu, Beijing 100015 (+8610-6438 5355).

The books on my bedside table are Umbrella by Will Self, which is brilliant in its originality and energy – my brain seems to work in the same way as the author’s, jumping from place to place – and Total Modernity and the Avant-Garde in Twentieth Century Chinese Art by Gao Minglu. The western world generally assumes that Chinese abstract art is derivative of western expressionism, but Gao shatters such notions by outlining a new way of looking at the processes of Chinese artists that are rooted in Taoism and other Chinese philosophies. This is of particular interest to me as I like to share this viewpoint by promoting Chinese abstract art through exhibitions in my galleries.

On the road to Dêgê, Sichuan Province, China
On the road to Dêgê, Sichuan Province, China | Image: Alamy

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the Shibuya district in Tokyo, where you can find all the latest designs from fashion to beauty, electronic devices to industrial design. It’s a wonderful place to shop, with well-known brands and totally new discoveries. Tokyu Hands is one of my favourite stores because I can find anything I need there and more – stationery, gadgets and accessories I never knew I needed. And Shibuya 109 is always great fun. I keep up with trends at this mall for teenage girls and buy lots of strange make-up and lotions and potions. It’s full of little stalls and shops so I spend time wandering in and out, looking at anything that takes my fancy. Shibuya 109, 2-2 9-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo (+813-3477 5111; Tokyu Hands, Times Square Building, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (+813-5361 3111;

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Mark Bradford because it embodies Chinese philosophies about the meditative process. He studied Chinese calligraphy, which explains why his work has elements that are similar to Chinese abstract artworks that focus on process. He trims and glues multiple layers of street posters onto his pieces to reflect current socioeconomic issues, while Chinese artists also use paper to represent their culture.

My favourite room in my house is my living room in Shanghai. Some of my favourite artworks are here, including Jason Martin’s luxuriously tactile work, pieces by Zhang Huan and a dining table designed by XYZ Design that can seat up to 70 people for dinner.

La Maison du Chocolat exterior, Paris
La Maison du Chocolat exterior, Paris

In my fridge you’ll always find Diet Coke, which I drink like water, and super-energising blueberries.

If I didn’t live in London, I would live in Paris or Rome. To me, Paris is like a woman with perfect make-up, while Rome is like a naturally beautiful woman with no make-up. I’m always enchanted by Rome’s ancient architecture, the delicious food and carefree spirit of the local people. In Paris there are great museums, wonderful shops and I have lots of friends who live there – all the ingredients for a happy life.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would love to be a designer, artist or architect since I need an outlet for my eclectic tastes and creativity. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I like to mix various styles to make something new. I think there is something beautiful about contradictions.


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