In the thick of Art Basel in Hong Kong, it’s not difficult to spot Nick Buckley Wood. All of 193cm tall, the 30-year-old Asia Director for Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is holding court in booth 1C27 beside a Robert Longo piece. He switches between fluent Mandarin and posh English with charm and ease, though his extensive art vocabulary is challenging to philistines such as ourselves.
“I don’t paint,” he tells us. “I think I was always interested in the more curatorial and business side of art. I studied art in high school and art history at the University of Edinburgh, but I was always the one in class who’d go around and say, ‘This is good, this is terrible, you need to rethink your whole concept, this is really ugly … but I like it!’”
An appreciation of art and its value came early. “I even bought some things from my friends in high school, so I was always interested in the business side. I remember buying my first piece of art, which was a small Jeff Koons multiple,” he tells us, as our jaws drop at the notion of a teenager buying Koons. “It was a fun deal, travelling to Sotheby’s in Milan where it was being sold. I’ve met Koons – he’s very charming.” We’re sure he is.
Born in London, brought up in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Wood later went to New York for an internship at the Guggenheim, which eventually led him – still at a very young age – to his first job in the art world, a senior position with Pearl Lam Galleries. “But before I was gallery director I did a stint in banking, of course – I do have a Chinese mother – but then I moved to Beijing. I was brave, but I was also young. And stupid [laughs].”
We wonder what he’d now tell his younger self before entering the world of modern art. “Good question,” he replies. “Nothing. Because it would just destroy the joy of discovery.”