Ken Lum

Ken Lum

Ken Lum is an artist based in Philadelphia.


What artworks would you have/do you have in your drawing room?

If I had my druthers, it would include Caravaggio’s The Conversion of St Paul, Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife and Alma Thomas’ Elysian Fields.  Of course, Corita Kent and Dan Graham, both of whom are important to me in terms of influence.  In terms of what I actually have in my drawing room, there is a stencil by Lawrence Weiner, a witty word painting by Rodney Graham, an early edition by Cindy Sherman and a lot—I mean a lot of art by Linus and Linnea, my two young children. 


What books would you read/are you reading in your drawing room?

I am a bit ashamed to say but I hardly ever read fiction.  I tend to read a lot in the area of what preoccupies me for my art or other projects, including courses I teach at Penn.  I am teaching again a course called Paris Modern, I read a lot on Paris’ alternative histories—covered in books such as Luc Sante’s The Other Paris.  I’m trying my hand at writing a screenplay about Chinese laborers in the 1880s during the height of anti-sino sentiment so have Maxine Hong Kingston’s Chinamen on the docket, a book I have long resisted to read.  I also read a book by Christopher Frayling titled The Yellow Peril.  Not a great book but useful for my purposes. Mostly, I am addicted to on-line newspaper subscription reads such as NYTimes, Washington Post, The Guardian, South China Morning Post and Haaretz.  They pretty much all update throughout the day and I find it difficult at times not to be lured by the newsflashes.


What movies would you watch/are you watching in your drawing room?

I used to think of myself as a cinephile but since becoming a parent, I have only gone to the cinema to see children’s targeted movies.  I don’t even have time to watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon.  My wife and I are always commenting about planning a movie night together in front of the iPad when the children are asleep.  But that never seems to happen.  Despite this, I continue to build up a DVD collection.  I have a quite extensive collection of African movies for instance as well as Japanese from Ousmane Sembene and Idrissa Ouedraogo films to Kenji Mizoguchi and Shohei Imamura.  I love a wide range of films F.W. Murnau, Douglas Sirk, Kim Ki-young, Paul Thomas Anderson.  And in the rare times I am able to take in a film (that’s not for my kids), I am reminded how much I love film.


What music would you listen to/are you listening to in your drawing room?

I have a wide taste in music.  My wife and I think it important to introduce our kids to a wide range of music so at any given moment our house could be playing Beijing Opera to Senegalese music.  So for the drawing room, I think it important to be able to listen to as wide a swath of the world’s music as possible.  I do like to listen to bands like Whitney, Beach House, Cigarettes After Sex. I like Moses Sumney. I go back often to Fleet Foxes and Florence and the Machine. I like Bahamas a lot.  


Who would you/do you invite into your drawing room?

Being in the art world, I have been able to meet a number of important figures including several wealthy and powerful people, as well as a couple of Kings, a Queen and several Presidents of different countries.  Many of them were fascinating and I enjoyed meeting them all. But for the drawing room, I would prefer only the company of my wife Paloma and our children Linus and Linnea.