This past spring, the art world suffered a letdown when it was reported that the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rooftop garden would weather its first year since 2013 without an installation. Lauren Halsey’s site-specific creation, the eastside of south central los angeles hieroglyph prototype architecture (I), had been slated for the highly-anticipated commission and set to open in May 2022. The previous month, the prominent Los Angeles–based artist and self-described maximalist announced she and the museum would postpone the opening by one year “to do this project in the fullest way possible,” citing logistical issues.
That’s when Jacob Koo, the owner of The Sleep Spa by Hästens, the brand’s largest international dealer, and an active figure in L.A.’s contemporary art scene, was motivated to help bring Halsey’s vision to life. Upon learning about the roadblocks Halsey faced with her Met exhibition, Koo explored ways the art world’s favorite heritage bedmaker could support its own community.
“This led to even more conversations about even more incredible projects that deserve similar support,” Koo says. “We thought, “Why should we stop here?” So the Hästens Art Support Fund was born and Halsey’s installation was afforded the necessary resources to meet its new opening date.
Below, Koo breaks down how Hästens, museums from New York to L.A., and the Art Support Fund’s roster aren’t such strange bedfellows after all.
The Hästens Art Support Fund has made such a splash in its inaugural year, supporting everyone from Lauren to Henry Taylor and Tala Madani. How did it all come together so quickly?
Halsey, the first recipient, was also the inspiration for the initiative. After learning about her vision and monumental projects in the pipeline, I was motivated to spearhead a support campaign through Hästens. This led to conversations about even more projects that similarly deserved support. I recently joined the MOCA LA acquisition and collection committee, so the fund started out by supporting Madani’s current solo exhibition, in addition to the monumental 30-year survey of the great Henry Taylor that opened in November.
How did the Fund get connected with Halsey, and her planned work with the Met?
I was introduced to her work through Summaeverything–the artist-run community center in her hometown of South Central L.A. that she founded in 2019. As I learned more about her practice, David Kordansky Gallery, which represents Halsey, told me about her highly anticipated roof garden commission at the Met. It immediately struck me as the ideal first project for our support. I was attracted to its bicoastal trajectory—it’ll ultimately live as a permanent installation in her hometown.
As an art patron, collector, and institutional committee member, what have you learned from this process?
Unfortunately, there are never enough resources to meet every need. The fund was designed to be much more than just a financial prize. As part of each round of funding, Hästens also contributes operational support, organizes intimate collector events, as well as marketing for our partnering artists. This step hopefully is the first in learning how a private company can use the sales of our products to support art projects. We’re hoping to provide a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship between artists, collectors, and Hästens that directly supports the creation of lasting masterworks. We’re really thrilled about where this is going. In our first year, the Fund has distributed more than $300,000 towards our art support initiatives.
Do you keep a running list of artists you’d love for Hästens to work with in the future?
There truly are so many incredible artists out there, so we’re keeping ourselves open to what the community needs. Our hope is to support all kinds of projects from urgent restorations to commissions like Halsey’s.
What was the last gallery or museum show that really mesmerized you?
“Tala Madani: Biscuits” at MOCA LA. Madani is an artist whose work my wife and I have been following for some years. But none of that viewing could have prepared me for how spectacular her recent solo exhibition was.
What’s on your must-see list for upcoming exhibitions?
As an Angeleno, I’m looking forward to the upcoming Made in LA biennial at the Hammer Museum. Halsey made her big break at that show and she’s not the only one. Biennials open the doors to discovery and the Hammer’s edition is especially intriguing because they focus exclusively on artists in my backyard.