What does the word ‘Paris’ evoke for you?

A place where the future and the past are intimately linked; but I have to admit, that’s not always ideal.

Your first memory of Paris?

The Marcel Duchamp exhibition at the Centre Pompidou when it opened in spring 1977. I couldn’t understand the dates on the labels. When had he created this, recreated it, revisited it, reedited it, designed it? But of course, it was entirely Duchamp.

Where do you feel most at home?    

Brussels. Do you know the Jacques Brel song, Bruxelles? Every time I hear it, I cry.

What makes a true Parisian?

Someone stubborn but funny, difficult but endearing. Chaotic – often, unforgivably so.

Who do you think best embodies Paris?

Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Your favorite breakfast place?

It depends on the occasion and the people I’m meeting. In the past, Le Café Populaire on avenue Ledru-Rollin. Or often, Le Tourville at place de l’École Militaire. Also, Maison Edgar on boulevard Raspail. And more recently, Le Sanseveria on rue de Rivoli.

I love early morning breakfast get-togethers, because often people don’t show up, and that’s just fine: I can be alone.

Where are the best boutiques?

The design stores on boulevard Saint-Germain, like Cassina, with those table and chair combinations that bring to mind Georges Perec’s ‘espèces d’espaces’. Of course I love anything from Hermès. However, I buy my scarves in Delhi, Timbuktu, Lima, Dublin.

Who would be your dream guests for a dinner party?

Back in the day, Raymond Hains and Agnès Varda. Now, Lou Doillon and Julien Creuzet.

Where do you go out in Paris?

Chez Paul, which is open until 1am. I especially like the second floor – it’s like the ‘Chez Pol’ column in Libération.

What work of art best represents Paris?

The Bouroullec brothers’ wacky fountains on the Champs-Élysées, but also Isidore de Rudder’s crazy Monument de la reconnaissance belge à la France (1923), near Place de l’Alma.

What is the craziest thing you have heard or seen in the streets of Paris?

That rue de Rivoli could be renamed rue Arnault.

What can you only do in Paris?

Link all artistic disciplines as if it were the most natural thing in the world – and it is! Paris + art + fashion + literature + cinema + design +... politics! Shall I stop there?

What do you miss most when you are far from Paris?

The mixing and remixing of arts and crafts, the heritage and innovation, the people who contribute to it all, the events that showcase these works, the objects that are the results.

And also, the wealth of food products in the markets, where I spend a lot of time.

Your best advice for someone visiting the city?

Listen as much as you look, above all, to the things you don’t know yet.


All photos by Louis Canadas for Art Basel.