This article first appeared on TMagazine.com on January 15th, 2019.
For the mixed-media artist Xavier Veilhan, the studio is not only a place of work, it is also a place for living. “I don’t own a computer. I don’t even have a desk,” he says, “I prefer to let people who know what they are doing take care of the technical aspects of my work.” And there are indeed many technical aspects to his varied work which ranges from 3-D printed sculpture to ambitious installion. Last year, he transformed the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale into a state-of-the-art recording studio, inviting world-class musicians including Thurston Moore and Brian Eno to bring the private work of recording music into the public sphere. While Veilhan notes that many of his peers in the visual art world have rejected the convention of the studio to “work on airplanes and outsource their production,” he has adopted the opposite approach: “I do not have a fancy home, or a beach house, I have this studio instead.” In 2007, he collaborated with the French architecture firm Bona-Lemercier to transform an old storage hangar in Paris’s Bastille neighborhood into a space where he could produce and fabricate his work, cook intimate lunches and an annual party for the city’s La Fête de la Musique, an event that brings up to 500 of his friends into the studio to see world renowned DJs perform. The studio’s design, while delightfully unconventional with its netted banisters and large kitchen space, is precisely tailored to Xavier’s 24-hour needs.
The studio’s kitchen is where Veilhan’s interests in/obsessions with design, art-making and food converge. This is the heart of the building, and as close as Veilhan comes to claiming an office of his own. The walls are stacked with objects of intrigue, from obscure nautical instruments to editioned works of art. He drinks from an unassuming institutional water fountain that is actually a sculpture by the American artist Marc Ganzglass, entitled “Meteorite Inclusions (Fountain).” Veilhan’s eyes light up as he reveals the magic hidden within the piece: the pipes are formed from fragments of an iron meteorite.
Just back from his daily visit to the Bastille farmer’s market, he arranges a bounty of earthy, orange chanterelles, jammy end-of-season figs, and a silver skinned bonito onto the cast-concrete countertop of his custom, boat-like kitchen, with curved angles and a striking economy of space. Today, like most days, Veilhan will prepare lunch for his dozen o so employees, a welcome improvisation with Paris’s most superior produce.
He grabs a box of rice from a bank of storage boxes designed by the Bouroullec brothers. The sleek filing system runs the length of the kitchen, each container filled with dry goods and labeled — risotto, pasta, chocolat, pasta. The very same boxes are filled with paperwork and press clippings in the workspace across the way. As he cooks, he banters with a team working on a bank of computers perched on the platform overhead.
When the fish is poached, the salad dressed, he rings an antique copper bell, summoning the staff to the table. The team gathers, passing their plates to Veilhan for generous helpings. Lunches like these are a mainstay; so much so that the team finds themselves at a loss without them. Jessica, the studio manager insists, “We don’t know what to do when Xavier is traveling, lunch time is complete chaos!”