Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Thierry Despont’s Paris

The architect and designer behind hotel renovations such as The Dorchester Collection’s 45 Park Lane, London, is also a visual artist represented by the Marlborough Gallery.

February 29 2012
Victoria Woodcock

“I live and work in New York, but, as given away by my French accent, my perfect weekend would be in Paris, with my wife, Barbara. We have an apartment on the Left Bank, but as I am restoring the Ritz, our favourite hotel, we sometimes stay there. In which case, on Saturday morning we’ll have breakfast in our room, overlooking the Place Vendôme, before going for a stroll.

I order shirts at Charvet, stop at Guerlain to buy some Cuir de Russie perfume for my wife, and we continue across the Tuileries Garden. I like to look at the beautiful Maillol sculptures, then we cross the Seine to the Left Bank, with all its antiques dealers.

Continuing our walk along the Rue de l’Université brings us to my favourite antique bookstore, Alain Brieux, which sells scientific and medical books. I have been collecting books on the moon for over 20 years, and I have an outstanding collection dating from Gallileo.

On our way to lunch, we stop at Deyrolle, a fabulous taxidermy store full of animals, butterflies, minerals and garden instruments. It has existed for almost 200 years and looks like a natural history museum. It is so inspirational for all my work as an artist. I create imaginary planets and make found objects look like insects, skeletons and weird creatures. In my mind, I am forever trying to create a natural history museum of a dream world, and those creatures inhabit my planet.

Lunch is at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, which has wonderful food in a simple setting. The purée of pomme de terre with lamb cutlets is to die for; with a heart of lettuce and a drop of olive oil, that’s a fantastic little lunch. Not too heavy, so that you can continue going to more bookstores. Another favourite is Karl Lagerfeld’s Edition 7L, which has the latest and best books on architecture, photography and art.

If there is a special exhibition on, we might go to the Musée d’Orsay; I particularly love the huge paintings of historical scenes. We also visit our friend Benjamin Steinitz and his antiques store, which always has some amazing objects. Right now he has a pair of extraordinary marble urns.

In the evening, we often go to the theatre, usually the Comédie-Française, which embodies the charm of this historical city. I recently enjoyed Molière’s L’Ecole des Femmes there. We follow this with a quick dinner at Le Voltaire, and indulge in some of its pomme frites, among other things: there’s a desert of either pear or plum simmered in brandy that I highly recommend.

On Sunday morning, as early as we can, we go to the flea market in Saint-Ouen, specifically the Marché Paul Bert, where I buy a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff to ship back to my studio in New York. If the weather is good, it’s fabulous; if it’s cold, we bundle up with scarves and hats – and then there might be fewer people, so you find more things. I always uncover some weird objects at Quintessence – most recently metal cages that I will use in insect sculptures. We buy old china and glassware from Nicolas Giovannoni, who happens to be the nephew of a passed-away architect friend. I buy kitchen tools and cutting boards in great quantities; the works I am currently showing in New York are direct products of the Paris flea market.

Later on Sunday afternoon we like to visit our friends Martine and Prosper Assouline. They have a spectacular apartment with huge windows that open on to the garden of the Palais-Royal. We drink pisco sours and brag about our mutual finds of the weekend, trading stories. We also exchange good wine labels. All before catching a late flight back to New York.”

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