“The Mercer has been there forever, but it’s a hotel that’s kept all its magic through the years, and that magic is mostly due to the lobby. It’s a space that makes you feel you’re in a private salon, and there’s always a lot of action there. First of all, it’s very comfortable: you sit down and have a drink or something to eat or have tea, and all the art world and fashion world at some stage walks in. You can sit in the lobby of The Mercer, think of someone and then two minutes later they show up. I’ve been staying there since 2001 or 2002. Because the art market is like a travelling circus – you’re constantly on the road – for 10 years The Mercer was my main base in New York.
The food there is very simple, but very good – Jean-Georges Vongerichten is the chef. When you have an irregular life you try to create regularity, so when I travel I always eat the same things in the same restaurants. At The Mercer I have the fantastic chicken and coconut-milk soup with rice, which is addictive, and the steamed shrimp salad. And after a while they started always giving me the same room, one at the corner of the building. I love corner rooms; I feel less hemmed in. It’s a standard room, with very clean, minimal decor by Christian Liaigre; you have what you need and nothing more – there’s no art on the walls. In fact, the decor throughout the hotel is quite spartan. But I prefer no art to bad art, so it’s very nice to be in a place that’s simple and elegant.
SoHo used to be New York’s gallery centre, but the scene has shifted to the Lower East Side. So whenever I’m in the city I walk miles and miles. Even if I’m staying uptown for an auction, I’ll walk back down to The Mercer for a lunch or afternoon tea, because there’s always so much activity and people and interesting things happening. André Balazs has a distinct talent in creating this uncorporate feeling in all his hotels. I might meet gallerists or art dealers there, people like Tony Shafrazi. Peter Brant is often there simply because he has his apartment across the road. But then you might see Marc Jacobs too. So it’s a mixed crowd, with many people from the creative industries, and also a young crowd, so when you’re an old guy like me, it’s quite fun. It’s really the lobby that makes the whole establishment. It reflects the city in that it’s a melting pot of everything, all professions and nationalities – lively and stimulating and fun, and it makes you feel good.”