Art collector, energetic host and awesome at turning dinner parties into fine art, Luziah Hennessy is the H of the LVMH Moet Hennessy, the powerful conglomerate of luxury brands. She is married with Gilles, from the seventh generation of the descendants of Richard Hennessy – founder of the famous eponymous cognac label. In the interview below, she talks about art, style, Europe, fashion brands, dinners, life; shares secrets and gives nice suggestions when it comes to Paris, travelling, shopping… That was a beautiful interview! Luziah is incredibly clever and witty! Read!
Luziah by Luziah
“I was global before the age of internet. Born in Hong Kong, Malaysian father in the foreign service, I grew up in Korea and Canada, where I spent my formative years. Armed with a degree in Economics, I moved to Paris to live the Hemingway dream in the 90′s.
My Parisian youth was spent as a gallery girl in St Germain. My mission was to be able to walk into living rooms and identify the paintings on the wall. I cruised all the auction house sales, museums, galleries, between NYC and Paris.
Mingling with artists and dreaming of having a salon, I helped artists such as Bob Wilson with his Watermill project of helping young talent study with him for his summer program.
Through Moet Hennessy, we helped sponsor exhibitions of Sandro Chia at the Villa Medicis in Rome, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov in Moscow and Venice, instigated the exhibition between Chateau de Versailles and the Pinakotheke of Sao Paulo in 2007, ‘Imagens do Soberano’.
I believe that companies, especially multinationals, should give back to the community, and thus grew social projects to help children in Russia and Brazil. In November 2010, for Guga’s tenth year celebrations, there was a fund raiser for IGK in Sao Paulo at the Pinakotheke of Sao Paulo, and, on August 22, 2012, a fund raiser concert for a Brazil social project orchestra under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta at the Municipal Theater of São Paolo. Heliopolis orchestra played on Luciano Hulk’s programme, ‘Caldeirão do Hulk’.
Small drops fill an ocean and my belief is we can all give back and have a wonderful and fun time doing this. This is my key to being in Brazil and making friends in your fabulous country.”
Ana Luiza Fischer, Julia Padilha and Luziah Hennessy at the Vogue Brazil party during fashion week in Paris. September, 2012
1. What is the best month of the year to attend art events in Europe?
The best art month in Europe is the middle of September, into October, as you have art fairs Frieze, in London, and FIAC, in Paris. Even though they are both contemporary art fairs, the tone is very different and they are back to back in timing. There is the saying – you come to Frieze to see London and not you come to London to see Frieze.In London, the parallel events are amazing at the Serpentine with Hans Ulrich doing great exhibitions; the Tate for sure always has an amazing show and such a great space. Each time you see Turbine Hall is like the first time. There are also the galleries and private art spaces like Issac Julien who opens a fabulous new space this fall designed by David Adjay. Fabulous and never to be missed is Frieze during its PAD Prize for design. Moet Hennessy gives a design prize for PAD, etc. Lots of things happening! London is a very buzzy town.
Then, you take a breath and hop to Paris for Fiac. Paris is always Paris and the exhibition space of FIAC in the Grand Palais is amazing. Again you have fabulous parallel events – Galerie Continua at the Moulin, SAM open house sponsored by Sandra Mueller and family (she is BRAZILIAN and a cool lady!!!) at a fab jewel of a space where artists do residencies in house in an English Square in the middle of Paris, Maison Rouge, Palais de Toyko… Not to be missed is the Galerie Continua’s outing to the Moulin to see the art installations.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris
2. What are your favorite European art galleries? Why?
In Paris: Thaddaeus Ropac, and his new space in Pantin. Attending Thaddaeus’ exhibitions have been a vital part of my art education. I learnt a lot and became friends with many of his artists – Kabakov, Racquib Shaw, Shirin and Fahad Moscheri, Philippe Bradshaw, Tom Sachs, Denis Hopper, James Rosenquist… Being with artists changes your vision: because of them, you look at life through another lense. They become a fabric of your life.
I regret the art I didn’t have the courage to buy, e.g. the Dolls series of James Rosenquist. If I could only buy ONE thing for 5 years, I would buy the art piece. I was afraid to spend that amount of money at the time. Thaddaeus and I are also friends. In 25 years of friendship, a lot happens. You grow up together. His art dinners are THE dinners to be invited to. You see a great mix of artists, collectors, designers (as many of them are art collectors), and curators. He has the art + fashion mix.
Gagosian has a new space at Le Bourget where private planes land.
I love Galerie Yvon Lambert because of the shows that are always amazing. Galerie Perrotin is a peek into tomorrow. He is very avant-garde. It is important and a learning experience to see exhibitions.
Work byAnselm Kiefer in the Thaddaeus Ropac in Pantin, 2012
In London: I love Lisson. Nicolas Logsdale was very kind and patient when I started collecting. He helped me buy my first big piece – Allan Macollum. He sold me a historic piece from the Serpentine exhibition. I was just a young collector, but he wanted me to have a good piece. He believed that I would be a collector and he gave me a base. And everyone loves Sadie Coles and the fabulous art of Hauser & Wirth.
German artist Martin Elder has already exhibited at Hauser & Wirth
In Switzerland/ Zurich: Galerie Eva Presenhuber. I met Eva when she was running a small non profit gallery – Galerie Walcheturum. She showed artists totally unknown. I liked some and bought, e.g. Ugo Rondinone. Some of her artists became very famous and I am happy to have been guided by her and having an interesting collection because of the artists she showed. Peter Kilchman is also interesting. He loves what he does passionately.
It is nice and a challenge to buy unknown artists, and then they become famous.
One’s relationship with galleries determines one’s collection. You go in and look, talk and buy an art work. You share an interest, the same ideas, vision and there is always friendship involved between a gallerist and a collector. At least, this is true in my case. The big collectors, I think it is different for them. They buy a lot of art from many galleries, the rapport may not be the same.
3. Which museum in Europe you find the most attractive?
The coolest is Palais de Tokyo. It is an art space that is a “happening”. Jean Loissy is a fabulous director who creates great fertile atmosphere, always with tons of energy. Art is about energy. Jean was the director of the biennale of Lyon for many years. Every museum has a totally different character and I love each one of them individually. I love Maxxi in Rome but their exhibitions are not the most interesting. The Zaha Hadid building is sensational and an art work in itself and it is always wonderful to be in Maxxi. I love the contemporary museum in Frankfurt of Max Hollein. It looks like a boat. Max does amazing shows.
Madre in Naples. I love the atmosphere in this decadent town where a former convent is now a museum. The Maurizio Catalan on a cross in the chapel is wonderful. You look at a great art work and, just out of the window, in the next building, the washing is hanging to dry in the Naples sunshine like an installation.
There is not one museum. If I mentioned one, I would betray the others.
Madre, in Naples
4. You are a passionate art collector and famous for turning dinner parties into a fine art. What are your tips for making a fantastic dinner party? Give us details: music, decoration, atmosphere, guests, sitting, etc.
It’s banal to say your guests make your evening, but it is the truth. If you have fabulous guests, you can eat raw vegetables off plastic plates that the conversation will overshadow the lack of interesting food. Always Ruinart champagne before dinner! It’s the “art champagne” and it’s delicious.
I have been collecting artists’ plates from all over the world for years. I followed the example of Madame Pompidou – great conversation starter piece when people get to the table. My favorite plate is the “ashtray dessert plate” from Damien Hirst. People hate it, but, when they are told it is Damien Hirst’s, they eat their ice cream off an ashtray image feeling like gods.
Being Asian, I like to serve Asian food; what people don’t usually eat in European homes. I love to serve Vietnamese food or lots of Chinese/Thai food that people don’t know. It takes their poise away when they have to use chop sticks and eat what they don’t know. “Being global”, one has to serve special foods, e.g. fruitinni miniature fruits stuffed with their ice from Lancoso outside of Naples, frozen macaroons from Le Notre, mooncakes during Chinese New Year or new moon, etc. Great success are fresh dates from Qatar. In Kuwait, they have delicious dates and figs stuffed with chocolates and candied fruits. And the nuts Sheika Paula of Kuwait sends me.
Food is definitely a conversation piece.
5. Which characteristics someone has to possess in order to turn parties and events into a fine art?
For a party or event to be fun, you must really like why and what you are doing. You must really like the artists’ work. If I don’t like the work of the artist, I don’t a dinner/party, because everybody can feel it. When you love the work, you call all your friends and the natural buzz takes over.
Ruinart champagne – lots and always champagne! I serve champagne because I love it, I could serve whiskey or vodka, but I offer champagne and this rarely changes.
7. The best weekend in Europe for those who like art…
Private weekend: for me the absolute best, fun, interesting, wonderful art weekend in JUNE without a doubt is Dakis Joannou’s invitation to see DESTE – his foundation in Athens and DESTE Hdyra. Dinner at his home is a true Greek experience of great design furniture and delicious Greek food, and the exhibitions are outstanding. His topics and choice of work are museum quality and always a great learning experience.
Dakis is a passionate and committed collector. All the artists love him, and, for him, a fabulous art crowd of artists, collectors, museums directors and art critics cross the ocean and we all camp out in Greece for at least a week. DESTE/Dakis weekend is always the weekend around Art Basel – before or after.
We wear pareaus and take water taxis to the deserted June beaches of Hydra for heated arguments about who and what is good. In the evenings, we eat tavern food and finish on the steps of the piazza having passionate art conversations. The locals have no clue who anyone is and there is no paparazzi and art junkies.
The best public event is still Art Basel in Basel – rain or shine. The quality of the art is amazing.
8. The best weekend in Europe for those who enjoy fashion above all else…
Milan has that Italian charm and you see the best Italy has to offer with all that great food. Paris fashion week is soooooo buzzy and it is more global. Everyone dreams to show in Paris. There are the great parties: in 2013, H&M showed their collection in the most wonderful setting in a recreated Chateau in the Rodin Gardens. I think Paris fashion week is the highest energy level of creativity and buzz. I have never been to London fashion week.
9. What are your tips for those who want to start their own art collection?
1. read Judith Greer’s book about art collecting as this will be your guide;
2. see as many gallery shows as possible, and get a collector to indicate the good new small galleries as well in EVERY country you visit;
3 see EVERY contemporary museum show possible and also the classical exhibitions. This trains your eye. Museum shows are very important, since you see the best artists works and they have been carefully chosen;
4. befriend artists, collectors, museum curators – listen to them and follow their careers, listen listen all the time and see EVERYTHING possible. Read read – Art Forum, Art Newspaper, Connaissance des Arts-nice photos, etc…;
5. buy NOTHING for the first two years and learn. One can also take art courses and, of course, read art biographies. Collecting art is a profession. It is serious, but also fun and rewarding.
10. What are your shopping tips for those who want to shop for new clothes and feel renovated and more stylish?
We have just moved to London so I only have Parisian and Milanese tips. Before shopping, one should flip through Vogue Paris and Vogue Italy and sit in Avenue in Paris and lunch at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan to see what people are wearing. Cafe de Flore in Paris is a good barometer too.
In Paris: definitely head for Azzedine Alaia, and, around the corner, is their outlet. Alaia is timeless, so it is always good, but each season has something gorgeous. It’s like an art collection. Montaigne market and Colette are great multibrands, and Corso Como is not to be missed in Milan.
Alaia, FW 11 Couture
In the end, I think it is about the new BAG, e.g. Fendi bags are my favorite, the new SHOE, a good pair of sunglasses and my most favorite is a fabulous piece of jewellery. I don’t go for the new look of the season but I need to know.
11. What are the best clothes shops in Europe?
In Paris, Didier Ludot, where all designers buy vintage to inspire their collections, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney… and if it is raining, you are protected. The classic Avenue Montaigne shops – Dior with the new designer Raf Simons. The little cocktail dresses are amazing. Fendi for shoes and bags. Emilio Pucci prints for the beach wear, they take no room – pure cotton and gorgeous. Givenchy has the sexiest evening wear. I love Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton for their winter clothes. And Ermano Scervino, who makes the best summer dresses in the world for the day as well as a sexy evening wear.
The Mall – Tuscany’s Luxury Outlet, in the outside of Florence, for basics. Best time to go is January and July, when they are on sale. These days you think you are in China, as there are hordes of Chinese tourists.
In London, the young designer Osman, who has a great evening wear.
12. What is your style advice for women?
Dress in accordance with your lifestyle. In winter, during the day, I wear well-cut pants, great flats – my Italian friend, a small shoe maker from Arezzo, Gaston Lucioli, makes fabulous flats. Sleeveless cashmere sweaters with a Galliano jacket. Coats by Givenchy or LV. Bag of the season is never what everyone has, but it is always a big bag. In the evening, I prefer small bags with high heels or pants with satin shirts. Silvia Toledano makes the best crystal clutch bags in Paris. In the summer, I wear sexy light dresses from Ermano Scervino as I spend most of the summer in Europe. Flats for the day and skyscraper evening shoes with moussseline dresses at night if I go out. I like my dresses longuish. In the country, I wear clothes I find in markets with Havaianas.
13. What are your favorite sights in Europe?
1 Alexander III bridge. Always so romantic!
2 Concorde late at night when it is deserted.
3 Arcades of Jardin de Palais Royale – magical. I take all my friends from out of town there for a walk when the flowers are out.
4 Hermès windows are always fabulous.
5 Palais Garnier for ballet. So opulent.
6 Walk through Ils St Louis in the summer with a Bertillon ice cream.
The beautiful bridge Alexander III and a gorgeous Berthillon ice cream
Rome. My beloved city – all the fountains,Trevi, Piazza Navona… I love the sound of flowing water. Just walking and walking in the historic Rome.
14. What is a secret just few know about Paris? Share it with us.
1 Alaia outlet. Go just before fashion week when they stock up for the press who will descend into Paris.
2 If you are friend with the designer they often let you order. This works when the designers are young and showing. This is how I discovered Brazilian designers during fashion week.
3 Herve van der Strateen designs furniture but also does great jewellery – light, unique, gorgeous earrings and necklaces. Any boring dress comes alive with his jewellery.
15. What are your favorite hotels in Europe?
1. Kulm Hotel, in St Moritz, with a view of the sunrise.
2. Mandarin Oriental, in Paris. So luxurious!
3. My friend, Idarica Gazzoni, has just opened a “private suite” on 11 via Marta with just one suite!!! Private, luxurious,…..superb bohemian chic.
4. Eden, in Rome, for the fabulous views and location.
5. Sirenuese, in Positano. Best food in Italy and the bar with the sunset is pure nectar.
6. Casa Morgano, in Capri.
16. Tell us an interesting or funny (or both) story no one knows.
In Torino, in my youth, I was at a very fancy art dinner at a very grand house. I was sitting next to the owner of Pininfarina. Farina means flour in Italian. I spoke all evening about the best breads and bakeries in Europe. He was very good-looking and I was trying my best to be charming. At the end of the evening, though, I was mortified that he had nothing to do with flour: Pininfarina is actually a great house of Italian Design.
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