Friday 15th April

| BY Natalie Dembinska

Michèle Lamy: The Renaissance Woman

12Michèle Lamy is sitting in Claridge’s, eating a piece of toast and pointing at a jar of brown sauce. “What is that?” she asks her right-hand woman, Janet Fischgrund. “It’s HP sauce. The sort of thing you have when you have English breakfast – sausages, bacon…” “It’s not Marmite?” “No.” “Never mind.” When it comes to things you wanted to know about Lamy, Marmite preferences never crossed your mind, but now that they’ve been suggested, you’re kind of pleased you know.

NATALIE DEMBINSKA: “So, how would you describe what you do?”

MICHÈLE LAMY: “So, you know, because last night I was reading this interview Idid,IcannotsaytoyouthatIaman entrepreneur, because I cannot say anything else, because it would contradict what I just said in that interview.”

ND: “I gathered that much, because you seem to have done everything.”

ML: “No, no. You know there is this thing that I think first, you know all those years I have been around the block for a while, and then there’s sometimes when people ask me why did you do this and that, but on the other hand to keep it more interesting, we’re always curious and imagine. Like I see something flat like a parking lot, what it was before, it was a café. What can I do there? This is the pleasure I have. They ask why? Because I can.”

ND:
“It’s a bit like a cat with nine lives – every few years you just change what you do. Do you ever get nervous? Is it because you get restless?”

ML: “No. I think lately, since I’m with Rick, there is a certain focus there, but then it’s good because I’m doing all the things around that, so you sort of come in, there is a point. And now I’m even more pushing outside the posts and I think also there’s the question of time and thinking like, ‘Oh my God I have to do this.’”

ND: “There’s so much left to do?”

 

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ML: “Yeah. I don’t know that and I don’t know this, but to me it’s something that I think comes from a story, a way of looking. It’s not I don’t feel like I did it. They’re all related. They flow from one to the other. Always.”

ND: “Your latest one is the Bargenale.”

ML: “Yes.”

ND: “Which you’ve done in Venice, you’ve done it in London. Where did that idea come from?”

ML: “When I was in London it was with… we were talking with Janet. This is the London story that was happening in this corner, or the other one. It was here [in Claridge’s]. And you know there is Frieze, and also the collection of Gareth Pugh and I like to watch things, but also I like to be involved and doing something. So we’re talking, we had been to an exhibition with Gareth in south London, in that amazing building, and Janet was telling me all these things going on in London and then we were talking about finding an idea and it was like, ‘Oh my God, why not do this?’ Do we need to do art when there’s so much happening? And then I got this idea just as we were doing the thing, and they were like, ‘What is this?’ Because there is a canal and there is a barge, so there we go – voilà.”

ND: “It had the spirit of what you did at Les Deux Cafés, in a way.”

ML: “Yeah, it was the spirit of this, even though it was before. Whatever I’ve been doing, I always follow this way if I don’t have a place… ”

ND: “You’re making your own place.”

 

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ML: “I’m making a place wherever we are. So there is the nomadic thing and then the water, the water that started with Venice. We’re in Paris, the factory for the clothing is in Italy and it’s one and a half hours to drive from Venice and I miss that. So I wanted Venice, to be near the water, the lagoon.”

ND: “So it sort of comes out of a love of entertaining?”

ML: “Yes. Probably more to entertain me. you know and… ”

JANET FISCHGRUND: “Feeding people. You have a thing with feeding people.”

ND: “Because the Barbican one was all about feeding people for a day? It was a sort of restaurant experience.”

ML: “All of them. But that was because of the barge. Doug Aitken didn’t even go there. The restaurant, it was the first date, they came to us like it was a date. And it was early when they came to us and then Doug had this thing, so they said, ‘Why don’t you come when he can see you?’ He had an opening in Zurich, so I had to go to Zurich to meet him at Basel and I thought it was to catch up on our lives and then he said to me, ‘Darling, can you do something like that here?’ and away I went with that. I thought I’d postpone by a year because he put all his effort into the opening he had, and on top of that he had taken a residency at the Barbican, and on the 19th of June he said the 26th of June.”

 

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ND: “Can you do something in a week? Wow.”

ML: “And then it turned out.. you know when you go with your feelings and you don’t get distracted by… ”

JF: “Technicalities.”

ND: “You follow your instincts.”

ML: “You find a way.”

JF: “At the end of the day, they said come back tomorrow and do it again. It really worked. It was yes, but no. It was right to get out at that point.”

ML: “It was perfect.”

ND: “Do you still want to continue doing that sort of thing? I heard that you wanted to take the barge to Hong Kong?”

ML: “There are a lot of projects with the barge. The barge, it became a real project. The Venice one was important. There is now this idea for it to go to Hong Kong, but that is for us to discover. We are going to do something that is sort of permanent in Marseille, near the marina. I wanted somewhere I could go. I wanted to have some conditions and I think, doing this, it’s my little contribution to try to bring some peace to the world, and I think it’s for the pictures, with the food, discovering each other. You know, with the food and the way people eat, you can know a lot about them. They can know a lot about each other and all the music to go with it or a little book, but I think it can be… in Marseille it can be very important.”

 

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ND: “To create an environment where you can meet people and get to know them.”

ML: “Yes. But then, when it’s permanent it’ll be more like an association. People can do music there… ”

JL: “The idea about Marseille is taking what Michèle has done with the barges, but creating something more permanent, because the other ones have been transient. This would be more permanent and it would be a place not necessarily for curation and people wouldn’t be there for Michèle, but we would work with an organisation that will work socially to bring people together.” ML: “You know, Marseille is a very interesting city, because it is right in the Mediterranean. You know, the water idea.”

ND: “So, you wanted to redesign the Hollywood Christmas Parade?”

ML: “Oh yeah. I lost on this one.”

ND: “I was going to ask what you wanted to do for it. How you would redesign the Hollywood Christmas Parade? Were they going to let you do it?”

ML: “Of course not. Sometimes people tell me… I didn’t know. The Christmas Parade in Hollywood is the most horrible thing in the world. This town has the worst art director in the world. I would show them Jean-Paul Goude. There has never been anything better parade than the Jean-Paul Goude one in Paris. That was 20-odd years ago. I mean, a masterpiece, so there is that, because why do you want to do a Christmas parade? I lost there. I gave up after six tries. Yeah, it’s still a horrible Christmas parade.”

ND: “Would you like to try again?”

ML: “No, no, that’s all water under the bridge now.”

ND: “So what do you do to relax?”

ML: “I’m doing an interview with you right now.”

ND: “Does that relax you?”

ML: “I box.”

ND: “Really? I didn’t know you were into boxing?”

ML: “In fact, there was a technical reason to do it. I was supposed to go to the gym from staying up, but the other point, I had the problem in my leg – I could only run sideways.”

ND: “Like a crab?”

ML: “Like a crab.”

The full story is in Issue 56 of 10 Magazine, STRENGTH WOMAN SUPREME, on newsstands now…

Photographs by Maria Ziegelbock