See Photos From artnet and Hennessy Paradis Imperial’s Celebration of Artist Phillip K. Smith III’s New Los Angeles Exhibition
Guests were taken on a private jet from Los Angeles to Smith's Palm Desert studio, where they spent the day previewing his latest artworks.
The first thing you notice about Phillip K. Smith III’s studio is that it’s pristine. His works—pill-shaped pieces from his Lozenges series and circular ones from his Toruses series—hang along the galleries of the giant warehouse space, where, this past weekend, the artist hosted a luncheon in collaboration with artnet and Hennessy Paradis Imperial, the the pièce de résistance of the historic French brandy distiller and cognac maker, Hennessy, to celebrate his new show at Bridge Projects in Los Angeles.
The Toruses and Lozenges works are, respectively, concentric acrylic circles and ovals of ever-changing soft light, devoid of imperfection and machined in a way that resembles work by the Los Angeles-based Finish Fetish artists of the 1960s and ’70s. Smith’s work is also lit up, in homage to the Light and Space artists of the same period and city.
Based in Palm Desert, Smith’s studio is a sleepy Coachella Valley town about two hours from LA, where the weather is pushing 90 degrees in late October. Inside the cool, air-conditioned space, Smith led a guided tour, showing his pieces to guests invited by artnet and Hennessy, who were flown down from Los Angeles on a private jet.
Over the years, Smith has harnessed the power of the landscape with several large-scale public artworks: a cabin in the desert that he crowdfunded, pieces at two separate Coachella Music Festivals, a skybridge in Detroit that he lit up with color, and a curved wall of mirrors (The Circle of Land and Sky) at the 2017 Desert X biennial in the Coachella Valley. More public works are coming in the next year.
“I love that people are recognizing that I can take on very different, challenging sites,” Smith told the group, gesticulating toward a maquette of the Detroit skybridge behind him.
As the tour progressed, visitors noticed a new bottle of Hennessy Paradis Imperial cognac shimmering from its display table in the middle of the room. The faceted crystal carafe (recently redesigned by the Paris-based artist Arik Levy) reflected the colors of the artist’s brightly lit works, which transformed into gleaming jewel tones when viewed through the cognac’s alluring caramel hue, adding another dimension of artistry to the space.
David Chhay, a private client manager at Moët Hennessy, described the correlation between Smith’s work and the brand’s most rarified cognac. “This is a great opportunity for us, because Hennessy Paradis Imperial is [also] a beautiful work of art, and an innovative cognac from the shape of the bottle, to what’s inside,” he said. “Having that correlation, with [Smith’s] work, with the color and the reflection, is actually a perfect condition for us.”
In the same way that Smith’s works, from Lucid Stead to his most recent installations, are finely honed, the Paradis Imperial cognac exemplifies the process of precision.The Master Blenders committee monitors and tastes eaux-de-vies (brandies aged in wooden barrels) every day at 11 a.m., and on average only 10 per harvest out of 10,000 have the style and potential to be part of this special blend once they have reached their peak moment of elegance.
Smith likes to work with the colors “in-between” the primaries, and as guests tasted the rare cognac, the evolution of its flavor—which began with a spark upon the first sip and grew more complex thereafter—mirrored the subtle transformation of Smith’s works’ changing colors. At one point, one of the Toruses glimmered in cognac amber.
Everyone sat down to lunch beneath two of the artist’s new installation works (which were developed at the same time as the pieces for his new Bridge Projects exhibition) and enjoyed tastings of Hennessy Paradis Imperial, complemented by a menu of heirloom tomato gazpacho soup, roasted chicken, salmon en papillote, and butterscotch panna cotta.
The mix of food, cognac, and art came together perfectly to create a lovely, light-filled experience in the desert, as guests basked in the radiant color brought about by the blending of Smith’s works and Hennessy Paradis Imperial.
See more photos of the evening, below.
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