See Inside Artist Nicolas Party’s New York Studio, Where Each of His 2,455 Pastels Has Its Own Cubby

The artist took us on a tour of his studio, where he's preparing for an upcoming museum show.

NIcolas Party in his studio. Photo by Axel Dupeux.

The Swiss-born graffiti artist turned painter Nicolas Party has become one of his generation’s fastest-rising stars for his fantastical, Crayola-colored landscapes, uncanny portraits, and pastel still lifes. Party—and, apparently, his legions of devoted collectors—have a special fondness for depictions of funny teapots and forests in saturated shades of bubblegum and peacock blue (one of which sold for $3.3 million at Christie’s last year).

The 41-year-old artist recently gave us a peek inside his New York studio, where he’s preparing for an upcoming show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that pairs his works with highlights from the museum’s collection, including those by Nicolas Poussin and Otto Dix. The show, titled “L’heure mauve,” opens February 12.

Find out about the everyday habits and sources of inspiration that power Party’s studio practice below.

Nicolas Party's studio. Photo by Nicolas Party.

Pastel cubbies in Nicolas Party’s studio. Photo by Nicolas Party.

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

My soft pastel collection is something I love looking at. We built little cubbies for the 2,455 colors. It is very inspiring to see all the colors every day.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

I am working on a series of oil paintings on copper, which is a new medium for me since I typically work with pastels. These paintings are also a much smaller scale than my pastels—they are about 12-by-nine-and-a-half inches.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

I almost never work in silence. My audio time is divided between podcasts or audio books and music. I prefer to have my mind occupied while I work. It makes my decision-making faster and freer than if I am fully focused on the piece in front of me.

Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress?  

Sketches on Nicolas Party’s studio wall. Photo by Nicolas Party.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

I always look for a feeling of awkwardness hidden in a world of seduction. I’m not a big fan of very loud artwork.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

We do not keep snacks at the studio, but we do like seltzer!

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

Matthew Higgs, chief curator at White Columns. His content is always surprising, original, and inspiring. Also, artist Marguerite Humeau, who mixes her own work with strange scientific discoveries that I find fascinating.

Louis Eilshemius, Civil War Battle (1917) in Nicolas Party’s studio library. Photo by Nicolas Party.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

I go back to my library and look at books. It is always inspiring to look at great art during the day.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

Robert Gober at Matthew Marks and Alice Neel at the Met. Both shows were fantastic and very inspiring.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?

I am working on this series of tabernacles at the moment, so I have a lot of pictures of different retables.

Phaidon will release the first monograph on the artist on February 16. 

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