Welcome to The Window’s “A Drink With…” series, where each month, photographer/writer duo Justin Bridges and Sean Hotchkiss sit down with an influential person(s), breaking the ice with their host’s refreshment of choice. Last month, we hung out with Silicon Valley star Zach Woods, and this time around, the guys caught up with MOCA director Philippe Vergne.
The Window: How long have you been doing the matcha thing?
Phillipe Vergne: Two years.
Did someone have to teach you how to do it?
There is a small store on 3rd Street, Matcha Box, and when you buy the set, they tell you how it works. It’s actually quite simple.
How did you decide this would be the drink for you?
I like the color. And I like that it’s a bit ritualistic. And I like the tools you need to do it. It’s almost like going to the barber—you have the little brush and you make “S” shapes as you whisk the powder. It’s also very good for you. I first saw it made in Japan.
I don’t know if you were expecting a stronger drink. [Laughs] We can go stronger if you stay later.
Do you like to shop?
Yes. I do. Do I have to say at Barneys?
Do you usually wear a suit?
Almost every day. Years ago I bought a Jil Sander suit, and I couldn’t find it anymore, so when it was about to collapse I took it to a tailor and had it copied. I’ve had copies of that suit made for the last 10 years from different tailors. My tailor here in LA, his name is [checks the inside of his jacket] Santiago. He makes all my dress suits. For when I need to look smart.
What about your glasses? Always the same pair?
Oliver Peoples, yes. I have a few different frames, but the same style. I’ve been wearing a similar pair of frames since I was 20. I suppose it is a uniform.
When did you move to the U.S. from France?
I moved to the States in February of 1997. I moved first to Minneapolis to work at the Walker Art Center and spent 11 years there, then moved to New York for 6 years, and now have been here in L.A. for 2 years.
And you were running Dia in New York?
Dia:Beacon is one of my favorite spaces.
And Dia: Chelsea seems to be doing some cool things lately.
We added a third building when I was there, a few years ago. I believe they’ve been using it for performances and other programs. They just did a show with Bob [Robert] Ryman. And there are readings and things happening as well.
How has the transition to L.A. been?
Very busy. There was a lot to do with the museum, and also learning the new city. Learning a new city is like learning a new language.
What is L.A.’s language?
It’s so visual here. And there is so much experimentation happening. With the technology world filtering down from Northern California, and the film industry as well. So people have very good eyes, and we’ve had to think about how people might react visually to everything we do.
How else is it different from New York, as far as your world goes?
The palette of what is being produced here is very diverse. It ranges from someone like Paul McCarthy, who is a hero of mine, to Nancy Rubins or Mark Bradford. There are conceptual artists and also craftspeople and makers of things. And the artists are very present here, at least in my world. The MOCA was created by artists, and we have 6 artists on the board. It is their museum, and when we do something, the artist community has an opinion. Not that that changes the way you operate, but you think of them, you consider how they might react. They’re a huge part of the audience.
Do you like to drive?
That’s like asking me if I like breathing. Here, you have no choice.
But yes, I do. I drive to work very early down Sunset Boulevard, and I’m in my little bubble listening to French radio. Something about looking out and seeing Los Angeles but hearing French voices and opinions, and it being so early here but late in the day there—it creates a strange compression of time and culture that I really enjoy. And I love music.
What are you listening to?
I love the last David Bowie album, Lazarus. And a saxophonist from here, Kamasi Washington. This French singer Christophe, when I was young it would not have been cool to listen to him—he was considered very cheesy—but his new album I’ve found very experimental. An Israeli musician, Asaf Avidan, when I first listened to him I thought it was a woman. Terry Riley, Don Cherry, and like everyone else in the world, I love Kendrick Lamar.
Do you have other routines?
I play tennis in the mornings, very early. It’s a good headspace to be in. Then I eat the same breakfast—matcha tea and avocado toast. All green. And we usually entertain here at the house in the evenings.
This house is a hell of a place to entertain.
It was once Marlon Brando’s house. The carpeted room downstairs, that was his tiki room.
Yes, we have parties and dinners a lot.
Oh yes. A late one.
So we’re giving you guys the night off?
So it seems. And we’re grateful.