Interview with the artist Jaime Hayón

Jaime Hayón (Madrid, 1974), awarded the Premio Nacional de Diseño 2021 (National Design Award), is one of those people who, besides being one of the greats in his profession, is also a shot of adrenaline because of the energy and good vibes he gives off. Talking to him for a while is not only really interesting but really good fun, and the truth is his work is a genuine reflection of his personality and his approach to life.

We have been following his professional career for years and the truth is that he has done a lot of incredible things such as his light fixtures and furniture line for &Tradition or his The Guest collection for Lladró, the Barceló Torre Madrid, which is beautiful, the Fairground Carousel at Swarowski Crystal Worlds, that is so pretty that we would like to live in it, or any of the projects he has carried out in Asia, specifically in South Korea, to name but a few examples.

For some time now, this universal artist has been focusing on painting, as it is his greatest passion, and he has yet again been successful with his oil paintings. In fact, galleries and museums such as the Pompidou Centre, the Design Museum London, the Thomas Gallery, the Groninger Museum and the Basel Art Fair, among others, already host his work. As you will see, all the different elements that make up his particular language and his dreamlike universe are present: nature, crazy objects, fantastic creatures, storylines, colours… A beautiful and surreal compendium, that reflects the true essence of this multidisciplinary artist who is so productive.

On occasion of his recent collaboration with Ruinart in this edition of ARCO 2022, we had the pleasure of interviewing him and this is what he told us. He is one of a kind. Come on in and read.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always dreamt of doing something energetic, something creative and I ended up here. It had to be. Despite coming from a family where most of my relatives are economists, they all wear suits…I was always the odd one out. Although I have to say that my mother was always different. She wasn’t a painter or anything, but she always had that flash, and she still does. I owe her a lot. She has always been a celebration. She has never held me back.

Since having children of my own, I try to bring them up a little bit like I was brought up, that is to say: being free. Polite, but free. And that’s how I’ve always felt. In fact, when I was 13, I went to Germany with some friends who were also skaters and with an 18 year-old friend, and we did an interrail around Europe together and it was great. That’s where I discovered Bauhaus. And at the age of 16 or 17, I went to study at a school in Los Angeles.

“What I mean by all this is that if you have open-minded parents, everything is possible. They have always inspired me and I have always believed that you set your own limits.”

I do also have to say that I kind of live on “my own planet” and I try not to overthink things. I know what I want to do and I go for it. I get up every day full of enthusiasm and I tell myself it’s going to be a great day and I set about making it so. I love doing different things. In fact, I’m currently making some really heavy pictures with very weird conversations, a lot of tension and so on, but at the same time, I am about to inaugurate an 87 storey hotel in Bangkok, that is the tallest tower in the city. I am completing this project with some Americans, from the The Standard hotel chain and they are really cool. This hotel will be their flagship hotel and the opening is coming soon, in May, so it’s almost upon us. The thing I love most about these kinds of projects is that they allow me to discover things I didn’t know, to learn, and that makes me happy.

“I have never set limits for myself or for the people that work with me or those I have around me, who in the end are family. That’s how I see life.”

Although I have to admit that it wasn’t so easy to start with because some people thought I was mad. I would see something really clearly and they couldn’t see it, and I couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t understood in this country either. That’s changed since I came back, but I have spent eighteen years living abroad, seven in Venice, in New York, in London, until I eventually returned and I’ve now been in Valencia for almost eleven years.

“I come from a modest family. In fact, I worked in a coffee shop and in my brother’s shop. They are hard working. But I wanted to do something else and what I had at the time were languages and the fact that I was raring to go. So I went for it.”

That’s why I try to bring my children up to build things and not feel that it’s all so easy, and also to appreciate the value in things.

What is art and creativity to you?

“I can’t live without art. I think I’m possessed.”

Before the pandemic, I did eleven museum exhibitions, quite a feat, and then there was a melting pot of several works that went on tour around the world. They started in Israel, then they went to Seoul for six months, then Shanghai, then Beijing, Taiwan, different places. And now they’re back, because my next big exhibition will finally be in Spain, in Valencia, in the Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània (CCCC).

Something really amazing happened to me when I was going over all the material I have, I was astonished! I have like 400 notebooks full of drawings! That’s when I thought that to have done all that I must have been possessed. The truth is I’m really happy, because it’s going to be a really cool exhibition. I’m going to mix different disciplines and there will be a space for crystal creations, another for ceramics, one with interesting stuff; another part will be focused on design and the process, another on art and sculpture, etc…

For you to get the idea, my holidays are big pads in a backpack and a motor bike and I go some place. If for example, I go to Thailand, I start drawing at 9 am until night-time. I eat, I drink wine, I meet people while I paint but that’s my lifestyle. That’s why I’m so productive.

You are one of the most international Spanish designers, but Valencia is still your home and your workplace. What is it about this city that has made it your permanent home?

Valencia was underground when I arrived. In fact, now it’s becoming really cool. Maybe I’ll have to go and live in Naples! Hahaha. I have always liked things that are original, things that are genuine. Perfection isn’t what motivates me.

I arrived in Valencia quite casually. At that time, I was living in London so when I arrived in Valencia, I didn’t even know what it was. At that moment, I had a studio in Barcelona, I moved a large part to London and I got a significant production site in Italy, which is still ongoing. I had a triangle which I have always maintained. So when I arrived in Valencia without any prior knowledge of it and with no expectations, it surprised me. Also, I had been looking for some time for a place where everything wasn’t so cool and where I could find a large space at a good price to do something great. London had suffocated me. I had a great site in that city but production there was really complex. That’s why, when I went to Valencia, I realized that it was a place where I really could do exactly what I wanted. So you get what I mean, in terms of costs, the rent for the whole year of my studio in Valencia was the monthly heating bill for my house in London! So it became clear in my mind and I stayed. I saw that there was also production there and that, of course, was a great incentive. What also happened was that later, my ex-wife got pregnant and the doctor recommended rest, for which Valencia turned out to be ideal, specially if you compare it to London. Because, although around that time, I was refurbishing a very beautiful home I had bought in London, I did finally finish it but we never lived there. We stayed in Valencia.

Additionally, Valencia is World Design Capital this year and you are part of the organizing committee. What can you tell us about that?

I collaborate with them and I’m delighted. My role was above all when we had to obtain its capital status. They were interested in a creative, designer profile that lives in Valencia but isn’t from Valencia and is an ambassador for the city. That’s why when I had to talk about the city and why it should be the Design Capital, I was clear and told them the truth:

“Valencia has production, has great weather, isn’t expensive and has a great lifestyle. For me, it is like The South in Berlin.”

Actually, the exhibition that I will hold in the CCCC is backed by the WDC Valencia.

After founding Hayon Studio in 2001, your wide client base encompasses different functions and media, including household furniture for B.D. Barcelona, Cassina, Fritz Hansen, &Tradition and Magis; light fixtures for Parachilna, Metalarte and Swarovski; and sophisticated objects for Bisazza, Lladró and Baccarat. You have also carried out complete interiors for hotels, restaurants, museums and leading retail establishments all over the world. What challenges are still out there for you?

“One of my challenges is to focus more on my art. To paint more.”

At the moment, painting is what I am doing most. I love it and I find it really relaxing. I am perfecting the technique. My relationship with painting has been like going full circle. I started like that and, although I have done many things, what has happened is I have gone back to the beginning. And it’s going really well.

Also, as I mentioned before, painting is a bit of a bitch. When I wanted to dedicate myself to it, I couldn’t because there was no money in it and back then, I needed money and you also have to take into account that if you decide to go for it, you have to do so and manage to be respected for what you do. Because painting is not like anything else. Bumping into Oscar from the L21 gallery who is a great guy and believes in me, has been really good. It was he who offered me an individual exhibition with my paintings. Because, although I am already in museums with my ceramics, my crystals and my sculptures, the strange objects, tapestries and some paintings, it wasn’t an obvious option. That’s why when I see that good art collectors that back my work are starting to collect my pieces, it’s when I realise that I am on the circuit. But what makes me proudest is when they say that, in fact, the depth of my work is in the paintings.

Incidentally, I can tell you now that the next exhibition is going to be galactic!

South Korea loves you and we have lost count of the number of projects you are carrying out in this country with brands such as MOKA and Hyundai. How has the experience of working with them been? And do you have any plans for new projects there?

During this pandemic, South Korea has been doing some really significant things, and I have worked a lot with them: from the complete design of the exclusive club aimed at the youngest generation of VIP clients in The Hyundai Seoul, the largest shopping centre in the city, to the MOKA Garden, that is a botanical garden covering 1500 Sq m devoted to children’s entertainment, or a new one that hasn’t seen the light yet. The truth is Korea is the best.

“South Korea is a country that has positioned itself at the top of everything: fashion, architecture, design. They love to live and have always welcomed me with open arms.”

In this year’s ARCO edition you are collaborating with Ruinart, the champagne of the art world, through the design of 20 second skin cases by Magnum Ruinart, that have an ecological design and are carried out entirely with paper and that perfectly embody a new luxury that is more respectful with the environment, as well as two paintings that express your own dream world. How did this collaboration come about?

It has been a very natural collaboration. I was already painting this series of paintings that I do on white canvasses for an exhibition that I’m creating, and one of the directors of the brand, who has loved my work for some time, mentioned the idea of doing something together. They only focus on art, not design, so when they saw my paintings they loved them and were sure we had to collaborate. They proposed I use twenty of their second skin cases as canvasses and that I paint them with my own dream universe full of colour, celebration, positivity and where nature is very present. All the profits from the sale of these twenty bottles will go to the RForest NGO to reforest the woods in Madrid.

(*) Photos: Alexandre James.


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