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How to Host a Lunch Like a Parisian Gallerist

A typical gathering — day or night — at Bianca Lee Vasquez’s home in Paris’s Second Arrondissement ends with dancing, usually to ’70s disco or to salsa by artists like Johnny Pacheco and Celia Cruz. Lee Vasquez, 40, who has Cuban-Ecuadorean heritage, trained in classical and contemporary dance in Miami and at the Alvin Ailey Theater in New York before moving to Paris 20 years ago. But she’s now best known for her multidisciplinary art practice, which ranges from textile installations like “Webmaking Ritual II” (2017), for which she wove strips of fabric around the trees in Paris’s Palais Royal garden, to meditative performances like “Dirt Series” (2021), in which she explored the power of microbes, working soil between her fingers to activate its healing properties. And while she often incorporates movement and gesture into her work, it’s in her living room, among friends, that she tends to really let loose.

Lee Vasquez’s white-walled apartment has a large mezzanine with two bedrooms and a view of the building’s inner courtyard.Credit…Su Cassiano
Lunch was served at the dining table in the open-plan living area.Credit…Su Cassiano

For the past few years, that room has served as an occasional extension of Sainte Anne, the gallery Lee Vasquez founded with her friend Masha Novoselova, 39, a Russian-born model turned art director, in 2021. One of a new cohort of dynamic, independent Paris art spaces, the small contemporary gallery focuses on female artists who, like Lee Vasquez, are interested in our relationship with the natural world. “We want to give them a voice and a safe space,” she said recently. (The gallery’s current show, “Fruits of Labor,” is its first to exclusively feature work by men: the Guadeloupe-born French mixed-media artist Kenny Dunkan and the German sculptor Stefan Knauf.)

“I always try to bring friends together,” Lee Vasquez said. “It’s not about work relations, or diplomacy, just delicious food and a place to be oneself.”Credit…Su Cassiano

Lee Vasquez’s home — a calm, loft-like duplex in a 17th-century apartment building — is just blocks from Sainte Anne, so opening-night parties tend to end there, and she often hosts meals for the gallery’s artists and extended community. On a rainy Sunday in February, she held one such gathering, a lunch for her friends and collaborators, in an effort to liven up a particularly somber Paris winter (there had been just 38 hours of sunlight in the previous 29 days). In contrast to the gloom outside, the apartment — which Lee Vasquez shares with her two sons, Vasco, 12, and Esteban, 11, and a pair of parakeets, Peggy and Pegasus — was lush with potted plants and flooded with light thanks to its 16-foot-tall windows. Lunch itself was laid-back, with a loose start time and a buffet format, so that guests could come and go, and help themselves to food, as they pleased. “A sit-down meal rarely happens as I have a problem limiting my guest list,” said Lee Vasquez. But the semi-improvised approach suits her well: “I like people to talk to whoever they like, to be free, to move around.”

Guests mingled before helping themselves to the food.Credit…Su Cassiano

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