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March 30, 2010

Private Lives Public Places

Chuck Close, artist

In the three decades since his first solo show, Chuck Close, 62, has expanded our notion of portraiture, experimenting with photography, painting, and woodblock prints. Close's approach has earned him exhibits in the world's leading museums and galleries, including his latest show, Daguerreotypes, at Manhattan's Pace Wildenstein Gallery. His career has also taken him around the globe in search of inspiration and relaxation. Here, Close turns his curious and discerning eye toward a few of his favorite places and things.

THE BEST ROOMS IN THE WORLD
The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. The Giotto frescoes are astounding.
• The Isenheim altarpiece at the Musée d'Unterlinden in Colmar. Incredible.

RESTAURANTS I LOVE
• My favorites in New York are Gramercy Tavern and Chanterelle. I miss The Quilted Giraffe, which had the most adventurous kitchen.
• In Paris, I love Arpège very much.

THE TRIP OF MY LIFE
Was to Kyoto. I was there during plum-blossom season, and it was gorgeous. I went there to make woodblock prints, which I'm now doing here in New York.

WHEN IN ROME
I visit all the Caravaggios. The San Luigi dei Francesi church near the Pantheon has three; Santa Maria del Popolo has two; the Doria Pamphili has some. I think there are 16 in Rome.

IF I COULD STAY ANYWHERE
The Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, a small 16th-century inn. Each room has its own garden and cedar bathtubs. They're made hot for you, so you just slide in.
Gravetye Manor in West Sussex, England, the former home of the painter William Robinson. There are 18 rooms and, when I was there, a wonderful French restaurant. It's on 1,000 gorgeous acres near Sissinghurst, my favorite garden. TRAVEL THEN. . .
In the early '60s, I took The Orient Express from Paris to Yugoslavia when it was still The Orient Express. I love trains. I wish we had better trains here.

. . .AND NOW
My favorite way to travel is in a private jet. I have a friend who has a big, beautiful Falcon that seats 16. He flew over to my retrospective in London, and we flew to Bilbao, Madrid, through Iceland, and back to the United States. I must say I could really get used to that.

MY IDEA OF HELL
Shopping. I do it once every two years.

I'M AT MY BEST
Near water, having grown up in the Northwest and on Puget Sound. My studio in Bridgehampton is close to the ocean, and the light is really incredible.

PLACES I'LL ALWAYS RETURN TO
My family has been going to Sanibel and Captiva islands in Florida for 20 years. They're very easy and not full of retired people like Miami. We stay in a resort—Sundial, Casa Ybel, or South Seas Plantation. They're near the wonderful J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT
The New Yorker, but I am always four issues behind. And I read The New York Times every day. I never read novels. I read for information.

I NEVER
• Take a photograph when I travel. The camera's a kind of distancing device; it robs you of the experience.
• Carry a sketchpad. Nothing. Just look.
• Wear a tie. If I have to wear a tie somewhere, I won't go, unless it's a funeral.

MY MUSES
I celebrate the end of every painting with Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding, singing along at the top of my lungs. And I love blues music. I don't know why—you'd think it would make me sad.