Purple Diary

[December 23 2015]

R.I.P. Jean-Luc Vilmouth

Jean-Luc Vilmouth died December 18th in a hotel in Taipei, apparently in his sleep, whatever that means. I puzzle over it now. Did he simply stop breathing? Is that possible? He was a healthy, funny, happy, incredibly aware person, careful about his consumption, a constant traveler, often to Asia, and an artist to the core. Which, to me, makes the puzzle that much more puzzling. I think of people like him as being immune to sudden evanescence.

Jean-Luc was a very close friend, and the person most responsible for my living in France. I met him in Vienna in 1985, when I was working as a coordinator for an exhibition at the Vienna Secession, called Wien Fluss: 1986. He’d come to Vienna to make his decisions about what he would make for the show. Not long before the opening, he was shot in the leg by a sniper as he was driving in the city of Lyon — which at the time seemed absolutely crazy. He couldn’t return, so we were charged with installing his piece, which used plants. Plants and furniture became a staple in his very social, outwardly friendly, and stylistically wide-open art.

A couple years later Jean-Luc introduced me to Elein Fleiss and Olivier Zahm, the eventual creators of Purple Prose magazine, with whom I became so involved I moved to France. And my friendship with Jean-Luc grew stronger. For a year or two I co-taught with him in his atelier at the Beaux-arts. During that time, in 2003, we stewarded 12 of our students to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Zabriskie Point, from which he made a short film.

We talked a lot and mostly laughed. He called me a few weeks ago trying to remember the name of an artist for a student. We reconstructed memories as we talked, laughing as stories led to experiences we’d shared, finally recalling a nearly forgotten artist.

Jean-Luc leaves three children, the youngest is 12. It’s terrible to lose so kind and thoughtful a person so suddenly. I’m only consoled by the thought of his going in peace at his best.

— Jeff Rian

Photo Justine Emard

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