The ultimate test of those abilities was Kiefer’s Paris compound: a mega-artist’s Valhalla with endless white-walled studio spaces, vaulted underground storage areas and an electric ceiling crane that transports Kiefer’s monumental works from the basement to the street. When Kiefer bought it, the main building, despite its grand exterior, was a warren of tiny rooms and corridors. Luckily for him and Katz, most of the decorative details had already been destroyed, so they could achieve their desired spatial purity without breaking the law. Pointing to a limestone staircase, Katz says he filled in some large windows behind it because they’d been clumsily placed: “I said, that’s kind of an ugly little detail, isn’t it?”
“Bill is very minimal, very intellectual, and he doesn’t compromise,” says Kiefer. In one case that meant ripping out an elevator and reconstructing it a few inches to the right, to open up a stairwell.
“You know,” Kiefer says, “when you look at a room, there’s always something that bothers you. Maybe this door is too low, or that wall is not right.” Thanks to Katz, he says, “nothing in my home is disturbing me now. That’s important.”
Katz knows the feeling. Though he has a large apartment in SoHo, his spiritual home is an adobe building on a mesa near Taos, New Mexico. Katz built the place in the Eighties, in a spare style with no decor to speak of. Instead of ordinary mud, the walls are made from tierra bendita, revered for its healing properties, though of course you wouldn’t know that by its appearance. Aside from adding an Ellsworth Kelly sculpture to the courtyard and a Francesco Clemente painting in the bedroom (both gifts from the artists), he has kept the place exactly as is for 18 years. “I sometimes think, Isn’t it strange that I don’t want to change anything?” Katz says. “But I don’t.”