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Daft Punk at last unmasked - in sculpture
Xavier Veilhan, “Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo” (detail), 2015. 161 x 100 x 55 cm / 63 3/8 x 39 3/8 x 21 5/8 inches. Contreplaqué de bouleau, peinture acrylique, vernis / birch plywood, acrylic paint, varnish@ Photo © Diane Arques; © Veilhan / ADAGP, Paris/ ARS, New York, 2015. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

By: Shaun Tandon

NEW YORK, NY (AFP).- When sculptor Xavier Veilhan persuaded Daft Punk to come to his studio, the artist, in the words of one of the duo's songs, got lucky. The ever-masked electronic musicians took off their helmets.

The result is a sculpture that shows Daft Punk standing casually and gazing into the distance, their faces now obstructed only by sunglasses. Bandmates Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are seen with hands slipped into their pockets in just-smaller-than-life figures made of wavy-toned birch plywood.

The sculpture, part of an exhibition by Veilhan on music producers that opened Thursday night at the Galerie Perrotin in New York, marks the first time that Daft Punk have intentionally been depicted without their trademark helmets.

"They proposed to make a sculpture that would be like the photographs of them that don't exist," Veilhan told AFP.

"The sculpture is almost turning into a situation like in the Middle Ages, when you have people only existing in a painting or a sculpture. I was pretty interested in this -- it was kind of new, but also related to history," he said.

Daft Punk, key figures in the French house music scene that exploded internationally in the late 1990s, have also rarely given interviews -- a different approach in an era when most stars are expected to connect with fans at every available opportunity through social media.

Even when Daft Punk last year dominated the Grammy Awards with the album "Random Access Memories," Bangalter and de Homem-Christo stood robotically in their helmets at the music industry's gala in Los Angeles.

"I actually like it very much, because they control their own image," Veilhan said.

Faces behind the music
Veilhan said that de Homem-Christo and Bangalter themselves proposed taking off their helmets when they came to his Paris studio after the sculptor explained he was working on a project on music producers.

"They knew that I was more interested in them as producers and so they came up with the idea that we should do it under their civil names and, because of that, it should be their normal appearance," Veilhan said.

Veilhan said he was drawn to the subject of music producers as their role is similar to his as a sculptor.

"You work in the back, but then your work is up front. People listen to the work of the producer, but they don't know about who did it," he said. "I was interested in this less obvious aspect of the music."

Veilhan also sculpted legendary pop producer Quincy Jones, Italian electronic giant Giorgio Moroder, The Neptunes featuring "Happy" singer Pharrell Williams and Lee 'Scratch' Perry, the famously eccentric pioneer of dub reggae.

One of the most striking sculptures is of Rick Rubin, the producer credited with bringing hip-hop to the mainstream with bands such as the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. Rubin, known for his casual dress and Rasputin-style beard, is depicted in oak lying on a mattress.

Veilhan said that the pose was appropriate as Rubin often lounges on a couch in studios.

"But I asked him to lift his leg so that he doesn't look like a dead body," Veilhan said with a laugh.

The sittings for the sculptures could be awkward as the subjects had to stay motionless for long periods, although Veilhan said he still managed to talk to Daft Punk about music.

Veilhan -- whose previous projects included a collaboration with another French electronic duo, Air, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris -- has earlier set music to his works and is known for his use of three-dimensional scans that guide his sculptures.

"I think that every period has used the techniques of its own time," he said. "I want to use the technology of today, but it is still a very human thing because we are bodies and flesh."

The exhibition runs through April 11, with a parallel show featuring several works -- including a miniature version of the Daft Punk sculpture -- opening at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris on March 7.

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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