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Perrotin to inaugurate Tokyo gallery with Soulages show

The 97-year old artist won prestigious Japanese Praemium Imperiale prize in 1992

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The Parisian gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin is opening, on 7 June, a space in Tokyo, adding to his gallery network including Hong Kong, Seoul and New York, with an exhibition by French painter Pierre Soulages.

Located in Roppongi near the Mori Art Museum, the 130 sq m space is on the ground floor of the Piramide Building, which houses Wako Works of Art, Ota Fine Arts and London Gallery, and adjacent to the building where Taka Ishii Gallery, among others, is situated.

“We've seen an evolution with our gallery in Hong Kong and there have been increasingly more Japanese collectors,” says Perrotin, who first visited Japan in the early 1990s when he participated in the Yokohama Art Fair and began representing Takashi Murakami.

The Soulages exhibition, featuring monochromatic black paintings, titled Outrenoirs (2011-17), will be Perrotin's second exhibition with the 97-year-old artist, following one in New York in 2014.

Pierre Soulages, GEP #3 (2017) (Image: Vincent Cunillere, © ADAGP, Paris 2017/Courtesy Perrotin)

“It was a dream of mine to do another exhibition on Soulages,” says Perrotin, noting that the artist won the prestigious Praemium Imperiale global arts prize awarded by the Japan Art Association in 1992.

“When you get to do a second, it's proof that he's happy with the relationship, which isn't something that's easy to obtain from an artist in his 90s. He's made 1,600 paintings in his 70-year career; it's not like Louise Bourgeois who made hundreds of works in the last 10 years of her life.”

After Soulages, the next exhibition will be on the Italian artist Paola Pivi. “We're not going to Japan to propose something that they have already but to take our taste and sensibility,” says Perrotin, who also represents the Japanese artists Aya Takano and Izumi Kato. “We respect the primary galleries and are not coming to harass them but to offer something complementary.”

The relatively small size of the Tokyo space is similar to that in Seoul, which opened last year, and enables artists to show works on a more intimate scale. This contrasts with the vastness of the new 25,000 sq m, five-story space on Orchard Street in New York. “Many of our artists were happy with the reasonable size of the Seoul gallery, which complements our new gallery in New York where we can give artists the opportunity to do very big monographic and retrospective exhibitions,” Perrotin says.

Asked about his expansion plans, Perrotin replies: “Everybody asks me, 'Why don't you open in London or Los Angeles?' Before everybody asked me about opening in Berlin. It's not a race to open everywhere.”

Would he consider opening a fourth space in Asia, such as in Shanghai, and take on more Japanese artists? “Effectively, it's a different identity to have strengthened our network in Asia and we'll see if it works well,” he says. “We might take on other Japanese artists—it depends on taste, opportunities and passion.”

The Tokyo space will be directed by Alice Lung and Etsuko Nakajima, who are the directors of the Hong Kong and Seoul spaces, in coordination with Stephanie Vaillant.

• Pierre Soulages, Galerie Perrotin, Tokyo (7 June-19 August)