The news won’t break the Internet, but it will entertain more than one: Emmanuel Perrotin is launching a new series of tutorials, these fun and educational videos that are flourishing on social media. Will he share the recipe for a Takashi Murakami cake? Quite the contrary, the fifty-year- old appears on his presidential seat behind his desk reminding us of his gallery’s values, working methods or, more prosaically, of a few rules of living together. Don’t look for them on TikTok, as these videos are only accessible to his employees through the company’s app. After a thirty-three-year career, the man who founded his gallery at 21 and manages 160 employees now has only one obsession – to keep the machinery running, everywhere, always. Indeed, the Perrotin network now expands on four continents and in seven cities, from Paris to Seoul, Dubai, and New York. Behind the stereotype of the party boy stands Emmanuel Perrotin, the entrepreneur and geek since his first job at the age of 18 with an intense sense of innovation and disruption.
Emmanuel Perrotin’s skillfully staged antics, as the excellent speaker he is, are best remembered. In 1995, based on an idea from the artist Maurizio Cattelan, whom he represents, he put on a phallic pink rabbit costume to welcome the collectors. Twenty-five years later, he rode on the wave of success triggered by the famous banana designed by that same artist. The fruit was simply taped to the wall and his gallery sold it for 120,000 dollars at the Art Basel in Miami. Between those two events, Perrotin has acquired the title of a “night owl”, who entered the star system by associating his image with Pharrell Williams, among others – and truth be told, his parties are always a success. Where some might see a natural character trait, the man is in fact drawing his strategy. “When I first opened my gallery, I wasn’t coming from the right family and I didn’t have any network,” he says. “We had to become the center of attention, so that people would come to us. It was a necessity. By popularizing the gallery, I also allowed my artists to benefit from the Perrotin brand, which has now become a communication medium.” Popular, just like the Perrotin Store mixing merchandising and bling- bling artworks which opened last summer in central Las Vegas, or like its superstar artists Kaws and JR, who move mountains while making the snobbiest sphere of the art world hold their nose. “Some would argue that having a variety of tastes is inconsistent. I would rather call it open-mindedness. Like in music, I love many different things.” As a matter of fact, his line-up feels like a mixtape, including conceptual artists such as the duo Elmgreen & Dragset or the French Sophie Calle, blockbusters like Takashi Murakami, great upcoming artists like Jean-Marie Appriou or Genesis Belanger, historical Korean geniuses like Park Seo-Bo and the manga imagery of Mr.
“The gallery has been a tool to make contemporary art more accessible”, he explains. “I’m not one of those people who satisfy themselves being the kings of the inner ring road.” Indeed, he became a pioneer after he opened his gallery in Hong Kong in 2012, and in South Korea in 2016. He will then settle in Dubai in November 2022. “Since I started, I have been fearing the shadow of the big galleries. They have the power to take an artist from you at any moment. They can even pay them up to 50 million dollars sometimes...” Unexpected and iconoclastic being the gallery owner’s trademark, his projects are flourishing and extending from a scented candle with the essence of the gallery, an art residency in Cap Ferret, a speakeasy in his New York space to... the New York collective MSCHF’s (“Mischief”) entry in the gallery. After some research about the members of the collective, one discovers the authors of a satanic pair of Nike and of a dog collar that translates barking into insults. “They might become the authors of the next banana”, Emmanuel Perrotin declares, thrilled. To be part of the Brooklyn crew, he was challenged to steal an object from their studio. The gallery owner left with a skateboard hidden in his coat – a prototype that he returned to them. Emmanuel Perrotin still is the victim of a few rooted clichés, but never that of being dishonest.