In November 2018, Perrotin debuted its fourth gallery in Asia in the heart of Shanghai. The space was inaugurated with the exhibition “Takashi Murakami in Wonderland,” on view through January 5.
Just after the opening, Whitewall caught up with the woman behind the new location, Etsuko Nakajima. She’s been with Perrotin since 2002, and has spearheaded the gallery’s presence in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, and now Shanghai. To learn more about her role and what’s next for Shanghai, we asked Nakajima a few questions.
WHITEWALL: Shanghai is the fourth gallery for Perrotin in Asia. What made Shanghai the ideal next location for the gallery?
ETSUKO NAKAJIMA: There was a period when Beijing and Shanghai were viable options, and it did seem like they were jockeying for position as the art and culture center for mainland China. Yet, Shanghai has clearly emerged the axis point for the vast majority of private and public art institutions. It has always been my personal position and that of Perrotin to be in the center of the milieu. It is only then that we can become part of the conversation.
WW: How did you want to inaugurate the space? Why was Murakami a great fit?
EN: There is a saying, “You only get one chance at a first impression,” and Murakami is a pioneer of contemporary Asian art. Because of the incredible success of Chinese contemporary artists, most people forget that Murakami pre-dates their arrival on the international art scene. Asian contemporary art is undeniable now, however when it was first being presented in New York and Europe it was considered exotic at best. It’s a bit ironic to me that now that there have a been several generations of followers, and frankly copycats, that the layers of Murakami’s work have been lost.
While Murakami’s work does not appear controversial on the surface, we should never forget how Western culture and aesthetics have become such dominant forces in post-war Asian aesthetics and culture. Murakami was one of the very first artists to deal with this via Japanese culture. Additionally, as we know regionally there are many layers, and while for my generation there is an open and mainly warm dialogue and cultural exchange, there are remnants of regional and residual issues which still linger and Murakami has always been very sensitive to.
So, I am very pleased to be able to work with Takashi on another premiere project, which I know will be historically significant!
WW: How do you see the program at the gallery continuing? Will it be international in scope, or more focused on Asian artists?
EN: Perrotin has a significant roster of artists globally. The programming in Asia is distinctive in both vision and scope to that what is done in Paris, or in New York. When I was asked to open the first Asian Location for Perrotin some years back, I built a team from the ground up.
At that moment in time the Asian market was still in its early stages and had not evolved into the complex ecosystem it has become today. Because of my unique heritage of being Japanese and French I immediately recognized and understood the potential for discovery and growth. As a result, I think it is an incredibly important moment to challenge established norms, and that should be done with both Asian and western artists in our programming. I have always first surveyed the scene and done a lot of looking at what is going on before making the final decisions, so please stay tuned.