The Art of Discovering Paris with Emmanuel Perrotin
The city’s preeminent gallerist—and newest Rosewood Curator for the Hôtel de Crillon—shares his artful perspective on the City of Light.
Since his debut on the Paris art scene in 1989, opening a gallery in his own apartment at the age of 21, Emmanuel Perrotin has become a titan in the field. He’s credited with catapulting Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Mauricio Cattelán and Sophie Calle into superstar status. These days, Perrotin has exhibition spaces in London, New York, Tokyo and Seoul, along with a flagship gallery in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, representing over 50 artists. When he isn’t traveling the world to attend various openings and art fairs, he satisfies his sustained hunger for new experiences at home in Paris.
What is the best way to spend your day if you aren’t working?
Ideally with my two beautiful children, Lazslo and Anaïs, strolling around Paris or watching the ocean from our house in Le Cap Ferret, on the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux.
What is your favorite place in the city? Where do you like to stroll?
I’ve lived in the Marais neighborhood for decades now, and still discover new places every time I go out for a stroll. There are so many good restaurants, hidden museums, and quirky shops. On weekends I love going to Wild & the Moon for healthy fare or Rachel’s for typical American comfort food. If I’m in the mood to shop I like buying menswear basics at Officine Generale on Rue du Pont-au-Choux.
Which museum do you go to when you seek inspiration in your hometown?
I could list the obvious museums like the Centre Pompidou, the Palais de Tokyo, the Musée Picasso, but I’d rather tell you about lesser known institutions that I love such as the Musée Guimet, the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution and the Musée de la Chasse. Musée de la Chasse is very traditional in its decor, but modern in its presentation. I love it because there are many different rooms to explore and eccentric details that you only notice the second time you look.
What do you love most about staying in a hotel?
A great spa is very important to me, because I always need a place to relax and disconnect after a long day of back-to-back meetings. I recently experienced Sense, A Rosewood Spa at Hôtel de Crillon and absolutely loved it. An important feature that marks a good spa is the rapidity and efficiency of the check-in and check-out process.
The hotel should also know what I like and dislike before I arrive. It should be as easy as ordering a prix-fixe meal at a high-end restaurant: I just want to trust everything will run smoothly, and that they won’t serve me food I’m allergic to. For example, if I like a certain scented candle, or a type of fabric for my sheets, I love when the hotel incorporates that into my stay. The point is, I like my room to feel customized.
Why have you chosen to remain in Paris? What place does Paris hold in the art world?
The biggest joy I get from living in Paris comes from walking or biking anywhere. Paris is a human sized city; transportation never seems to be an issue because distances are much shorter than in other large cities. This goes without saying that the surroundings are always breathtaking.
I am convinced that the art scene here is taking off again. It feels like there is a new energy that will favor this momentum and make Paris the most pleasant city to live in once again.
What characterizes the French art scene today?
Since the market crashed in 2008, there has been a re-evaluation of the Parisian art scene. Until then, it had managed to avoid the excess of ostentatious times. This allowed many important local figures in the art world to focus and take the time to develop their careers internationally. Many important French artists’ careers flourished and gained international recognition during that time, such as Jean Michel Othoniel, Sophie Calle, Bernard Frize, Laurent Grasso, Pierre Soulages and Xavier Veilhan. These are just a few artists who we represent.
What makes you proud of your work when you have time to reflect upon it?
I am proud for helping a great number of artists who were relatively unknown find success, and for keeping their trust since then. This is especially true for the French Artists who accompanied me who are now internationally renowned. It was a dream that seemed impossible in the beginning of my career, but one that I have now accomplished.
What do you think helped you become a successful art dealer?
As obvious as it may sound, the key is hard work and putting your artists first. I have always put their best long-term interests first, rather than cashing in on their success early on. I encourage my team to do the same and cultivate trust amongst collaborators, clients, institutions, the press, and again, my artists. This is so important because everyone plays a key role in the collective success of the gallery.
What advice would give someone who is about to start purchasing art?
Before buying anything contemporary, I always advise people to study the market. I don’t mean academically, but through experience. Go to as many art galleries as you can, visit top art fairs around the world, and keep your finger on the pulse by reading art reviews and magazine reviews. Take your time before you buy anything. This research should take anywhere from one to two years. You’ll soon realize that finding and purchasing something that you have learned about is much more gratifying than buying a piece impulsively. They say don’t judge a book by its cover and I say don’t buy art impulsively. Finally, don’t dwell on past errors. They happen to every collector. It’s just part of the process.
What’s your favorite way to end the day?
I’m fortunate to live right next to my gallery. I love walking outside on a chilly evening and listening to music while I go to get groceries in the neighborhood. I’ll then go home and cook a great meal with my family.
What is your favorite Parisian dish/guilty pleasure?
I must shamefully admit that I love a good plate of Tripes at Ma Bourgogne. It’s a very traditional French restaurant located on Place des Vosges.
Galerie Perrotin: 76 Rue de Turenne; +33 42-16-79-79
Wild & the Moon: 55 Rue Charlot; +33 86-95-40-46
Rachel’s: 25 Rue du Pont aux Choux; +33 44-61-69-68
Officine Generale: 4 Rue du Pont aux Choux; +33 86-95-29-49
Musée Guimet: 6 Place d’Iéna; +33-56-52-53-00
Grande Galerie de l’Evolution: 36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire; +33 40-79-54-79
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: 62 Rue des Archives; +33 53-01-92-40
Ma Bourgogne: 19 Place des Vosges; +33 42-78-44-64