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European Buyers Snap Up Rinko Kawauchi Photos

Just a week into an exhibition of new work by Japanese color photographer Rinko Kawauchi (b. 1972) at Paris’s Antoine de Vilmorin Gallery (April 3-May 3), two dozen prints had already been purchased.

NEW YORK—Just a week into an exhibition of new work by Japanese color photographer Rinko Kawauchi (b. 1972) at Paris’s Antoine de Vilmorin Gallery (April 3-May 3), two dozen prints had already been purchased. By early this month, about 40 prints had been sold and the show had been extended through May 7.

The Tokyo-based artist has found more buyers in France than anywhere else, including Japan. Her work has been exhibited in Paris before, at the Fondation Cartier in 2005 and for the past several years at the Paris Photo art fair. The Antoine de Vilmorin show is Kawauchi’s first solo gallery exhibition in France.

The work is currently priced at $3,000 for smaller, 10-by-12-inch prints and $8,000 for larger, 40-by-40-inch ones—in editions of six—and $50 for one of her ten books of photographs.

Kawauchi’s photographs are usually 40 by 40 inches, and distinguished by lighting that seems counterintuitive: in one work, for example, an owl is seen in bright sunshine. Her photographs of ordinary objects and situations are meant to startle viewers into greater awareness.

Galerie Priska Pasquer in Cologne, Germany, has represented the artist in Europe since 2005. Although the buyers from the current exhibition in Paris are “mostly from France,” director Antoine de Vilmorin noted that the gallery has received inquiries from elsewhere in Europe, including Denmark, England, Germany and Sweden, where Kawauchi’s work has been exhibited in recent years. Last year, both the Hasselblad Center in Göteborg, Sweden, and the Fotografisk Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, staged shows of her photographs; in 2006, the Photographer’s Gallery in London did the same.

Exhibitions have also taken place at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo, Brazil, the Huis Marseille Foundation for Photography in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the California Museum of Photography in Riverside, as well as several galleries in Japan.

New York’s Cohan and Leslie gallery has represented the artist in North America since 2004, exhibiting her work twice during that time, once in 2005 and most recently last October.

Between the first and second shows, prices almost doubled, from $4,500 to $8,000. The 2007 exhibition “did very well,” according to gallery owner Andrew Leslie, who noted that the buyers were a mix of European and U.S. collectors, with some Asian-Americans among the U.S. buyers.

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