Emmanuel Perrotin with Paola Pivi's Who told you white men can jump?, 2013, urethane foam, plastic, feathers, 32 1/4 by 96 1/2 by 52 inches. Photo Guillaume Ziccarelli, courtesy Galerie Perrotin.

 

Parisian dealer Emmanuel Perrotin is extending his eponymous gallery's reach, opening its first New York branch Sept. 18 with an exhibition of new work by Italian multimedia artist Paola Pivi (through Oct. 26). The contemporary art gallery will occupy the street level and lower floor of the landmark 1932 Bank of New York building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 73rd Street. In 1989, at age 21, Perrotin opened his first gallery in Paris, where he now has two spaces in the Marais neighborhood along with a Hong Kong outpost that opened last year. (A Miami branch closed in 2010 after 6 years of operation.) In 1991, Perrotin gave Damien Hirst his first gallery show, and he now represents more than 40 artists, including Sophie Calle, Jesper Just and Scandinavian art duo Elmgreen & Dragset.

The New York gallery's inaugural show, Pivi's "Ok, you are better than me, so what?" features eight playfully posed, near-life-size sculptures of polar bears dancing, prancing, resting, sulking and resisting a diaper change. The foam polar bears are embellished with black plastic facial features and festooned with turkey feathers dyed in brightly colored shades that include tangerine, tennis ball chartreuse and cotton candy. This is the first U.S. solo show for Pivi, whose eye-catching Public Art Fund commission How I Roll brought a rotating-in-place Piper Seneca airplane (mounted on steel supports) to the edge of Central Park last summer.

Perrotin, traveling between galleries last week, indicated by e-mail that he is excited to participate in a "revival of the Upper East Side gallery scene," where there's no dearth of fine art outlets, but where older work by blue-chip artists tends to be the norm. Perrotin is known for his trend-spotter's eye for the new and fashionable, as well as his long-standing relationships with star artists Takashi Murakami and Maurizio Cattelan, both of whom Perrotin discovered early, but who are both conspicuously represented in New York by other Upper East Side galleries (Gagosian and Marian Goodman, respectively).  Asked whether he would show these artists' work in New York or cooperate with the other galleries, Perrotin was cheeky: "If Takashi had left his New York gallery, I think you would have heard about it? I haven't."

While many American galleries, including Pace, Gagosian and David Zwirner, have recently opened or expanded branches abroad, Perrotin is one of the few foreign galleries coming to New York. Perrotin acknowledged to A.i.A. that he has "invested a lot in this task" in the hopes of providing face time with major museum directors and curators to gallery artists "who have had great success internationally, but are unrepresented in New York." He also hopes to discover new talent, "reinventing" himself in the process, he added.

Perrotin's investment is indeed heavy. The cost of expanding his network is astronomical, including exceptionally expensive Madison Avenue rent. "Prime ground-floor space in this area can command at least $1,000 per square foot, with contiguous below-grade floors going for at least a third of that number," Daniel Douglas of New York realtors the Corcoran Group told A.i.A. via e-mail. Perrotin will occupy a total of 4,300 square feet, and will compete with highly visible neighbors Gagosian, Acquavella, Leo Castelli, Mnuchin and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, all within a six-block radius. (Not to mention Dominique Lévy, whose new gallery will also occupy the Bank of New York building.) Perrotin has exported his Paris director of 15 years, Peggy Leboeuf, to run the New York gallery, and is seeking a co-director who is "American and aggressive" to complete a New York staff of eight.

An exhibition of new work by Brooklyn-based artist KAWS will follow Pivi's show (Nov.2-Jan. 4). Berlin-based multimedia artist Gregor Hildebrandt will follow (Jan. 9, 2014-Feb. 22, 2014).