Lou Zhenggang – 婁正綱(ろうせいこう・ロウセイコウ)


Opening address by Simon de Pury dedicated to Gallery L, which consists solely of the works of Lou Zhenggang opened at Hiroo April 2024

Simon De Pury/Auctioneer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be in Tokyo for this occasion.

Long before any of you were born, in 1972 I had the privilege to spend a number of months in Tokyo, which is probably my favorite city in the world. I went to take courses at Gedai, the Tokyo Academy of Arts in Ueno Park in both the techniques of Nihonga and Sumie. On weekends I would go to Yokohama where I was taking lessons in academic drawing from sculptor Nobumichi Inoue. In those days I was trying to realize my teenage dream of becoming an artist.

At the contact of the students at the Gedai though I rapidly had to come to the conclusion that very sadly I was not talented enough to make a career as an artist. I am not complaining in any way since this led me nevertheless to spend a lifetime in the art world as an auctioneer, art dealer, curator and collector. My passion for Art has never abated since then and it is the same passion that drives me as much today as it did when I was a young man.

In the early 1970’s I was very impressed by the big currents in abstraction that had emerged both in Europe and the United States during the two preceding decades. I was admiring the work of painters such as Georges Mathieu, Simon Hantai, Hans Hartung, Alberto Burri, Antoni Tàpies or the texturology works by Jean Dubuffet as well as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Mark Tobey, Clyfford Still, Adolph Gottlieb, Sam Francis or Robert Motherwell.

Whenever I was looking at Japanese and Chinese brushworks on paper and in particular at calligraphy I found something that was mesmerizing me even more than some of the works by the afore mentioned artists. That is what awoke in me the interest to familiarize myself with the techniques of China ink, the beautiful bamboo brushes and the gorgeous Japanese papers. I discovered that, what had initially looked to me to be the sometimes accidental result of very spontaneous gestures, was in fact quite the opposite: it was the absolute and perfect mastery of each gesture and brush work obtained through endless and tireless repetition.

Fast forward to two or three years ago. I was giving a speech on the art market at an international conference of high net worth individuals in Southampton, N.Y. A young New York based financier came up to see me after the talk and said that I imperatively had to meet his friend Take Kikuchi who was very much into art. At his instigation I did eventually have the chance of meeting Take Kikuchi.

Thanks to him I subsequently saw for the first time her work and instantly fell in love with it. I found her work to be vibrant, very much Asian in feeling yet speaking a universal language. Her work could be read on different levels. On one had it could be seen as highly sophisticated abstraction and yet at the same time some of it could be seen as a figurative ode to the beauty of nature. Her masterful technique coupled with an obsessive search for perfection is as magical on works done on paper as on canvas. There was an artist who personified everything that I had been unconsciously searching for when I came to Japan in my youth. It is only today that I had the luck to meet Lou Zhenggang for the very first time in person and also to see a number of her works in the flesh. I am even more impressed than I was before. While Lou Zhenggang is known in Asia and already has had a successful presence in the art market for well over a decade she is to date little known outside of Japan and Asia. It is my hope that I will be able to help this hugely talented artist to get the international recognition that the unique quality of her oeuvre deserves.

A speech presented by Simon De Pury at Gallery L Opening Reception April 2024