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An Interview with Uli Zhiheng Huang of Galerie Perrotin

An Interview with Uli Zhiheng Huang of Galerie Perrotin


An Interview with Uli Zhiheng Huang of Galerie Perrotin

Portrait of "Uli" Zhiheng HUANG taken during Gelitin's exhibition "Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin" at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, 2016. (Photo: Ringo Cheung)


Newly-appointed Sales Director of Galerie Perrotin, Uli Zhiheng Huang, takes some time from his busy schedule to speak to us about his responsibilities at the contemporary art gallery, as well as his career path - including his experience with Phillips, the auction house. Read on to find out more!


Name: Uli Zhiheng Huang

Title: Sales Director

Artists represented: 

Iván ArgoteDaniel Arsham, Hernan Bas, Sophie CalleMaurizio Cattelan, Chen Fei, Chung Chang-Sup, Johan Creten, Wim Delvoye, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ericson & ZieglerErroLionel Esteve,Jens FangeBernard Frize, Gelitin, Laurent Grasso, Thilo HeinzmannJohn Henderson, Gregor HildebrandtJRJesper Just, Izumi KatoKAWSBharti Kher, Klara Kristalova, Guy Limone, Heinz Mack, Ryan Mcginley, Farhad Moshiri, Gianni Morri, MR., Takashi Murakami, Kaz Oshiro, Jean-Michel Othoneil, Park Seo-Bo, Paul Pfeiffer, Paola Pivi, Terry Richardson, Claude Rutault, Michael Sailstorfer, Jesús Rafael Soto, Pierre Soulages, Aya Takano, Tatiana Trouve, Xavier Veilhan, Pieter Vermeersch.

Current exhibition/s:

Gelitin Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin (July 7 – Aug 20, 2016)

View of Gelitin's exhibition "Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin" at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, 2016.
Image Courtesy of the Artists and Galerie Perrotin

Tell us how you started in the art world?

I actually studied actuarial science in University. After finishing my Mathematics degree in three years and stepping into my senior year, I wanted to study something new and something I was interested in. I chose to study art concentrating on media art and painting. Upon graduating from university, I got a job in the auction house Phillips, while keeping my mother in the dark, who thought I was working in Price Waterhouse Cooper. That’s how I started my career in art.

"Red head" (2009) by Farhad Moshiri / Digital print on 100% cotton paper / Edition of 300 / US$ 520
Available on The Artling!

What is a typical day for you at the gallery like?

This is a very interesting question. Different dates require different schedules. For example, when there is an exhibition in the gallery, I will be greeting and introducing artworks to some of the guests who come to the gallery. My job also includes putting together an exhibition which contains many different aspects from conceiving an idea to realizing the actual logistics in reality. In short, a concise answer would be, to make things happen and in the meantime minimize risks and ensure everything happens smoothly.

"Mystery Man" (2012) by Farhad Moshiri / Digital print on 100% cotton paper / Edition of 300 / USD $520
Available on The Artling!

What is your advice for someone who wants to start collecting art?

My advice would be exactly the same for everything else in life: you learn, you learn and you learn. You should understand why you are collecting something instead of impulse buying. Art to me is the window that allows me to perceive through other people’s eyes and hearts. Therefore I’ll hold art more dynamically from mere investments. If the goal of collecting art is different, then different methods of collecting are employed. I am someone who never regrets buying something, therefore I buy as many pieces as I possibly can when I am fond of something.

The process of collection is also very personal depending on what you are comfortable with and your financial habits. Nevertheless, if I were to give one and only one piece of advice, it would be, always buy the best piece you can afford.


What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced early on in the art industry? How did you overcome them?

I have had three different jobs in the art industry up to this moment. During my first job, I had to deal with diverse clients on a very large scale. I learned how to handle all information in detailed confidentiality. There was a tremendous amount that I learned about customer service in my first working experience. As for my second job, I worked for a prominent Chinese artist in his studio. I vividly remember constructing a fairly large-scale installation in a foreign country, from sourcing to liaison until its final completion. It took eight months and from which I mastered the skills of negotiation with vendors. I think every project is a challenge since there will always be unexpected hiccups. To every project finally presented, there is a lot of invisible effort, only the professionals can gauge the energy and thoughtfulness that such labor-intensive projects require. Nothing easy is worth fighting for.

View of Izumi KATO's exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, Paris, 2014.
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Perrotin ©2014Izumi Kato   

What work or artist have you recently seen that has really moved or impressed you?

I will always eat a candy from Gonzalez-Torres as how the artist intends the work to be. I have always been a huge fan of his. 

10 days ago, I saw in real life my favorite painting in the whole world this time in Fondation Beyeler in Basel. It is a Francis Bacon, titled In memory of George Dyer, painted after the artist’s second lover George Dyer killed himself the night before the artist’s retrospective exhibition opening in the Grand Palais in Paris.

I was also in Naoshima and I was so lucky to be able to sit through James Turrell’s Sky Room performance, TWICE! It was an approximately 50-min long program and I saw the sky in ways I have never been able to see and experienced the seamless combination of nature and man-power.

James Turrell's "Open Sky" at the Chichu Museum in Naoshima
Image courtesy of Chichu Art Museum

Which part of your job brings you the most joy?

The arts and the nature of an agent - the passing of knowledge.

An exhibition catalogue of Aya Takano's "After the Tohoku Earthquake" published by Galerie Perrotin
©2016 Aya Takano/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Image courtesy of Galerie Perrotin

What do you find the most challenging?

The entire process of making something happen is challenging.  A project from start to end requires meticulousness to accomplish in the way it is desired by the artist.  When it comes to quality, there is no middle ground. We aim to give our best, and under that mentality, everything could be challenging.


What is your process for selecting artists and developing a show?

This is actually a very complex process. When it comes to artist, this is our foundation, therefore Mr. Perrotin will discuss with all the directors before anything could happen.  When an exhibition is conceived, it is a process of ceaseless communication.

The Galerie Perrotin booth at Art Basel HK 2016
©2016 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. 
© Mark Blower & Ocula

What do you think are the most important elements of a successful exhibition?

It is going to be difficult to pin-point “the most important” but at least personally, I like to be entertained by the exhibition itself, hence I find the curatorial aspect very important. To put it simply, I view art exhibitions as a movie, and the curator is the director; the artist is the producer; it is through the director’s eyes with the medium of the producer, a movie is produced.  Is cinematography important? Yes of course, and that would correspond to the visual presentation of the exhibition. 


Over the years, Galerie Perrotin has been very involved in public art, especially in terms of displaying sculptures in various public areas all over the world. What do you think about the importance of art in the public vs private domains?

Some arts are meant to be kept private to reminiscent over, some are meant to be viewed in public outdoors. I think different people enjoy different means to appreciate things. When public arts are installed, the priority is usually public reaction, this will limit the pieces with a few parameters, for example, the piece shall not be offensive or graphic, it is a toned down version of private pieces which could very much be emotionally charged. I think public and private domain arts to me are almost like the difference between quantity and quality. It is not to say which one is more important.

'Van Gogh's Ear' by Elmgreen & Dragset at Rockefella Centre, New York
Image Courtesy of the Artists and Galerie Perrotin

Galerie Perrotin participates in a number art fairs throughout the year, from Asia-based fairs such as Art Basel Hong Kong, to the Frieze Fairs in London and New York. Do you think there has been a recent shift in collector and content focus? What do you think is the reason for these shifts?

Yes. the shift of buying power has been visibly felt by the world market as more and more buying activities are centering in Asia.  I inevitably have to quote former US president “it’s the economy”. I don't want to dig too deep into this topic but with my background I cannot challenge the simple theory of a culturally strong country is based on a healthy and robust economy. All the culturally exporting countries are/were enduring prosperous economy growth and achieve international soft power. I hope China can grow slowly but steadily to re-establish its magnificent culture. 



To find out more about Galerie Perrotin, click here.



Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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