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Philippe Boudin

Galerie Mingei, which specialises in the ancient and contemporary decorative arts of Japan, is located in the heart of Paris's Saint-Germain-des-Prés arrondisement. Run by Philippe Boudin and his daughter Zoé Niang, the gallery is renowned for its thematic exhibitions and monographic works devoted to individual artists. Galerie Mingei is a member of the Comité professionnel des Galeries d'Art.

Could you tell us about your background? Why did you choose to specialise in Japanese art in particular?


My background is quite unusual. I'm a former journalist who, by chance, became the founder and director of an NGO specialising in human trafficking. As a journalist, I worked and travelled extensively in Asia. At the same time, I was a human rights activist working on human trafficking issues, which led me to work in Nepal on a programme to protect Nepalese girls from being trafficked into Indian brothels. Alongside my journalistic and NGO activities, I gradually began to collect objects from all these regions. After six or seven years involved with NGOs, I decided to stop and became the European editor of Tribal magazine for several years. That's how I ended up in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, the golden triangle of non-European arts. I had my first freelance exhibition in 2002, when I rented a gallery in the rue Visconti. Gradually, I had more and more exhibitions, then stopped working for Tribal Magazine and decided to become a gallery owner in 2014. Initially, I offered Himalayan, South-East Asian and Chinese art, but then I moved on to Japanese art because it was an aesthetic that suited me much more.

This June marks 10 years since I opened the gallery, which I run with my daughter Zoé Niang. Two years ago, we expanded our space with a second gallery next door on rue Visconti.



Could you describe your gallery for us?


The gallery presents both antique objects, the oldest being Japanese archaeological objects from the Jōmon culture, for which it is rare to find very good pieces, and contemporary compositions, as long as the artists we work with have one foot firmly planted in tradition. For example, the gallery has specialised in Japanese bamboo art, a field in which we are pioneers in Europe.

Among the gallery's other specialities are, of course, pure Mingei objects, the first we displayed at the beginning hence the gallery's name. Today, we have really broadened our specialities. For example, we also regularly show Nō theatre masks and a lot of objects linked to bunjin culture, the culture of Japanese scholars, including these famous bamboo baskets.


The gallery doesn't just offer bamboo basketry, we also work with other contemporary artists, ceramists, who work with metal or lacquer, which will be the subject of a forthcoming exhibition, notably during Printemps Asiatique. We'll be showing contemporary works by young, emerging lacquer artists. The gallery is also interested in showcasing artists who are not yet internationally recognised, but who have great potential and whom we want to support. So we'll be showcasing the work of 5 Japanese and Chinese artists living in Japan, creating works that are essentially non-functional, real sculptures that I think will astonish the public.

Your gallery has organised a number of exhibitions in collaboration with museums. Can you tell us more about them?


We held our first exhibition devoted entirely to Japanese basketry around fifteen years ago. We have gradually attracted the interest of museums, starting with the Musée du Quai-Branly, with whom we produced the exhibition "Fendre l'air. Art of bamboo in Japan" in 2018. The exhibition was an unexpected success, given that bamboo art was little known, ignored or even despised. When we first presented basketry, it was dismissively reduced to simple 'baskets'. Times have changed!

We have also collaborated with the Musée Guimet on a number of occasions, notably by giving carte blanche to two artists. The first was with Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, who created a monumental bamboo sculpture 5 metres high under the great dome of the Musée Guimet.

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Carte Blanche to Tanabe Chikuunsai IV - 2016


Monumental bamboo sculpture

Musée Guimet - Paris

Photo Tadayuki Minamoto © courtesy Galerie Mingei - Paris

The second was with Toshimasa Kikuchi, a sculptor and lacquerer, who presented an installation of what he calls 'needles': sculptures in lacquered Japanese cypress inspired by a three-dimensional mathematical formula known as the Kuen surface. This formula comes from the name of Theodore Kuen, a nineteenth-century German mathematician, who created this shape based on a mathematical equation and which is considered to be the purest form there is. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this led to the creation of wooden mathematical objects for teaching purposes, which fascinated the Surrealists in the 20s and 30s, particularly Man Ray who photographed and painted them.

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Carte Blanche with Toshimasa Kikuchi - 2021



Photos Thierry Ollivier (c) courtesy MNAAG - Paris

Also in collaboration with the Musée Guimet, in 2021 we put on the "Simplicité japonaise" exhibition using some of the museum's collections. This exhibition remained fairly confidential because we were unfortunately confronted with the second confinement.

We try to collaborate regularly with museum institutions in France and abroad. In Geneva, at the Baur Foundation, we put on the exhibition "In Praise of Light, Pierre Soulages - Tanabe Chikuunsai IV" in 2022, a kind of aesthetic confrontation. It was a huge success, probably the museum's best-attended exhibition since it opened.

We are currently working on an exhibition for July 2024 at the Musée d'art asiatique of Nice: "Plénitude du vide, art du bambou au Japon". This exhibition will feature around 80 works, from the birth of this art form in Japan in the second half of the 19th century to the present day.



The Mingei Gallery has launched its first prize in 2021, the Mingei Bamboo Prize. What does it consist of?


We have created the Mingei Bamboo Prize in 2021, in collaboration with the Musée Guimet for its first edition. Every two years we put out a call for Japanese artists who work with bamboo. For the moment it's aimed at Japanese artists, but our ambition is to extend it to other nationalities. The first edition, which rewarded the artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, was exhibited at the Musée Guimet, in conjunction with another exhibition presenting the art of bamboo in Japan in all its forms, from traditional and functional works linked to ikebana, to contemporary sculptures that have no function.

For the second edition, held in 2023, of the 27 artists who responded to our call for entries, we selected 13 for the exhibition. We set up a jury made up mainly of museum directors, but also of designers, collectors and people from the fashion world.


In 2025, for the third edition of this prize, we're thinking of opening up the entries to other artists from Taiwan, China and South-East Asia, who are producing some very interesting bamboo pieces. But perhaps it's still too early for that? We'll see!


What's more, in partnership with the Parcours des Mondes exhibition, which takes place in September, we've created a 'People's Choice Award', enabling anyone to vote for the work of their choice during the event. Interestingly, the public voted for a completely different artwork to the one chosen by the jury!

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Jury award 2023

HAYASHI Jyunpei (born 1991)

Sakai, Kansai region (Osaka prefecture)

Disciple of Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

RYUSEN (Rationalise)


Madake bamboo and rattan

87 x 26 x 25 (h) cm

Photo Tadayuki Minamoto

© courtesy Galerie Mingei - Paris

Peoples’ Choice Award 2023 (will be exhibited at the ADI, Milan Design Museum)

ICHIKAWA Youna (born 1988)

Sakai, Kansai region (Osaka prefecture)

Disciple of Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

BAIKA SŌSHUN (Plum blossom in early spring)


Madake bamboo and rattan

40 x 36 x 30 (h) cm

Photo Tadayuki Minamoto

© courtesy Galerie Mingei - Paris

A key artwork?


Among the lacquer artists, we will be presenting works by Hiroshi Kaneyasu. This artist has just been selected for the Loewe Craft Price 2024, Loewe's international arts and crafts prize, which each year invites 4,000 artists from all over the world. These artists submit a work, from which 30 are selected, including this year Hiroshi Kaneyasu. He has already been exhibited at the gallery for some time, and is a young artist whom I met for the first time about a year ago in Kanazawa.

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Hiroshi Kaneyasu (born 1991)

Formation de couleur laminée 20-1

Urushi lacquer, plaster, linen and metal mesh


18 x 13 x 66 (h) cm

Photo Tadayuki Minamoto © courtesy Galerie Mingei - Paris

We are also very proud to have sold the absolute masterpiece of bamboo art a year ago: a work by Tanabe Chikuunsai I (1877-1937) entitled Ryū-Rikyō. This work won a prize in 1925 at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. Thanks to a loan from the collector, this work will be exhibited again in Nice (it was previously shown in 2018 at the Quai-Branly exhibition "Fendre l'air. Art of bamboo in Japan").

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Tanabe Chikuunsai I (1877-1937)

Hanakago Ryū-Rikyō

Floral basketry in susudake and madake bamboo, rattan and lacquer

Bronze medal, Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, 1925

31.5 x 31.5 x 58.5 (h) cm

Photo Tadayuki Minamoto

© courtesy Galerie Mingei - Paris

What's your latest artistic "coup de cœur"?


My latest artistic "coup de cœur" is lacquer. On a previous trip to Japan, I discovered a whole new world. Even though I was familiar with traditional Japanese lacquerware, maki-e, takamaki-e and raden mother-of-pearl inlays, I hadn't yet come across any artists who were making a resolutely abstract, non-functional approach, working with materials with such genius.



An exhibition that stood out for you?


During my last trip to Japan, at the Wajima lacquer art museum, I saw the international Urushi exhibition in Ishikawa, a retrospective that presented a selection of contemporary lacquer works by some fifty artists, thirty years after the first totally abstract artistic proposals by some of them. I thought the exhibition was absolutely fabulous, but unfortunately the region was hit by a terrible earthquake. The museum wasn't too badly affected, but the region was destroyed, so I doubt that it will remain a centre for the production of Urushi lacquer in the near future...



Any upcoming projects?


We are working with the artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV to produce monumental works. We've just finished one on the island of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf and we'll be doing another in Seoul in July. We did one in Barcelona just before the end of Covid and are planning another in Madrid. Some of these monumental bamboo sculptures are ephemeral, like the one that was installed at Guimet. As for the one that has been at the Fondation Baur in Geneva for the past three years, we don't yet know whether it will ever be dismantled. Some of the bamboo stems from the dismantled ephemeral works may be used by the artist for a future installation. However, future productions will undoubtedly be more permanent, intended to remain in place for 10 to 20 years.


Tanabe Chikuunsai IV is the artist with the highest international profile. He has exhibited all over the world, including at the MET, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He is steeped in tradition, being the 4th generation of the Tanabe family. There will also be a fifth generation, with one of his three children likely to become Chikuunsai V. His great-grandfather, Tanabe Chikuunsai I, was one of the founding fathers of bamboo art in Japan, and was himself a bunjin, a scholar practising calligraphy, the art of ikebana and the art of tea.


Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, while keeping one foot in tradition, has opened up the art of bamboo to contemporary art, particularly through his installations. He is the first to create such monumental works in bamboo in Japan, echoing traditional basketry. His father had already paved the way for contemporary art with works that were exhibited at Tokyo's Museum of Modern Art in the early 1970s. One of his works will also be included in the exhibition "Plénitude du vide, l'art du bambou", scheduled for July at the Musée des Arts Asiatiques in Nice, which I will be co-curating.



Find out more:


Galerie Mingei

5, rue Visconti 75006 Paris

-       Fendre l’air, Art of bamboo in Japan

Musée du Quai-Branly

27 November 2018 - 07 April 2019

-       In Praise of Light, Pierre Soulages - Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Baur Foundation

17 November 2021 - 27 March 2022


-       Carte Blanche to Toshimasa Kikuchi - 2021

National museum of Asian Arts - Guimet


-       Mingei Bamboo Prize in partnership with Parcours des Mondes - 2023

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