"In New York, I would just have been another gallery on the list"
Frank Elbaz first opened his first gallery in 2002 in the district of Le Marais in Paris. Last year he inaugurated a second space in Dallas, Texas – of all places. While it appears crystal clear why he came up with the name "PARIS TEXAS" for one of his shows, Kevin Rubén Jacobs wanted to know what brought him there in the first place, and how he has been received.
You’ve been a regular exhibitor with your Paris gallery at the Dallas Art Fair for several years, and then you decided to open a second outpost in Dallas last year, bypassing Los Angeles and New York. What compelled you to choose Dallas?
In New York, I would just have been another gallery on the list, and despite the fact that I love LA and California, I did not feel that the market there was right for me. In Dallas, I am able to write my own story. Coming from France, Texas feels like a very fresh and exotic place. Furthermore, I have always been impressed by the quality of the art collections in Dallas and in Texas.
I find there is a completely different gallery culture in Dallas compared to most other major American cities, especially Chicago and Los Angeles. With a lack of internationally focused or blue-chip galleries in the city, how do you find your program fitting – or not fitting – into Dallas’s scene?
The situation in Dallas is completely different from Berlin, London, Paris, New York or Los Angeles, as there is no real gallery culture and people won’t visit spontaneously. That is why we have adapted our program to be more educational by working with curators like Paul Galvez. We focused on established and historical artists, such as Julije Knifer and Mangelos [Dimitrije Bašicevic] from the Zagreb conceptual scene, and West Coast artists, such as Wallace Berman from the Beat Generation or Jay DeFeo from the Bay Area. The type of shows these artists are included in need a strong context; this is why the curating is very important to us. We really want to do something serious for the public in Dallas – to organize walk-throughs of our exhibitions and invite the public for events.
How has your relationship with the Dallas art scene developed since your first visit?
We spend a lot of time in Dallas and really try to be part of the landmark. We have really built a strong relationship with the local art scene. And we also have a lot of admiration for spaces like The Power Station, which is very active in the Dallas art community and does a great job.
You received some critical acclaim for your historical exhibitions “Meandering, Abstractly” and “PARIS TEXAS”, both curated by Paul Galvez, who you mentioned and who is also a decorated research fellow at the Edith O'Donnell Institute in Dallas. What are some key differences in the ways that the Paris and Dallas communities reacted to your exhibitions?
The Dallas public is not used to gallery strolls like people in Paris, who can spend their Saturday afternoon walking through the contemporary art galleries in Le Marais. This is one reason that pushes us to insist on “education”, walk-throughs and events. These efforts allow us to work with local institutions; there is, for instance, a work by Mangelos included in the show “DOUBLES, DOBROS, PLIEGUES, PARES, TWINS, MITADES”, curated by Rodrigo Moura, at The Warehouse.
What are some hopes or desires for your new venture in Dallas?
In Dallas, we work hand in hand with a restricted circle of collectors, curators and art advisors. My hope is to see Dallas become a little more like Berlin or Paris, with a broader audience.
FRANK ELBAZ runs galerie frank elbaz. Most of the time he lives in Paris.
KEVIN RUBÉN JACOBS is a curator and founder of OFG.XXX in Dallas. He recently moved to Berlin where he opened Pushkin & Gogol.
More one the Dallas art scene: Read an interview with Dallas Contemporary curator Justine Ludwig and a roundup of what's going on.