Q&A: Can Papillion make Leimert Park Art World sexy? 


by Susannah Tantemsapya
M Daily  March, 2014



Michelle Joan Papillion is breaking new ground. In 2010, she launched Papillion Institute of Art in Downtown Los Angeles. Her latest incarnation, PAPILLION, opened its doors on February 15 in Leimert Park, an unexpected location for a contemporary art gallery. Native to the Bay Area, Papillion built her acting career in New York after studying art history at Howard University. 

Her multi-disciplinary background shapes her curatorial practice. This is most evident in the inaugural group exhibition O P E N – featuring painter Hugo McCloud; designer/illustrator Kenturah Davis; sculptor Raksha Parkeh; video/installation artist Danielle Dean; painter/sculptor Nzuji de Magalhaes; sculptor/illustrator David Sigmund; painter Derek Fordjour and abstract artist Samuel Levi Jones.



M Daily: How does O P E N define your gallery's new direction?


Michelle Papillion:

It was important to show the broad range of emerging talent that we work with. These artists are new, young and at the beginning of their careers. I think its clear when you walk into the space that we are serious about introducing new artists who are excelling in their discipline.

M Daily: How did you select these particular artists? How do their works relate to one another?

MP:
I asked a few of the artists I had been interested in showing to each give two pieces. I picked them based on style, how they work and what their art looks like. Most of the artists made the works for the exhibition and based on what they do, I knew it would work.


M Daily: Why Leimert Park? What was the impetus for this change?

MP: Of all the places we could have gone, Leimert Park was the only one that actually made sense. For the kind of exhibitions and special projects that we do, this neighborhood was just a natural fit. It’s a perfect nurturing ground for ideas that are sophisticated, daring, intellectual and bold. Leimert Park is not a location for the meek; it thrives off of creative, innovative and visionary thinkers. That's the sort of place I wanted to be in.


M Daily: Does PAPILLION feel like a destination gallery at the moment? What has been the reaction so far?

MP: I would say “yes” and “no.” “Yes” in the sense that we have had some great press since we opened: people are reading about us and making a trip just to come see what it’s all about. However, the neighborhood on its own has a following and attracts Angelenos from all parts of the city every Sunday.


M Daily: Does PAPILLION feel like a destination gallery at the moment? What has been the reaction so far?

MP: I would say “yes” and “no.” “Yes” in the sense that we have had some great press since we opened: people are reading about us and making a trip just to come see what it’s all about. However, the neighborhood on its own has a following and attracts Angelenos from all parts of the city every Sunday.
M Daily: What happens every Sunday?


MP: Sunday is a big day in Leimert Park. Local vendors, craftsman and artist come out and set up tables in the park. The drum circle starts in the early afternoon and goes until sunset. It’s very festive and draws a diverse crowd.



 M Daily: How do you see this neighborhood's relationship to art in Los Angeles (and beyond)?

MP: This neighborhood, historically speaking, has been one of LA's most influential. I believe that what is happening now, with a gallery like ours opening here, proves that a resurgence of new creative energy is coming back. We are calling it The Leimert Park Renaissance! I think you will find that, over the next few years, this neighborhood will become an art mecca once more: not just for LA, but for the national and international art community as well.

M Daily: I found that the materials in O P E N seem to inform their subject matter: especially in the works of Raksha Parkeh, David Sigmund, Derek Fordjour and Samuel Levi Jones. To you, what is the most significant theme of this show?

MP: I agree with you, the materials do inform some of the art works... that was just a coincidence. O P E N is literally about finally being open. We were in construction for two straight months before we debuted. Every day, local residents would walk by and ask, "When are you going to open?" So, I thought when we have our exhibition, I am going to title it “O P E N.” Since we are now actually "open," the title has become more three-dimensional.
One, we are literally now open for business, but we are also opening up minds to new ideas and perspectives about art, and what is contemporary. I'm also finding that people are commenting in a literal way about how "open" the gallery feels. With white walls and floors, high ceilings and the entire first wall completely made of glass windows, there is a feeling of the gallery being large and spacious with open room to walk around and see the art works comfortably.

M Daily: What's next for PAPILLION?


MP: More great exhibitions!



Michelle Joan Papillion is the owner of PAPILLION, a contemporary art gallery that is in the historic Los Angeles neighborhood Leimert Park. Papillion debuted in 2014. Prior to being in Leimert Park, Michelle opened her first gallery in 2010 in Downtown Los Angeles. In addition to the gallery, Michelle also works as a private art dealer, advisor and consultant. Her focus and strength is the emerging art market.

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