After Succeeding in LA, Art Angels Gallery Expanded to Miami. And the Founders Say They’re Just Getting Started
The pop-art gallery and its two female founders have learned a lot in five years.
It’s not easy for a gallery to carve out a name for itself in a city as big and starry as LA. But Art Angels, a contemporary, pop-art venture located in West Hollywood, has done just that.
Jacquelin Napal and Kat Emery, the two owners and founders of the gallery, are the angels in question. One of their artists, James Georgopoulos, coined the term, often referring to the duo as “art angels” whenever they interacted. The name fits: As two young, stylish women with business acumen and a taste for market-friendly art, Napal and Emery aren’t cut from the same cloth as many of their peers. And that’s a good thing.
The gallery, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, has already achieved a great deal of success, amassing an impressive collector base that includes a number of actors, athletes, and other celebrities. Not content to sit on their success, the duo opened up a second branch in Miami this summer, and they’re hoping to repeat the feat in a third location.
Art Angels specializes in work by pop-oriented artists, many of whom are emerging; others are more established. Artist Beau Dunn works with toy imagery like Barbie and Hello Kitty, mixing themes of childhood, materialism, and desire to enticing effect. Or there’s Flore (pronounced Floor-ee), a painter with a street art background in the vein of Haring or Basquiat. He makes densely layered murals of signs, cryptic phrases, and abstract shapes. And don’t forget Philippe Shangti, a French photographer who breaks down taboos with his bright, provocative portraits of scantily clad women.
“It’s an incredibly fun experience to walk into our gallery,” Emery tells artnet News. “Our artists are very bold; they take risks. But they’re also very great investment artists. It’s exceptional art that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Emery, who’s from Manchester in the UK, met Napal, an LA native, in the early 2010s. They were both working at a gallery in LA. Napal was, by title, the director of the gallery, though her duties encompassed virtually every aspect of the business; Emery came from a sales background. Their skill sets complemented each other perfectly, and they were interested in the same thing: starting a gallery that wasn’t as male-dominated or unwelcoming as so many others.
The two women officially launched the gallery early in 2013. Their beginnings were humble. They started out, like many galleries do today, on Instagram. (The platform has remained a large part of their identity since, and they currently have over 63,000 followers.)
“That’s kind of where we began, before we had a space, before we had a pop-up, even before we had the website,” Emery says. “It’s something we found very important from day one and obviously it’s continued to grow. It’s a fantastic resource for us. We get a lot of collectors who stop by the gallery because they follow us on Instagram and have seen the stuff online.”
In October of that year, Art Angels launched a pop-up exhibition in West Hollywood—their first big project. And it was, indeed, big—they rented a massive space encompassing thousands of square feet.
“It was quite a bold move for us,” recalls Emery, laughing. “But it went really well.”
So well, in fact, that they were able to parlay the experience into their first real location just three days later—a 600-square-foot space connected to the one they’d rented for the pop-up.
In 2016, the gallery moved into its current home—a 2,000-square-foot retail space in West Hollywood’s design district. (Since then, they’ve also taken over the unit next door; their exhibition space is now over 3,500 square feet in total.) That’s rapid growth for a gallery that had just left its toddler years. But Napal and Emery aren’t done.
In July of this year, the pair expanded to the East Coast, opening up a second branch in Miami’s Buena Vista neighborhood.
“We definitely wanted to have a presence on the East Coast,” Napal says of the decision. “We’ve been involved in Basel for the last couple of years and have a very strong collector base there. Five years ago, we chose LA because we felt like the city was missing a gallery like ours. That’s how we felt about Miami, too.”
Despite the name Art Angels, the duo refrained from presenting the gallery as being female-run for the first few years of its existence. It wasn’t a matter of hiding anything; they simply didn’t want the gallery’s identity to compete with the art inside.
“People often assume that there is a male financing the gallery,” Napal says. “But that’s not the case. It’s entirely funded by both of us; it’s our own money, no one else’s. I think it’s also inspiring for young females right now to know that you can do anything. You just need to have the passion and the drive and the dedication, and it all will come together.”
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