It's not often that an art gallery based in Paris sets up shop in an abandoned Rust Belt gymnasium.
Actually, it has likely never happened before. But on May 17, Buffalonians and New York City-based art aficionados will be on hand for the opening of an exhibition mounted by Paris-based Galerie PACT featuring work by the American painter Michael Bevilacqua.
One of the gallery's partners, Melissa Edwards, an Elma native and SUNY Buffalo State graduate, has a better question: Why not?
"A majority of our artists are American artists, and that's why I wanted to do something here in Buffalo," Edwards said of the show, which opens at 5 p.m. May 17 in the former St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Black Rock. "I really wanted to introduce and intertwine France and Buffalo. I've never seen anything Paris-associated in Buffalo."
Edwards attended the Buffalo State design program and later worked in the fashion industry before meeting her partner Pierre-Arnaud Doucède and moving to Paris. Galerie PACT, a collaboration between Doucède and Charlotte Trivini, was launched in 2016 in Paris' Marais neighborhood, sustaining itself through exhibitions often featuring American artists and appearances at many international art fairs.
The notion behind doing a pop-up show in an unexpected space like a high school gym, Edwards said, was to provide a stark contrast between Bevilacqua's artwork and an unusual venue.
"I was looking for something kind of underground," she said. "It's like if you put an Ad Reinhardt or Josef Albers in an ugly room, you make that room beautiful. We wanted something underground, something very unusual: Who is this French gallery coming? Why do they want to do this in a gymnasium? This is so crazy."
Bevilacqua's work, which combines spray paint, acrylic paint and digital work on canvas, has been exhibited in many New York City galleries and international museum shows, and resides in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Buffalo has a long tradition of hosting internationally relevant art exhibitions in traditional and unorthodox spaces, as well as a burgeoning commercial gallery scene engaged in its own series of exploratory pop-ups -- most recently in an an abandoned department store on the East Side.
Even so, Edwards said the show will provide a chance for a new audience of art collectors to see what the city has to offer and for local collectors to check out the work of a successful American artist who might be unfamiliar to them.
"There's people who would never even think twice about coming to Buffalo. They can go to the Albright-Knox and see what's up and coming here," she said. "I wanted Buffalo to be known for other things. I think it's going to be a good thing."
"Michael Bevilacqua: EXHziTIbitio. N. Title. [A.r E—A X ] Gymnesia"
Opens with a reception at 5 p.m. May 17 and runs through June 30 at the former St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, 147 East St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays and 1 to 7 p.m. Thursdays. Also by appointment. Call 491-8901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.