Entries in Michelle Joan Papillion (45)



You may have noticed the giant hashtag we have on our front page, in 2016 we started doing this. Our first hashtag was #NODAPL and was meant to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The next hashtag we put up was #WEAREALLDREAMERS standing in solidarity with all of the people, immigrants and families that would be affected by the ending of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.  Today we have posted #MUTERKELLY many of you are aware of the singer and his sexually predatory and pedophile behavior.  If you are not a simple google search can bring you up to date.  dream hampton executive produced a docu-series for Lifetime titled Surviving R. Kelly and it details in chronological order the three plus decades of abuse to little Black girls and women.  With our latest hashtag we stand in solidarity with the survivors.  We hope that legal action be taken against this predator and we hope that the complicit nature that allows for rapist, predators and pedophiles to thrive be challenged and dealt with in national and international conversation.


ARTE: Make Some Noise x Angeleno Mag

Thrilled to be in the April issue of Angeleno Magazine.  Equally excited to announce my next project! Read all about in a preview of the magazine HERE or look for it on newstands now.  More to come soon... 


ARTE: TALK STORY - How do you know when you meet a genius?

My first interview of the year! I spoke with Nishat Kurwa at Talk Story about my inspirations, influences and opened up about my recent 6 month sabbatical. You can read the full interview at this link bit.ly/2lW2JOt


Michelle Papillion's eponymous art business, Papillion Art, began around seven years ago as a pop-up experience in downtown LA. These days, the hub for her work is her gallery in the black cultural district of Leimert Park. But her mission is also manifested in projects like the magnificent float she commissioned for LA's Martin Luther King Day parade last year: experiments in community-driven, place-based art. Papillion curates sculpture, painting, video and other forms of installation, and has garnered attention in the art world for presenting innovative emerging artists with an eye for the spectacular. Sometimes, though, art critics have lazily oversimplified her work, a problem she pondered while on a recent six-month sabbatical.

Is there a specific gap in the industry that you were hoping to address by opening Papillion?

When I started I wasn’t trying to address anything. The thing that I didn’t imagine happening is, my voice and my identity was kind of hijacked because I’m black and I’m a woman, and I’m young. I look at my contemporaries that are white, and they’re able to do what they want to do without the objectiveness of it being a “liberating” or “special” thing. They’re doing what they want.

I noticed that when I embarked on doing what I wanted to do, in art and in my space, there was always this thing like, “Do you know that you’re black, and you’re female, and that you’re showing artists who are black, and women artists?” And in my mind, I’m like, “I’m just participating in the art world, talking about things I want to talk about.” I felt like the Other once the rest of the world started putting those boxes around it. 

I went on this break in the summer of 2016 because I didn’t realize how burned out I was, and a lot of things were happening in our country and the world. I like to refer to it as a transitional moment, not just for myself but the entire world. And I needed a break from all of those boxes of being black, being a woman. You carry a lot on you day to day, running a business, trying to stay true to the agenda, which for me, is always like, “Art is for everyone.” 

What are some of the strategies you used to navigate the expectations imposed on you by the art world or the press? 

I think about that a great deal, and I don’t know if have an answer for that. But I’m still leaning towards the perspective of, “Do I feel like I’m contributing in a way that is more important than being in these boxes?” Obviously I have a way that I perceive myself and my work. Do I feel that the work that I’m doing is more important than the perception of what others may think about it? I love that I can work with artists, support artists, work with community, support community, and give platform, voice, opportunity to things that are not represented in art worlds or in media or anywhere. I guess I’m sort of like, “Whatever boxes we may be existing in, I’m not sure if we’ll ever not be in.” But…I think the work that I’m doing is more important than thinking about the boxes.

Describe a specific show or initiative that’s aligned with the mission you set out with. 

I was flash backing to a project we did last year, where we participated in the (Martin Luther King Day) parade with an artist named Lauren Halsey, and she built a float for us. I was looking at all these photos and video from that day, and that was the moment I realized that we’re really throwing grains in the life of this community that we’re in, which is South Central, South LA, Leimert Park. That felt like a 100 percent collaboration between us, the artists, and the neighborhood. All three of those things came together and made something really beautiful and special. And I think when I’m working in that way, that’s when it feels right, and works itself out in a way that can be successful, even if it’s not how we planned it. 

The one “aha!” moment during the sabbatical was: my business is really people. Art is the vehicle that drives the ideas of it, but what I enjoy and love the most is servicing people. It was a big breakthrough for me, because it allowed me to think about the business going forward, and how can we be more experimental, how can we broaden the spectrum for people who can’t visit the physical gallery, how do we expand outside the space, do more. 

What are the cues that help you recognize the “genius factor” in an artist? 

I have a little formula. I guess the first thing that I’m looking for is that they have something important to add to humanity. I think of my work in terms of the future, like: legacy. When I visit an artist for the first time, I’m thinking, “Where will this artist be in 5, 10, 25 years from now?” I always say if I do two studio visits,  the first visit is like, “Let’s see this art, what it’s about, is it good, is it not?” But the second visit, if I’m there, I already believe in the art — I need to now believe in the artist. I just spend the time really investigating who the individual is, the moral compass that they built upon. What are they saying, what do they think about the world that we live in now? When I start investigating in that way, it allows me to figure out if they have that thing that I call the “genius factor.” And if I feel that, then, yes this person does have the genius factor, maybe they’re not at that point today, but they’ll get there eventually. Maybe I can help develop that, or introduce them to the art world, or give them a platform for visibility for their career.

I’m looking for artists that, when we’re all gone and someone opens a textbook, and they’re like, “What was 2016 like?” — these are artists that are documenting the times, but also looking for ways to confront the abnormal things about the world, the beautiful things about the world, all the nuances that are happening on a daily basis, artists who are critically talking about those things.

Tell me about a moment of transition in your career and a piece of advice you received that helped you navigate it. 

When I first started in 2010, I didn’t really have the plan or focus to start anything. I had an idea for an exhibition that I thought was just going to be a pop-up shop, or a pop-up show. That first show was really successful, surprisingly. I was shocked and I decided to do another thing, and that worked out, and then another — and then a year had passed, and this pop-up idea was still around.

But I think around there was a transition moment around year three where I was like, “Wait, we have something here, and I should be more serious, and more focused, and more together about what the mission of the space really is, and where it can go.” At the time, we were at the outskirts of downtown LA, and there was really nothing else around. I decided to go to Leimert Park, and at the time, all of the businesses were longstanding mom and pop, family-owned shops that had been there a really long time. The Leimert space was my attempt at thinking more seriously about what I wanted to do, not just with my business, but also with my life, and be devoted to something that is my passion in a way that I could do until I die. 

I had one of the greatest individuals in art as my mentor, someone who’s sort of a living legend and an icon, and that was Jeffrey Deitch. Jeffrey moved to Los Angeles the same year that I started my business, and he got to see it literally from the beginning and saw the changes. And he saw me changing as well.

He was very instrumental in mentoring me at that time of transition, and he was planting the seeds of “You could do something special if you really buckled down, applied yourself, and got serious with it.” I felt like, well, if Jeffrey Deitch feels like this little thing that I have on the outskirts of downtown could be something, then maybe I should try. He was very encouraging during that time, giving advice, and being very practical too. I could run things by him, and he was able to give next steps on, “This is a good idea, this is something “ — he was very hands-on with me during that time. The things that I learned from him were invaluable.



Very happy to serve on the advisory board for Perrier's new art initivative ARTXTRA

"At Perrier, extraordinary art has always been a part of who we are. That’s why throughout the years, we’ve partnered with extraordinary artists in a variety of ways. This year we introduced ARTXTRA, an art program which took our partnership with art even further. Through the ARTXTRA Advisory Board, a panel of experts from across the art world, we selected three artists to showcase their art, one of whom would reimagine and design our new limited edition bottles and cans based on your votes. You voted and we’re proud to announce our Artist of the Year."

The ARTXTRA program will also support the selected emerging artist with a stipend for a year as the new label is commissioned and completed.  Saya Woolfalk, HOTTEA and Hayal Pozanti are the artists nominated that the audience (you) get to vote for! Visit perrier.tumblr.com/artxtra to find out more.




So excited to see the new HBO comedy series "Insecure" by Issa Rae.  We've been fans of Issa since the early days of Awkward Black Girl.  The director Melina Matsoukas brought me in to consult on art for the show.  The show premieres on HBO October 9th, but if your an HBO GO or HBO Now subscriber than you can catch the first episode now. I've seen it and its soooooooo good.





Smashd presents “She Made It” a new original series which gives you an inside look at the authentic and inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs.



Featured in Modern Painters magazine April issue. Read the article online at Artinfo


ARTE: Rising Stars

OZY featured me under there Rising Stars column!!!!

Boy, can artist Derek Fordjour remember the first time he met Michelle Papillion. They were in a room full of big names and up-and-comers at the estate of a very important Black artist. Papillion stood up in her purple pants and great shoes and proclaimed: “I run a gallery in the hood.” 

Since then, Papillion’s gallery has shifted quarters, but not too far, and today you can find it below a neon sign — PAPILLION, it spells, in flamingo-pink capitals — in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Nearby, there’s Jamaican food, African-style silhouette murals and a whole lot of dudes drumming in the parking lot for a Friday afternoon. Maybe it’s an unlikely birthplace for the next great renaissance of African-American art. Or maybe it’s the perfect one. Whatever the case, Papillion’s ambitions recall nothing less than the Harlem of 90 years ago. Her shows, which feature the work of Black artists on the rise, already draw some of the most powerful collectors in the world. “We’re in the beginning of it,” she tells me when I visit. 

She looks weirdly fashionable in her oversize gray hoodie, hoop earrings, black pants and all black sneakers — even the Reading Rainbow mug she’s clutching seems somehow cool. Papillion isn’t the only reason that New York and London bigwigs like Jeffrey Deitch and Jay Jopling have come calling on the L.A. art scene, of course. Los Angeles looks a lot more like Brooklyn nowadays, with artists going at giant canvases in abandoned warehouses and an accompanying gentrification. But art in the City of Angels has a different kind of aesthetic — bigger pieces, bolder colors, outdoor installations — and a more inclusive, less elitist vibe. “People need to feel comfortable in this environment,” Papillion says.

To me, Papillion’s gallery recalls W.E.B. DuBois’ dream for Black drama: It would be by, for and near African-Americans — though it’d be inaccurate to suggest that Papillion is only for Black audiences. Visitors are greeted by one of Fordjour’s canvases, featuring faceless Black men lined up as targets in a carnival game. Two panels of a Black man at an ATM cover an entire wall of Papillion’s office; it’s the work of Haitian-born, New York–raised, L.A.–based artist Andy Robert. A collage of magazine photos by Suné Woods (formerly a photographer), stressed and manipulated, hangs with a texture like overlapping tissue papers. “Curatorially she’s doing all mediums,” Shelley Holcomb, cofounder of Curate L.A., says, with “really young artists that are subsequently gaining attention internationally.” Indeed, the day I visit, she’s just met with a couple of collectors from Tokyo. 

In some ways, Papillion’s work runs parallel to that of Theaster Gates, the South Side Chicago revitalist, in whose property she made that declaration about the gallery in the hood. Making the space around her beautiful is Papillion’s art project. “There are no galleries on this side of town owned by people of color. Period.” To do good for a community is an art in and of itself, she says. And there’s much good to be done in Leimert Park, a predominantly Black neighborhood with the second-highest property crime rate in the city, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Papillion is protective, even possessive, of the dozen Black artists she’s shepherded to wider renown. Sometimes she is downright political. In Artforum, in the pages where owners typically advertise upcoming exhibitions, she took out an ad that said, “Dear Art World, Let’s End Police Terrorism #blacklivesmatter.” Last Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Papillion underwrote a colorful float, designed by one of her artists, to represent the Crenshaw neighborhood, near Leimert Park. One of the sayings plastered on it was “Black money matters.” It’s rare of a gallerist to be that explicit — and loud — about her politics. 

But activism was in the water she drank, growing up in Oakland. Her mom was an educator, and her dad an architect. At Howard, she studied the classics at first, learning Latin, Greek and Egyptian (yes, she can read all three and waves off my impressed expression). She joined an Egyptian art class, and in terms of falling in love with visual arts, that was “the tip of an iceberg for me,” she says.

It’s not easygoing, of course. Finding emerging artists is like winning the lottery, and turning unknowns into collectors’ darlings takes an eye, nurturing, skill, advocating, branding — as well as time and justice. Of the 10 people on the Most Powerful Art Dealers list that Forbes put out in 2012, none were women of color. But Papillion, has already come far, says Fordjour, who remembers coming up with her: “We were all at this scrappy space at the same time,” he says. Things have changed: “Now people know her name when she comes into the room, and that’s a different way to advocate.”



Recap of our Kingdom Float on Martin Luther King Jr. Day


ARTE: 'Every Curve' a ground breaking exhibition! 

Artnet News lists Every Curve as one of the groundbreaking exhibitions by female artists to see!

 "Zoë Buckman, "Every Curve" at PAPILLION ART, Los Angeles:
Zoë Buckman is a must-watch multimedia artist best known for hand-embroidering lyrics by rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur on delicate pieces of vintage lingerie as a means of reconciling her feminist beliefs with her love of hip-hop music and culture, where male chauvinism often runs rampant.

Michelle Joan Papillion, an up-and-coming Los Angeles gallerist and an important art world figure in her own right, will display the entirety of Buckman's most famous body of work for the first time in one place.
"Every Curve" will be on display from March 12–April 30, 2016."





Our solo booth with painter Derek Fordjour in Volta NY 2016.  We are booth E3, fair hours are March 3-5th 12pm - 8pm and ends March 6th 12pm - 6pm

Image courtesy David Willems Photography


ARTE: Dear Art World


ARTE: TEDx Crensahw

Zanetta Smith organized the TEDxCrenshaw event and I was very excited to be apart of it.  

My talk was the "Art of Doing Good"


ARTE: Shades of Blackness Vol. 1

My favorite and LA's most popular florist Bloom and Plume has debuted their first calendar Shades of Blackness Volume 1 ... get your 2016 #naturalopulence now!  PS...i'm my favorite month June! Beginning of summer!!!



Sat down with Champion City Radio for an amazing conversation about art, my other dream job, music and more!



ARTE: ELLE MAG "Women In Art"

Totally honored to be in this year's issue of Women In Art by Elle Magazine, I'm one of 14 fierce women included!  Anne Pasternak, Carmen Herrera, Xaveria Simmons, Teresita Fernandez, Catherine Opie, Joan Jonas, Margaret Lee, Agnes Lund, Samantha Boardman, Hannah Hoffman, Maggie Kayne, Davida Nemeroff, Mieke Marple...its the December issue, on newsstands now!

Photo by Patric Shaw for Elle Magazine

"Meet Hannah Hoffman, Michelle Papillion, Maggie Kayne, Davida Nemeroff, and Mieke Marple: Five L.A. gallerists making the case—one show at a time—that when it comes to art, West is best.

In 2014, Michelle Papillion moved her four-year-old space, Papillion, from downtown L.A. to Leimert Park, an area so dense with creatives she compares it to the Harlem Renaissance. The gallery has since become "a scene all unto itself," she says, where seasoned collectors mingle with local musicians, dancers, and DJs. "I love diversity, which is why no two artists in my program are the same," she says."

For the full story and more on the other 13 ladies included go to Elle.com



ARTE: Interview with the NY Observer

Interview with Observer Arts...full interview at this link

Photo by Bridget Fleming courtesy of Rent The Runway

Fourth in The Expanded Field, a series of talks with unique art world personalities.

Michelle Papillion opened her eponymous space in 2010. Since then, she’s tapped into a talented circle of Los Angeles-based artists that includes Kenturah Davis, Samuel Levi Jones, and the late Noah Davis among others who make powerful artworks in every medium imaginable. The Observer spoke with her right after her successful showing at EXPO Chicago last week and discussed the changing face of the LA art scene and how she’s navigated it.

You started your career as a curator in New York. What made you decide to move to Los Angeles?

The weather and the beach.

Would you say that your gallery “focuses” on African-American art, or are you simply exhibiting the artists in your circle?

This question always perplexes me. I’ve never seen someone ask a white dealer, “Do you only focus on white artists?” and yet I am asked the above question repeatedly. My galleries focus is being the best at what we do. We show great artists who I believe all have the “genius factor.”

Would you say that you might have a greater understanding of work by African-American artists than many dealers? Particularly in Los Angeles?

I would feel more confident saying that I have a greater understanding of the emerging market, particularly for Los Angeles.

One of your artists (Samuel Levi Jones) has recently become wildly in demand and very hard to get. What is it like to suddenly go from a position where you’re predominantly pushing an artist to a one where you’re predominantly protecting them?

Good question, I think for me “protecting” the artist is something that is a priority at all levels of their career. The artist and I make a plan of what we would like to accomplish and if we’re successful then the profile for both of us is raised. I am very happy with what Jones and I have accomplished together, he is a very diligent worker and very very smart. I think at this moment for he and I we are continuing the work we set out to do when we first decided to work together.

Are there any other galleries or institutions that have particularly inspired you to do the work that you do?

Deitch Projects was a source of inspiration for me when I started and it still is.

What is it about Mr. Deitch that you admire?

When I lived in New York, from 2001 to 2008, Deitch Projects was always a space that stood out because they did lots of risky things in art. I admired that they were able to do these really ambitious over the top curatorial ideas but still upheld the integrity of the artist and the gallery. I also really appreciated how comfortable and non-elitist it felt when you would visit his galleries in Soho.

Over the last five years, galleries have sprung up or moved to a variety of neighborhoods in Los Angeles–Downtown, Culver City, Venice Beach–but you chose to open up in Leimert Park. What was it that drew you to this neighborhood?

I just wanted to be there. When you drive onto our street were on you realize right away that there is some magic that lives on this block.

You’ve shown every type of medium at Papillion; from film and video to painting, drawing and sculpture. Do you feel like there is a certain aesthetic that connects all of your choices?

I really push the artists that I work with, I demand that together we work hard to present something spectacular. That’s probably the most common thread that connects everything together.  I’m also thinking about the work that we do as a historical archive. One thousand years from now, there should be a record of what we accomplished from both a business and curatorial perspective.

The art scene in Los Angeles has really exploded over the last five years. Do you see a lot of new collectors entering the marketplace and what fields are they coming from?

Yes, I do see new collectors and there popping up in LA, coming from places as far as New York, Europe and Africa.  I’m most interested in building with and helping to develop the next great art patrons, so cultivating relationships with millennials is a priority.

One last question: Is Papillion your real last name?
Haha, yes! And you have my father to thank for that.




Happy to speak to writer Chaedria Labouvier and share my perspective with Elle Magazine about the #SayHerName movement and Black women who are preyed upon by the police.


To say that it's mentally draining would be an understatement. It's a combination of that and being mad as hell. These things are happening so quickly and so frequently there's not enough time to process feelings, thoughts, and emotions. The other day I had a conversation with an artist whose work deals with value and it dawned on me recently after having the police drive behind me for a few blocks this week that the body that I inhabit has no value in this country. They aren't seeing that I am a business owner who employs people who live locally, that we all pay taxes, that I have been referred to as a pillar in the community etc., To see value in me would mean you would have to acknowledge my story first but on first sight these things are not present and what they do acknowledge (my body, my skin) has no value. 

What makes this idea even more frustrating is that once you're murdered they erase your life in the media (history): Who you are, the things that made you a respectable citizen in society, the things that make you human. I hate that when we see these hash tags that we can not mourn the loss of someone that didn't deserve what happened. Instead we have to defend the life, morale, and character of these women and men. So yeah, I'm mad but not defeated and not giving up. The best way I know how to honor the lives of those slain to police terrorism is to continue to live, continue to thrive, continue to be active in the spaces we exist in, and to come up with ways where we are the authors of our own history. 

To read the full article click the screenshot above.



We had a magical night with EJ HILL last Saturday.  The open conversation between Hill and everyone else in the room was engaging to say the least, in the case of this emerging performance artist the best way to describe the night was "he was present"

Recorded live via U-stream the night of the conversation.

Above images courtesy Treyvon X



I'm in the "The Art of Living" summer issue of CALIFORNIA HOME+DESIGN speaking about an artist to watch...hint, we're already watching him! Read about it HERE