With a massive 16,000-square-foot showroom and a roster of 250 artists working in diverse mediums and styles, Southwest Gallery has served as an artistic beacon for more than 55 years. That kind of longevity is so rare that only about 7% of art galleries in the world have been in business for more than 35 years.
Owner and director Bob Malenfant attributes the gallery’s success to a diverse inventory and long-term relationships built on trust and customer service. “Anything related to someone’s collection, from appraisals, restoration, installations and framing, we do it,” he says. “We also work on approval, which means we bring several pieces to your house so you can live with them for a while, and then we pick up what doesn’t work.”
If over a third of an acre of art seems like a lot to choose from, any of the knowledgeable gallery associates can help you find your new masterpiece. “If you want help, we’ll walk you through the gallery and show you pieces you might like,” Malenfant says. “We only display about 40% of what we have—there’s much more in our on-site storage. If you like a particular artist, we might have 10 on the wall but 20 more in stock. We’ll bring them to your home so you can see how they look. The added benefit is when we see your house, we can recommend other artists. We’re all about service.”
Blending art into your home is a matter of personal preference. Some collectors buy what they love and find a place to put it, while others prefer to invest in works that support the overall aesthetic of their interior design. Southwest Gallery has a team of art consultants who can discuss your tastes and what you’d like to achieve, search their diverse inventory, and send a few pieces to your home with their complimentary delivery and installation service. They can also digitally insert artwork into photos of your home with their graphic design service.
The gallery is also all about trust. For new collectors especially, the art world can seem confusing and opaque relative to how they buy other luxury items. “We walk people through why things are priced the way they are, but I always advise people to buy what you like,” Malenfant says. “There’s so much hyperbole in the business. The best investment is when you buy a painting and love it for the rest of your life. It’s great if it increases in value, and they usually do, but don’t worry about the money side of it. That will take care of itself.”
Malenfant would know. A graduate of the American School in Paris and with a bachelor’s in art history from the University of Michigan, and stints at Christie’s in London and A&F Gordon, his life has revolved around the business of art. The rest of the gallery staff are just as well educated, experienced and approachable. And then there’s the art. The gallery houses thousands of works of fine art from the 19th through 21st centuries that range in style from impressionism, Western, landscape, wildlife and realism to pop art.
Of note is work by Frederick Hart, the American master sculptor who gained international attention for the Creation Sculptures on the facade of the Washington National Cathedral. Working from a belief that “art must give hope to the darkness,” Hart’s American Beaux-Arts style was often dramatic, conveying movement and deep meaning.
Australian painter Robert Hagan is known for his Romantic and impressionistic Western and adventure paintings that convey nostalgia and peaceful, idealized scenes of nature, animals and people in daily life. Hagan uses loose brushstrokes and a limited palette that adds to the sense of lightness and tranquility in his work.
John Cook is a Texas artist whose loose, energetic works are frequently completed in one session. In his vivid, richly layered paintings, Cook captures animals, nature, still lifes and international cityscapes that catch his eye.
Clinton Broyles is a local artist whose still lifes capture the beauty of nature and everyday objects. His beautifully composed paintings feature highly detailed vintage city scenes, as well as florals with lush fruits on softly draped linen.
While the gallery is a hub for art lovers in the Dallas area, it also serves clients across the country and the globe. Out-of-town clients can browse virtual tours and slideshows on the website and save artwork to a customized “My Gallery” page. Artwork is shipped and delivered by white glove service, and the gallery can arrange for it to be uncrated and installed in your home.
The gallery hosts several events, solo shows and exhibits yearly, including its annual summer art festival in August. During this popular event, visitors can sip margaritas, enjoy live music, browse jewelry trunk shows and watch various artists at work.
When you find a piece you love or have art you’d like to have framed or reframed, the on-site custom frame shop can help you choose from thousands of handcrafted moldings. The expert design team can make suggestions to combine your taste, the artwork and your home’s décor to bring out the best in your art or artifact.
As fine art ages, it requires a little TLC to keep it looking its best for future generations. Varnish naturally ages and discolors, and canvases acquire buildup from the environment, which can cause damage or loosen them from their frames. Southwest Gallery has art restoration experts in-house who can clean, repair and preserve artwork, objets d’art, and antiques or artifacts.
The gallery is also home to a sister gallery, Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass, representing another 250 artists who work in glass. Kittrell/Riffkind has been in business for more than 30 years, and it’s extraordinary to have two of the most established and trusted galleries in the Southwest in one place.
With its rich history, commitment to showcasing the finest works of art, and dedication to customer service and collectors, Southwest Gallery will undoubtedly continue to be a hub of creative inspiration, fostering the vibrant art scene in Dallas and beyond.
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.