There’s a lot to be said about southwest gallery. It’s been a staple in the Dallas art world for more than 50 years, it represents more than 100 artists from around the world, and it offers everything from framing and restoration to home design consultations.
And looking at the walls of this lauded gallery, it’s clear that it is not a southwestern art gallery. The name is a reference to the region, not the art style, after all.
“We do the whole cross section, from contemporary to traditional, western, impressionism, antique paintings, Russian paintings—we cover pretty much every style of art,” says Bob Malenfant, the gallery’s president and owner. “People love the diversity when they come in.”
Filled with paintings and sculpture, the business is known for its expansive collection of traditional artwork. That and a knowledgeable staff with an eye for art. The staff—many of whom have worked here for more than 30 years—help customers narrow down selections of artwork, assist with finding an ideal place in their home to display it, and then give the buyers a few days to decide if they love it. If not, they will take it back. Southwest Gallery will also trade any of its artwork for a new piece at the rate it was purchased for, no matter how many years later.
Malenfant’s foray into art started as he grew up around the world, moving from country to country for his father’s job with Chrysler. He spent his formative high school years in Paris, where he visited storied institutions like the Louvre and Jeu de Paume. He fell in love with art, studied art history at the University of Michigan and landed a job at Christie’s in London. “Once I started doing that, [art] was in my blood,” he says.
Later, Malenfant had the opportunity to work for another auction house in Dallas, a city he and his wife fell in love with. While the company didn’t last, it was through the liquidation sales that he met the owner of Southwest Gallery. Founded as a framing shop in 1967, it was a full-fledged art gallery by the ’80s, and it was in need of someone with Malenfant’s expertise. He started working there in 1983 and then bought it in 1995. Alongside its full custom framing department, Southwest Gallery also works on restorations and offers design consultations. Six years ago, the business acquired Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass.
When asked about longevity and making investments in art, Malenfant has a word of advice: Buy what you love. You can’t go wrong at Southwest Gallery, after all. The gallery represents more than 100 artists from around the world, including the United States, Russia, France, Germany and across Asia. Malenfant selects artists who are not only talented but are consistent in the quality of work they bring to him.
“I remember in the 1980s and early ’90s, people decorated very much to the style of the house. So, if they had a French cottage house, it was French artwork, French furniture,” Malenfant says. “But now everyone is much more eclectic and mixes contemporary with traditional and western. It’s always much more exciting than having you do the same style.”
Its values of customer service and a focus on fine art have made Southwest Gallery a go-to in the art world. And five decades after opening its doors, there’s little confusion about what art you’ll find inside: about 10% southwestern art and 100% quality art.
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.