A good eye, a passion for research and an appreciation for what’s pure and honest are just a few of the defining characteristics of Liliana Bloch, the art patron and owner of Liliana Bloch Art Gallery. Located on Monitor Street near the Trinity River, the gallery celebrates its one-year Dallas Design District anniversary next month.
Before finding a home in the Design District's diverse art and design-centric neighborhood, Bloch amassed an impressive contemporary art resume. Her appreciation of art was stoked from an early age, when she was growing up in her native El Salvador, a nation rich in beauty in both the cultural and physical sense.
Dallas Design District (DDD): How did you enter the contemporary art world?
Liliana Bloch (LB): I started studying economics at my best friend’s home, and her father was an art collector with a great eye. The house was full of paintings, and I saw them almost every day for five years and never got tired of them so I started thinking about why I was so attracted to them. Then I moved to Dallas and became a board member of the McKinney Avenue Contemporary and, later, its director, which gave me six years of experience in exhibiting and working with artists in Texas and beyond. After that, I was director of a commercial gallery in Dallas, and in 2013 I opened up my own gallery.
DDD: What is your favorite thing about being in the Dallas Design District?
LB: Everything: location, parking, expansion, having colleagues I respect so much as neighbors, new visitors, the designers and stores, the quality of what you can find here, the flexibility of the industrial spaces. An architect told me that good structures withstand the test of time, and the possibilities of these buildings are almost infinite as living/working spaces.
DDD: What differentiates your gallery from others in the community?
LB: I have quite eclectic and bold tastes, reflected in some of the aesthetic approaches of the gallery roster. I think my gallery is an expansion of what has been happening in the contemporary art scene in Dallas in the past 10 years. I opened my space to cater to all collectors, and the price range of the artwork is broad (starting at $250!) so there is art for everyone. You don’t need to be rich to collect contemporary art. You do need to have some disposable income, but you can build a great collection without spending thousands of dollars a year. That is a big misconception that I am happy to demystify, as I am a collector myself.
I also think the gallery brings such cultural depth with the works presented. It carries the message that art can turn you into a better person. I show pieces that allow us to think, question, doubt, search, read and, hopefully, find some answers or clues about who we are and what we do in relation to ourselves, others and the planet. The gallery is designed to stimulate our intellect in the most beautiful and interesting ways, and people can only benefit from that. I am here to provide a positive environment, to contribute and to help others build great art collections.
DDD: How do you find the artists represented at your gallery?
LB: A lot of them I met during my tenure at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. I tend to follow the career of the artists who interest me and sometimes that leads to an association with the gallery. I also listen to the artists I represent, who often direct me to see the works of others. That’s how I came to know the work of Alicia Henry and Kathy Lovas. I love to do research, so I’m well aware of what to look for in a resume. In the end, the work has to speak to me, and I can’t represent an artist whose work I would not collect myself.
DDD: What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
LB: There have been so many that it’s hard for me to pick just one. Perhaps being named the best gallery in Dallas by the Dallas Observer less than a year after moving into my new space. But I also have to mention a recent article by Michael Granberry in The Dallas Morning News. Michael saw an image of one of Mayra Barraza’s latest paintings and called me to find out who the artist was. His reaction to the work was so genuine, a pure and honest response to a painting that intrigued him so much I could feel it during our phone conversation. To have such validation from art critics and writers is always a joyous occasion.
DDD: What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?
LB: “Assume nothing.”
DDD: Who is your industry idol?
LB: Philippe Alexandre in New York, Catharine Clark in San Francisco, Cheryl and Kevin Vogel in Dallas. They are all gallery owners I deeply respect and appreciate professionally.
DDD: Where do you travel for inspiration?
LB: I was born and raised in El Salvador, so I go back to visit my loved ones as much as I can. It has become a surreal experience over the years. The contrast in temperaments between a former British colony and the hot-blooded Latin American people never ceases to amaze me. I live between those two worlds, and I love feeling at home in those two places. I am the product of two very different environments.
New York and Paris are my favorite cities to look at art. Four years ago I went to Documenta XII in Kassel, Germany, and I hope to be there again next year. I love traveling; you learn so much when you see different ways of thinking and living. It's a big world out there!
DDD: Words to live by?
LB: "Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." -Marie Curie
Liliana Bloch Art Gallery is a welcoming space whose founder collaborates with curators to support emerging and mid-career regional, national and international artists in their work, which encompasses a variety of media that challenges the audience to think. The gallery is open from noon to 5PM and by appointment Tuesday through Saturday.