High-impact and ephemeral, street art is defined by its envelope-pushing graphics and impermanent status. Even works by the notorious Banksy are often damaged or covered up within hours of their completion.
Which is why a space like Lab Art, coming to 315 Cole St. in the Design District in September, is not only welcome in the local art scene, but it’s also sorely needed. The largest gallery dedicated to street art and graffiti in the U.S., the Los Angeles-based Lab Art has been preserving and exhibiting pieces by Skyler Grey, Kai, MAR! LouisXXX and Annie Preece since 2011.
Founded by entrepreneur Iskander Lemseffer, Lab Art’s mission is a personal one. “Street art has never been given the place it deserved in art history,” he says. “It’s always frowned upon, and another artist goes over it or it gets destroyed. I wanted to make it live forever in your home or office.”
“Street art is always frowned upon, and another artist goes over it or it gets destroyed,” says Lab Art founder Iskander Lemseffer. “I wanted to make it live forever.”
Lemseffer developed his passion for preserving the form after working many years in the fashion industry. Commuting back and forth to downtown LA, he was exposed to works by the likes of Shepard Fairey and Alec Monopoly before “street art” became a household term. Burnt out on fashion, Lemseffer tried his hand at a restaurant, finding himself profiting more from the paintings he hung than the food he served.
After throwing a pop-up art event in a friend’s showroom, he decided to take the plunge and create a permanent space. Lab Art’s debut proved quite prescient.
“I was thinking of doing this, and then the Art in the Streets exhibit came along at MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles] curated by Jeffrey Deitch,” Lemseffer says. “MOCA was on the verge of going bankrupt, and it was the most successful show in their history.”
The 6,000-square-foot “mother ship” opened one month after the MOCA exhibit, and Lemseffer hasn’t looked back since. Lab Art is the youngest and newest member of the Art Dealer’s Association of California, legitimizing its mission. With pieces selling from $1,500 to $200,000, there truly is something for everyone, including celebrity collectors Adrien Brody, Freida Pinto and Sofia Vergara.
Expanding Lab Art to other locations was a consideration when Dallas private equity financiers Eric Rosiak and Adam Persiani discovered the gallery on Instagram. Developing a friendship with Lemseffer during frequent LA business trips, the duo convinced him to bring his concept to the Design District, landing in a 4,500-square-foot space that will exhibit Lab Art’s stable of talent along with locally sourced painters.
Debuting with a wide-ranging “greatest hits” exhibition of painting, sculpture, drawings, photography and mixed media, the Dallas gallery will follow up with a solo show of Alec Monopoly’s work in October.
“The Dallas Design District is booming right now, and I ship so much to Dallas it’s not even funny,” Lemseffer says. “You have this young generation now that’s not buying the classics; they grew up with them and want something fresh and new. They’re not buying Picassos and Rembrandts. They’re buying street art.”
Lab Art opens to the public September 19 at 11 am. Hours are noon-7 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. There is a grand opening reception September 18, from 7-10 pm.