How Art Angels Achieves Appreciative New Audiences for Amazing Artists

When Kat Emery (pictured left) and Jacquelin Napal (pictured right) co-founded Art Angels in 2013, they couldn’t have predicted how high they would fly. “It’s something that we never really take enough time to reflect on because we’re always striving to see what’s next and how we’re going to expand,” says Emery. “It’s been a crazy journey. We’ve been very busy from the start—we’re both moms as well as gallery owners. So we’ve been juggling family life and gallery life since the inception of Art Angels.” Nevertheless, with galleries in Miami and Los Angeles and an ever-expanding portfolio of partnerships in the worlds of hospitality, development and design, these Angels are in a unique position to advocate for deserving artists.

From the “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” series by Flore.

From the “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” series by Flore.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ART ANGEL

Though the name has now become central to their identity, Emery and Napal came by their heavenly moniker somewhat by accident. “Initially when we met, we were working at another art gallery, and one of the artists that we represented there used to call us ‘the Art Angels.’ That stuck to the two of us, so when we started this business, it just felt very natural,” explains Emery. “Since our team has grown, all of our teams are ‘the Angels.’ Developers all know us as ‘the Angels.’ We wouldn’t change it.”

As an organization, Art Angels is also defined by the people with whom they work. “That comes down to the artists that we represent,” says Napal. “We have been with them on their journeys, and they’ve been with us on our journey. We’ve all grown together. And that’s the same with the team members that we have, as well. We are constantly striving to always be the best we can be. And we feel like we’ve got a really good reputation out there because we were always very honest, very transparent. Artists want to work with us.”

“Enlightened” from the “Mom, Can Astronauts be Black” series by Micah Johnson.

“Enlightened” from the “Mom, Can Astronauts be Black” series by Micah Johnson.

Advocating for Underrepresented Artists

Emery and Napal understand that their role as cultural gatekeepers is more crucial than ever. “One artist we’ve truly enjoyed working with is Micah Johnson,” offers Napal. “His entire series has a message of limitless dreams. He incorporated his nephew, which is where the whole concept came from: when his nephew asked if astronauts can be Black. He created this whole series of children who dream to be all of these different things,” she says. “It’s been such a pleasure to help him get that message out there. We’re mothers, as well. We want to bring limitless dreams to our own children and encourage other children to dream big. It’s been a real joy: being able to combine loving Micah’s artwork, admiring his talent, and bringing change and positivity into the world.”

Emery and Napal are determined to advocate for artists from historically underrepresented backgrounds. “It’s become something that we focus on,” says Napal. “Whether it’s representing more female artists or more artists of color or issues that we feel very strongly about. In having the brand and the platform that we do, it’s our responsibility to bring that message out, not only for ourselves but for our artists and for others.”

“Ego (Birdcage)” by Olivia Steele.

“Ego (Birdcage)” by Olivia Steele.

OPENING DOORS TO HIGH-END CLIENTELE 

Art Angels earned the freedom to be so forward-thinking through years of successfully serving a clientele that extends significantly beyond art collectors. The design community provided an early key to success. “When starting the gallery, one of our main focuses was designers because we had nurtured so many relationships with collectors who had designers,” Napal explains. Soon, those designers were coming to Emery and Napal to handle artwork for their clients, which left the designers free to focus on other areas. “Working with developers takes it to another level, as well, staging multimillion-dollar homes.”

Meanwhile, the Angels also found eager partners in hotels and restaurants. “For a hotel partnership, we work very closely with the hotel to make sure we’re curating something that’s going to be really well presented, will work well with the space, is to the clientele’s style, and stays true to the artists and the artwork that we represent,” explains Emery. “For example, Miami’s a very vibrant city, and the curation that we put in the Nobu Hotel out there is full of energy and life.” Fruitful partnerships also flourished with The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami and Catch Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Napal notes that these relationships ultimately open extraordinary doors for their artists. “We’re bringing artwork out to the public as much as possible and artists into different avenues that they might never have had the opportunity to be in,” she says.

“A Blood Rush to the Head” by Brendan Murphy.

“A Blood Rush to the Head” by Brendan Murphy.

Angelic Behavior

Today, Emery and Napal are balancing the realities of serving prestigious clients while still feeling approachable. “It’s a high-end brand,” elaborates Napal. “We just want to make sure everyone always feels at home when they walk in here. You never know whether the $500 collector will one day become the $500,000 collector.” 

And even after working together for years, Emery and Napal say they’ve yet to encounter artistic differences that left them acting less than angelic. “Honestly, if one of us feels so strongly about something—that we do want it or we don’t want it—we recognize that in each other and we just go with that,” says Emery. “So there’s never been a point of impact thus far, and I don’t believe that there will be.”

“Our taste is very aligned,” agrees Napal. “But we still test the waters sometimes,” she adds. “If there’s a little bit of gray area, we might send a piece out to our collectors and see how they feel about it, as well.”

Plus, the Angels also have another valuable source of feedback: social media. “Generally, when we’ve put something out there, and we’ve had a great reaction, it’s usually sold within a couple of days,” says Emery. Want to see what’s been selling? Follow Art Angels on Instagram @art_angels. “You’re going to see contemporary, provocative, eclectic artwork,” promises Emery. Or visit them online at artangels.net.

Can’t get enough art? Read our fascinating interview with Artstoric.


Paul Hagen is a writer and editor for aspire design and home magazine.

All photography is courtesy Art Angels.

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