Buffalo is now home to one of the first Native American-owned art galleries in the United States and perhaps the only commercial gallery to exclusively showcase contemporary Native art.
K Art is located in a newly-renovated brownstone building at 808 Main Street that was purchased by gallery founder, owner and art collector Dave Kimelberg about a year ago. Kimelberg is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (Bear Clan) and the former CEO of Seneca Holdings.
“I think when people think of Native art, they see it through a historical lens, and they tend to think of turquoise and silver, which is great, but there’s so much more,” Kimelberg said.
“There’s really no place, no real commercial galleries focused on that kind of art [contemporary Native art] for collectors. It’s primarily in museums and sort of on the fringe of some galleries, so you know, [I] sort of saw that void and decided, ‘Hey, you know, there’s some really amazing Native contemporary artists, so why don’t we put together a gallery?’”
Despite some construction delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, K Art celebrated a virtual opening of its first exhibit Friday night. The exhibit is titled “More Than a Trace: Native American and First Nations Contemporary Art” and features the work of 11 indigenous artists from across the U.S. and Canada. All of the artists are either citizens of Native nations and tribes, were born to Native parents or identify as hybrid descendants.
“We’re really excited. It took honestly a ton of work to get these 11 artists [who] are really tremendous,” Kimelberg said. “A few of them are in the permanent collection at the Whitney [Museum of American Art] and they’re pretty important artists. So, we were really excited to get all of them here and to agree to have their work exhibited, and we had it shipped in from all over the place. So, it’s really a cutting-edge collection.”
Kimelberg also told WBFO about his decision to open K Art in Buffalo rather than New York City, where his law practice is based—and during a pandemic, no less.
“The internet has sort of flattened things,” he said, “and sort of in a strange way COVID has too. You know, we’re going to have a very strong internet presence but we have the physical gallery as well. But I think more than anything, Buffalo is historically Seneca Nation land and it’s close to the territory, so it just felt right to me.”
And while K Art is primarily a commercial endeavor, Kimelberg said he hopes the new gallery will also help educate the general public about contemporary indigenous cultures.
“It has sort of the social impact side to it, and that’s really to inform folks about Native peoples and Native communities and sort of contemporary societies and the modern world, and you can see that through the art.”
K Art is located next to the Saint Louis Roman Catholic Church, near the corner of Edward and Main streets. The building will house the Buffalo office of Kimelberg’s law firm on the second floor, above the 2,000 square-foot gallery space, and the gallery itself will be available to visit in person by appointment only starting Tuesday.
“More Than a Trace” will be displayed through March 12, 2021.