Peter Augustus Owen wants to provide space for new artists at PAO Projects, the contemporary art gallery he recently opened in Exposition Park. The idea for the venue came from his experiences with nontraditional artists who didn’t fit into what he described as the “machine of contemporary art galleries.” He saw plenty of these artists while working in marketing and PR in Asia for Perrotin, a well-known chain with art galleries in Paris, New York, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. While there, Owen came up with his idea to provide a platform for the Asian artists he encountered in the United States. The result was PAO Projects, which celebrated its first opening last weekend.
Owen recalled the moment he told his friends about PAO Projects: “Oh! Really? You’re opening a gallery in Dallas?” Few saw his vision. “They just don’t understand it. You actually have to be here [in Dallas] and see the vibrancy that’s growing.” The city is coming back after the pandemic; he can see larger events on the horizon that will couple with an active gallery scene.
Owen spoke highly of the Dallas Art Fair, a global event generally held each November in the Arts District that attracts arts professionals and galleries from around the world to participate in exhibitions and programming. He characterized this interest as “good in highlighting Dallas” in art.
Compared to larger contemporary art galleries, smaller spaces like PAO Projects can foster and grow alongside the emergent artists they showcase. Owen says he likes to coach smaller artists in their development and he is partnering with the Japanese Society of Dallas to find philanthropic opportunities where PAO can help. He has future plans to organize artist discussions with local Asian organizations.
“It’s important for galleries to be a part of the community they’re in,” says Owen.
The gallery’s inaugural exhibition is by the Japanese painter Ryoichi Nakamura. Called a study of identity, the work explores life as an immigrant in America. His paintings depict Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The artist transformed their faces by obscuring them with paint and designs, highlighting themes of identity. Owen says the work is important considering the country’s existing treatment toward immigrants.
“Because of everything that’s been happening in the states, it’s important to have his work be shown,” says Owen. The inaugural exhibition aligns with Black In Asia, a title featured in the gallery’s bookstore. The text, an anthology of published poems and nonfiction stories from Black writers who lived in Asia, addresses racial justice through each contributor’s personal narrative. Owen is using his space to highlight art that explores these very themes.
The gallery’s first exhibition highlights almost 400 portraits, including Nakamura’s works. The show runs until June 5. PAO Projects is open to the public at 830 Exposition Ave. St. 103 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.