Two years after moving her fast-ascending gallery from Seattle to Chicago, Mariane Ibrahim will open a new location of her namesake enterprise in Paris with plans to further her focus on art from the African diaspora. The second location will welcome visitors in September to an inaugural group show in a renovated three-story space on Avenue Matignon in a 19th-century Hausmann building in Paris’s 8th arrondissement.
The move marks a homecoming of sorts for a dealer who grew up in Somalia and France before leaving Paris for the United States in 2010. But it counts as a surprise, even to Ibrahim herself. “When I left, Paris was not a place where I felt fulfilled when it comes to different voices and diversity in art,” she told ARTnews. “I had given up on it. If you would have asked me three years ago, I would have said, ‘Whatever.’”
That began to change over the course of conversations she started to have after the pandemic began, when she heard “whispers” of intriguing developments in Paris around the kind of art she favors. “I was spending a lot of time talking to people long-distance, and they were saying maybe I should do something here—that what’s been going on in the U.S. is not [yet] resonating in France,” she said.
Among the developments that caught her attention was the talk around prospects for repatriation of African artworks from museums in France back to their points of origin. “I detected a kind of movement in conversations around art from Africa in general,” she said. “The debate over whether art should go back to the places where it was made or taken or stolen [led to questions around] what is happening with the arts from the African and African-American diaspora now. I was interested: What if Paris is going to go through a renaissance?”
Details for the opening show remain to be set, but it will draw on work from a gallery roster that includes Amoako Boafo, Lina Iris Victor, Clotilde Jimenez, and Ayana V. Jackson, among others. And Ibrahim said she hopes to develop a dialogue between the ways that such artists’ work is regarded in her home base of Chicago and her new outpost in Paris. “I want to bring Chicago to Paris,” she said, “and Paris to Chicago.”
In the newer location, she aims to court European collectors who have increasingly become more interested in acquiring work by Black artists. “I started to notice that there is growing demand from French collectors and others—Italians, as well—and I thought there was an opportunity for me to be the face of a new presentation of young and emerging artists of African descent,” she said. “When I left Paris, there was a void—and I can fill that void. It is important to claim this art because I am personally and professionally connected.”
Of the kind of kinship she shares with artists she represents, Ibrahim added, “I know I can do a good job building bridges because, at the end of the day, I’m one of them.”