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Modern Luxury interviews Select Art's Paul Adelson

Select Art built strong relationships to thrive in tough times

Paul Adelson has placed thousands of works of art in more than
5,000 spaces, including many Dallas offices

Dallas Business Journal - by Katherine Cromer Brock , Managing Editor | photography by Jake Dean
Date: Friday, August 12, 2011

Paul Adelson is not an artist. He doesn’t sculpt or paint. In fact, he claims to have no artistic talent whatsoever. His talent lies in connecting corporations and executives with the art that they need in their large public spaces and offices. In 1986, Adelson started Select Art out of his East Dallas home, working in the furniture department at Dillard’s on nights and weekends to make extra cash.
In 2010, Adelson’s now “nice seven-figure business” saw a 40 percent increase in revenue from the prior year.

“I had my best year in 25 years,” Adelson said. His client list is a who’s who of Dallas corporations, ranging from AT&T to Dr Pepper . He has had more than 20 health care clients, which is largely the industry he is currently focused on.

“Art can heal, nurture,” said Adelson, 62, sitting at a table-and-chair set in Select Art’s Levee Street gallery. The functional-art furniture is made of glossy petrified wood stumps. “I can really make a difference on a large level.” Adelson’s currently holding five hospital contracts, selecting art for Baylor McKinney, The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and the Forest Park Medical Center. He has recently installed 450 pieces at Forest Park Medical, he said.

“Paul was, and always has been, my go-to guy as it relates to art,” said Derrick Evers, managing partner and CEO of Dallas-based Neal Richards Group, the developer behind the Forest Park Medical Center. “He tries to more steer than drive. He’s extremely good with clients, so I can put him in front of clients, let his exuberance and personality eke out.” The philosophical and fast-talking Adelson, originally from Duluth, Minn., is often just known as “the art guy.” After working in high-fashion retail in his hometown, he was drawn to a big city. In 1981, he headed down I-35 and landed in Dallas. He spent a couple years working odds-and-ends jobs. But when he bought his first two pieces of art, framed them and hung them on his wall, he was moved. “I knew, if I can share what I was feeling with other people, this is my passion in life,” he said.

Select Art differs from retail galleries, which often focus on a small number of artists with a select style or medium. His show space is a high-energy mashup of styles, colors, textures and mediums from about 30 mostly Texas artists. Adelson’s goal is to provide executives, architects and designers with a sample of everything he can offer.

“My job is to get the best creative art package I can for my clients,” he said. “There’s a proper place for all art, it’s just a matter of finding it.” Adelson has placed art in more than 5,000 spaces. “I stopped counting at 100,000 pieces of art,” he said. Through the years, he said, he’s never missed a deadline and never gone over budget. He accomplishes that by being straight with his clients — if a project can’t be done, he won’t tackle it. “I feel I owe it to people to do that,” he said. “Particularly in this economy, people deserve for you to be authentic with them. That’s all you have.” The recession has created a challenge, as Adelson deals in what many consider a non-essential, luxury item.

“You always have to create some sort of miracle,” he said. “I’ve never asked anybody to increase their budget. If it’s not realistic, I’ll be honest with them.” Evers said that’s a main reason he works with Adelson — he’s not the artist, so there’s no ego involved. “I tell him what my budget is and he only puts in front of me what I can afford,” Evers said. Adelson’s passion for sharing the impact of art with his clients bubbles out of him. It’s impossible to have a conversation with the vegan work-out-aholic without walking away blessed by his philosophic pearls.

“Either do what you say you’re going to do, or you live your life as your reasons and excuses,” he said. Up next for Adelson is a personal project he calls Designing with Art. He intends to design a space in which everything — walls, floors, furniture, silverware —is custom-made by artists. “It’s never been carried to that level,” Adelson said. “All I need is one person that believes in me, that trusts me, that has a love of art.”

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