In Profile

Benjamin Trigano

BY Sarah Schmerler, December 11, 2019

When some people decide to open their first art gallery, they check out the landscape – see what is already out there, what works. But the really successful people look for a gap: a place in the artistic terrain that isn’t there, but ought to be. And they make it their calling to fill it with something new, something that will stand out. Certainly the works at M+B in Los Angeles are diverse – outdoor sculpture, site-specific installation, narrative painting, abstract painting, and the gallery’s mainstay, a roster of photography that ranges from unorthodox documentary work (Hugh Holland’s skate-culture works from the ‘70s) to the highly conceptual (Ellen Carey’s color-rich abstract photograms). What they all have in common is M+B owner Benjamin Trigano’s keen eye and his deep-seated comfort with risk. “Many people tell me that they have never heard of an artist we are showing,” says Trigano, “and I think that’s good. Part of showing new work is that you are always updating, staying fresh. This is a business where you don’t want to show things you’ve seen a million times elsewhere. I’m a gallery, not a store. We take risks, and sometimes we fail. But whether people love what they see or hate it, they will remember it. Too often we forget the long history of gallerists who followed their artists’ vision, that this was a business founded on breaking ground.”

 In addition to his work as a gallerist, Trigano is best known for his work as a hotelier in the family business with his father, Serge (scion of Club Med) and brother, Jérémie. Together they run “Mamma Shelter” a chain of international, affordable/chic hotels that just opened its 12th location. Trigano was born in France, but grew up for most of his childhood in New York City. He credits his mother, a former model, with exposing him to art, but also to the lives of the artists themselves – the weirder and quirkier, the better. The family moved back to Paris when he was 15, and Trigano’s high school years were punctuated with constant travels to far-flung places like Morocco, Turks & Caicos, and Cancun. “I think I am uncomfortable with comfort,” says Trigano. “What most people call ‘normal’ makes me feel uneasy. It doesn’t seem nearly as genuine.” Trigano attended Clark University in Worcester, MA, where he majored in political science and history. After graduation in 1994, he worked for an ad agency in New York City and then for Coca-Cola in Atlanta doing strategic marketing. But in 1997, he moved back to Paris to work with his family on Mama Shelter. In 2002 Trigano settled in LA to pursue a hotel venture that ultimately never materialized. Newly entrenched in the city with his girlfriend and children, he continued searching for something new, and he found it in the photographic medium. He opened M + B Photo in West Hollywood in 2004 and hit the ground running, with troves of undiscovered works like that of local artist Leroy Grannis, whose black-and-white and color documents of 1960s surf culture he debuted. By 2011, M +B expanded to include other fine-art mediums and artists like Nathaniel Mary Quinn (recently picked up by Gagosian) and painters Sarah Faux and Kara Joslyn, both of whom are new to the gallery. “When there is diversity, when people come from all different backgrounds under one roof, then I know I am in the right place,” says Trigano. “I want to bring them all together, and I can’t do that by following rules.”