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Arts / Museums

Austin Gets Its Own Art Fair

Forget Quirky and Weird, this New Player is an Emerging Cheap Ticket Force

BY // 03.30.17

As Dallas gears up for undoubtedly the best boutique fair in North America —  Dallas Art Fair year nine debuts next Thursday, April 6 —  Austin steps ups its game this weekend with an art fair that lures five primo Houston dealers, three stellar Dallas gallerists, and a slew of Austin faves.

Cue Art City Austin, unfurling Friday, March 31 (with democratically priced tickets; Preview Night is just $25) followed by the fair itself Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2 (admittance $10, kids 12 and under free). The venue may not be the tony Fashion Industry Gallery in the heart of the Dallas Arts District but it is quite accessible — Palmer Events Center (a 10-minute drive from downtown). Art City, in its second year, represents a fresh addition to an event launched in 1950.

Originally branded Fiesta, and known for its hefty music component decades before SXSW, it was once al fresco and downtown. The art back then was subservient to the musical headliners and of the quality one would expect of a typical arts festival — in other words, limited to the decorative.

Organized now by the nonprofit Art Alliance Austin, the two dozen or so mostly Texas exhibitors — ranging from respected Houston and Dallas galleries to edgy East Austin artists-run spaces — make Art City Austin a new player to watch.

Pay attention to the five Bayou City dealers that roll out their stables for Art City. Art Palace, fresh from a sold out showing at Volta in NYC during Armory Show week, includes Austin artist Deborah Roberts in its booth. Roberts’ powerful work addresses beauty, gender, and race vis-à-vis portraits of young black women and girls. The artist is definitely advanced-collector or museum-type fare, not glossy or an easy sell. Joining Roberts will be works by other strong Texans and nationals, notably, from Houston: Katy Heinlein, Eric Zimmerman, Tony Sonnenberg, Bradley Kerl, the late Casey Williams, Mike Beradino, and Sarah Fisher, whose arresting portraits were recently shown at the gallery.

The same can be said for another Houston exhibitor, David Shelton Gallery,  bringing a group of eight from his stable, including Vincent Valdez, who like Roberts, has his art on the pulse of America. Also among the small-scale offerings at Shelton are works by Joey Fauerso, Jessica Halonen, Dan Sutherland, and Jules Buck Jones (on the radar with his upcoming opening April 22 at Galveston Arts Center).

Rounding out the Houston quintet of exhibitors: Cindy Lisica Gallery, Devin Borden Gallery, and Yvonamor Palix Fine Arts.

All three are serious dealers, known for keen eyes, and programs of depth. Warhol Museum veteran Lisica — who boasts a PhD — plans a sampler; good bets are abstract paintings by Jennifer McClish; idiosyncratic works on paper by Catherine Colangelo laden with symbols, patterns and decoration; and Jamie Earnest‘s collages that riff upon home decor.

Borden hones his booth down to three talents: Laura Lark‘s clever and obsessive take on femininity; David Lackey‘s brooding, 19th-century informed assemblages (not surprising, as the artist is an acclaimed antiquarian who regularly makes appearances on Antiques Roadshow); and Clark Derbes’ jaunty painted and patterned wooden sculpture.

Art City interim executive director Jade Walker, most recently director of UT’s Visual Arts Center, adds a lot to the equation. Shown: Walker with Michael Sieben at the artist’s 2014 solo at the VAC.

Meanwhile, at private dealer Yvonamor Palix Fine Arts, ’80s-era photographer Sandy Skoglund is recommended; the New York artist’s Surreal images serve up a perfect mirror for the oddness and excess of that decade.

And the Dallas contingent is also impressive: Brian Gibb‘s The Public Trust, Gina and Dustin Orlando‘s Circuit12 Contemporary, and curatorial darling Kevin Rubén JacobsOFG.XXX, the only Texas gallery to our knowledge which actually showed a talent in the current Whitney Biennial. (Will any works by Whitney-exhibited Puppies Puppies be in OFG.XXX’s booth? You’ll have to visit Art City to find out.)

Expect curator talks and tours too; the Blanton Museum‘s Veronica Roberts is among the headliners, evidencing the Austin museum community’s embrace and support of this promising, boutique-sized fair that seems poised to take off, and just right for the Capital City.

Art City Austin, at Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Sprints Road; Friday, March 31, Preview viewing 4 to 8 pm, reception 6 to 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2, 11 am to 6 pm; artallianceaustin.org/artcity.

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