Arts / Museums

Austin Gets Its Own New Grown-Up Art Fair

How It Measures Up and What Makes It So Unique

BY // 05.01.16

After this weekend, Houston and Dallas aren’t the only Texas cities with art fairs.

Art City Austin is on now (through Sunday, May 1) at Palmer Events Center (a 10-minute drive from downtown), a fresh iteration on an event launched in 1950. Originally branded Fiesta, and known for its hefty music component decades before SXSW, it was formerly downtown and al fresco; the art offerings were once an afterthought to the musical headliners and limited to a loose amalgamation of booths that verged on the decorative.

Organized now by the nonprofit Art Alliance Austin, the two dozen or so exhibitors — prestigious Texas galleries to underground artists-owned spaces — make this fair a new player to watch. The size is manageable, as is the price point. Included are respected dealers like Dallas’ The Public Trust, who don’t always participate in the art-fair circuit because many talents in their stable are under $5,000. (Best bets in The Public Trust’s booth include Dallas-based photographic pop-feminist collaborators Kasumi Chow and Desiree Espada; ask to see their new suite of prints, an extreme bargain, for less than $1,000.)

Other must-sees include Art Palace (formerly of Austin, now in Houston); owner Arturo Palacios mounts some of the most impeccably curated shows anywhere in Texas. Then make a beeline to Devin Borden Gallery of Houston, where former MFAH Core Fellow Jillian Conrad and Laura Lark are stars of a stable that tilts to Texas. Another Houston gallerist, Yvonamor Palix, presents the cosmic abstractions of Mars Woodhill, a promising Hill Country-based painter whose canvases resemble pages from a volume on the galaxies (shown as lead image of the home page, Woodhill’s Vibrant Formation, 2015; her moniker is nicely matched to the work).

Also check out the edgy collective Beefhaus, arriving from Dallas, and Austin staples like Yard Dog (where Yale-educated, Brooklyn-based populist painter Steve Keene is a true phenomenon), Big Medium, Roadhouse Relics (home to the vintage-inspired neon signage of Todd Sanders) and Co-Lab Projects, typifying the lively high-low mix that is the Austin scene. Finally, put Austin newcomer CamibaArt on your list. (Founded by architect Troy Campa, the galley showcases vaporous portal paintings by widely collected McKay Otto and the witty craft objects and jewelry of Edward Lane McCartney.)

Art City Austin, at Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Sprints Rd; Sunday, May 1, 11 am to 6 pm; artallianceaustin.org/artcity.

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