If you've been hoping to find a classy replacement for the four-color Marilyn Monroe poster you loved in college, your search may be over. On the third weekend of October, the work of dozens of pop and contemporary artists from all over the globe will descend on Austin for the first ever POP Austin, and every piece of it can be yours.
CultureMap met with the co-founder and the curator of POP Austin to talk about their inspiration for the show, what they hope to achieve, and how they’re managing to pull this whole thing off with less than six months to prepare.
“I’m someone that sleeps very little,” said founder Matt Randall, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He’s got a healthy suntan and a haircut like a Ralph Lauren model, which might be because he was one. “I’ll pound on a door until someone answers. To me, you’re not going to get anything done if you don’t.”
POP Austin promises a thorough spectacle, “a sophisticated carnival,” in the organizers’ words.
It only took a couple of years as a professional model for Randall to realize the business wasn’t for him. He stayed around long enough to meet his wife, POP Austin co-founder Amanda Huras, then ducked the flashbulb life for a business degree.
“The goal behind this whole thing is to be able to show the art markets from New York to Paris to LA that Austin is a capital of culture,” Randall said about POP Austin. “But what’s the game plan to do that? You have to completely change the business model and be disruptive in a space in order to do that.”
The disruption, in this case, was to take the international art fair concept — exemplified in grand fashion at Art Basel, a Swiss-born conglomeration of gallery booths with art presentations, curated talks and site-specific pop-ups installed around the host city — and do it without getting a single gallery involved. That meant sourcing the art, too, which required some outside help.
Randall and Huras met POP Austin curator, Lana Carlson, at SXSW this year. She’s international herself, a Russo-Parisian-American bi-coastal who managed to wrangle more than 100 pieces of art from all over the world in the scant few months since.
Here are a few of the names on the POP Austin docket:
- Takashi Murakami, Japanese atelier maestro and superflat pioneer
- Jin Bo, Chinese painter of phaseshifting portraits
- RISK, American graffiti luminary
- Bale Creek Allen, Austin mixed-media sculptor and neonworker
- beb-deum, French artist and creator of the show’s promotional image
- Jason Archer, UT animation professor and co-curator of the Frank Public Art wall
- Alec Monopoly, street artist and culture critic
- Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant CEO and Obama poster photo stealer
- Mr. Brainwash, Franco-American derivitivist who may or may not be a hoax made possible in part by Shepard Fairey
- Massimo Vitali, Italian photographer of human-infested landscapes
- DENIAL, Canadian stenciler and muralist
And that's just the beginning, if you can believe it. Check out a more comprehensive list of the artists involved, including pop-art icons Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana, via the show's curated Pinterest feed.
Naturally, it’s safe to expect that many of the pieces available at POP Austin may run a bit dear in price — a trio of Warhols that changed hands at auction last November fetched $182.2 million, for example — but Randall and the team know that international price tags won’t deter Austin’s steadfast art buying community. “Some of the biggest collectors in the world live in Austin,” Randall said. “You’d be amazed what’s behind closed doors.”
The whole shebang takes place at the recently christened Fair Market event space on East Fifth Street, which rumors suggest will be dressed up in 20-foot floating walls and other elements from the pop-up art palace wheelhouse.
Austinites can expect to encounter massive street art exhibits that are slated to pop up around town.
Even if you’re not in the market for a major art purchase, POP Austin promises a thorough spectacle, “a sophisticated carnival,” in the organizers’ words, complete with pan-sensory delights and short lectures by artists and collectors. Tickets are $30 pre-sale (per day) and $40 at the door, with a VIP three-day pass available for the truly committed.
The show opens on October 17, featuring an artist’s reception and first viewing for three-day attendees, and continues throughout the weekend with quick, informative talks and a cash bar. Several of the exhibiting artists will be making appearances at the event, and aspiring gallery roadies can volunteer to help build out the space, work the merchandise table or perform some other valuable service.
Leading up to POP Austin, Austinites can expect to encounter massive street art exhibits that are slated to pop up around town, so even those who don't attend will have their visual cortex palpated by at least a few pleasant and colorful surprises. The series of promotional installations should begin hitting the streets any day now, so keep your eyes peeled.
POP Austin isn't just for collectors, either. The show hopes to provide something that’s often missing for budding artists in this jewel of a town: representation. “We’re working with other organizations in town, Big Medium and Art Alliance, to be able to say, 'Help us. Tell us the 10 artists that are ready to go to the next level, that are ready to explode,'” Randall said. “We have the equation, we’re building the equation to help us take them and grow them into brands. So that’s our focus — that’s the goal.”
For a direct line to emerging details as the show approaches, check out the event website.