Art on the edge

Austin gallery’s monumental exhibit showcases art-world disruptors and rule breakers

Austin gallery’s monumental exhibit showcases art-world rule breakers

Lichtenstein screenprint
Roy Lichtenstein's The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
RETNA acrylic on canvas
RETNA's Untitled Courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
Ai Weiwei offset lithograph
Ai Weiwei's Odyssey Courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
Lichtenstein screenprint
RETNA acrylic on canvas
Ai Weiwei offset lithograph

In what has been described as its most monumental exhibit to date, downtown Austin art gallery West Chelsea Contemporary is celebrating some of the most innovative — and disruptive — artists to agitate the contemporary art world in this century and the last.

On Saturday, May 15, the gallery will reveal its newest exhibit, “Icons & Vandals,” a showcase of art-world troublemakers whose creative coups have left an indelible legacy, among them some of the most recognizable and incendiary rule breakers to ever grace the art scene.

Running through July 11, the “Icons & Vandals,” exhibit includes works spanning 60 years and from regions across the globe, featuring modern masters and status-quo trailblazers like Alex Katz and Frank Stella, pop art darlings Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, contemporary firebrands Takashi Murakami and Yoshitimo Nara, as well as Chinese artists and government critics Ai Weiwei and Zhang Xiaogang, and urban-space artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy, who demolished the boundaries of what was considered art.

Along with highlighting these artists’ monumental works, West Chelsea Contemporary will also welcome some well-known faces in collaborative displays that will be featured alongside the exhibition.

Beginning May 28, Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye will take over the gallery’s On the Wall program with a curation of emerging artists, including Lanecia Rouse Tinsely, A’Driane Nieves, and Ben Medansky. And on Juneteenth, June 19, the gallery will release a limited run of new works by contemporary artist Cey Adams, also the founding creative director of groundbreaking record label Def Jam Records.

The gallery, which was founded in 2002 as the Russell Collection and revamped in late 2020 as West Chelsea Contemporary, is known for highlighting renowned works and artists, and its 8,000-square-foot space provides the capability of showcasing exceptional works on a grand scale.

“From 16-foot originals by RETNA and Cey Adams to colossal sculptural work — including a larger-than-life mixed-media shark and painted aluminum spaceman — the gallery is quite literally activated by art world giants,” a WCC release says.

West Chelsea Contemporary’s gallery is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 am-6 pm, and Sundays from noon-6 pm. Visitors are encouraged to mask up in the space and practice social distancing.