Far West Chelsea

Revamped West Austin art gallery embarks on next chapter with ambitious new show

West Austin art gallery embarks on next chapter with ambitious show

West Chelsea Contemporary art gallery
West Chelsea Contemporary officially opens its doors November 7 with "Concrete to Canvas." Photo courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
Barry McGee
The show includes artwork from Barry McGee. Photo courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
American artist KAWS will also have work on display. Photo courtesy of West Chelsea Contemporary
West Chelsea Contemporary art gallery
Barry McGee

This fall, the city's most ambitious art show won't be hosted in a museum, but a West Austin art gallery. West Chelsea Contemporary, formerly known as the Russell Collection Fine Art, is showcasing works from such world-famous artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Banksy, and Shepard Fairey when it opens "Concrete to Canvas" on November 7. 

The experiential new show, which is free and open to all, examines how some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries went from street graffiti to in-demand darlings of the art world. Along with Basquiat, Banksy, and Fairey, viewers can see pieces from more than two dozen artists, including Mr. Brainwash, Henry Chalfant, Cey Adams, CRASH, DABSMYLA, Futura, Richard Hambleton, Keith Haring, JonOne, JR, KAWS, Kobra, Kool Koor, Steve Lazarides, Daniel Maltzman, Barry McGee, Eric Orr, José Parlá, Cleon Peterson, Ricky Powell, Rammellzee, Blek Le Rat, RETNA, Risk, Kenny Scharf, Schoony, Seen, Stik, Swoon, and Vhils.

"Every corner will be a different experience," explains Lisa Russell, owner of West Chelsea Contemporary. While some areas mimic alleyways of New York City, others take on a more traditional gallery approach. The goal, says Russell, is to create an experiential show that adds context to this still illegal art form.

"We want to re-evaluate that idea of street art," Russell adds. "Street art in general is about people being able to express themselves, to support community, to express political opinions." It's also become a red-hot commodity among art collectors, sometimes commanding millions for artists like Haring or Basquiat. 

Street art, Russell adds, especially resonates in a city like Austin, where works such as the iconic "Hi, How are You?" to the more recent "I Love You So Much" have cemented the city's own place in within the contemporary art community. 

It took years for "Concrete to Canvas" to come together, and marks the first time many of these pieces will be seen outside the art world hotbeds of New York and Los Angeles. The show is billed as both experiential and educational, and examines how many of these artists went to creating work on subway walls and in alleyways to traditional media such as canvas and prints.

"These artist are pivotal... all of these artists have transitioned from graffiti to being fine artists in their own right," says Russell. 

"Concrete to Canvas" also marks the inaugural show for West Chelsea Contemporary. In February, Russell and co-owner Gary Seals tapped Austin-based Mark Odom Studio to oversee the "revamped" gallery space. With the new space came the new name, a nod to New York's iconic Chelsea neighborhood, which houses dozens of galleries within a few blocks. The new show will also take advantage of the nearly 8,000 square feet of exhibition space at 1009 W. Sixth St. #120, a few blocks east of the Russell Collection's former home.

Despite the new moniker, Russell says she will remain the face of the gallery and involved in the day-to-day operations. "It’s a new chapter for the Russell Collection," she says, "it felt like it was an appropriate shift."

Along with more headline-grabbing show (though she wouldn't divulge exact details, Russell says the gallery is already hard at work on its 2021-22 programming), patrons can expect a more interactive community space at West Chelsea Contemporary. Art collectors can still snap up some of the most compelling works in contemporary art — pricing for "Concrete to Canvas" is available upon request — while art lovers can peruse the new gift shop for one-of-a-kind books, prints, and works from local artists.

"Concrete to Canvas" opens November 7 and will be on display for two months.