Austin’s 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries: Texas Culture Guide

Austin, TX
Austin, TX | © Ed Schipul/Flickr
Lauren England

The Texas art scene is in full bloom – artists from the region represent the state with great zeal and fine skill, making Texas, along with its capital Austin, a thriving art and culture destination. With a strong commitment to regenerating the local arts scene, these ten contemporary galleries in Austin strengthen the city’s cultural offering with a wide range of innovative exhibitions, community-oriented educational programmes and nationally important art events.

1. Women & Their Work

Art Gallery

Women & Their Work, Austin
© Women & Their Work 
Visual and performing arts organisation Women & Their Work was founded in 1978. The organisation and gallery serves as a catalyst for groundbreaking contemporary art created by women, both from Texas and further afield. Working actively with the community, Women & Their Work provides an extensive programme of innovative exhibitions, performances, literary readings and educational workshops aiming to expand the discourse around contemporary art. Their mission is to enrich the cultural experience of Austin, educate audiences of all ages about contemporary art and emphasise the value of art created by women. Women & Their work are known for their pioneering spirit, their passion for artistic innovation and their commitment to artists and audiences in Texas. The organisation was the first in Texas to receive a grant in visual art from the National Endowment for the Arts.

2. Gallery Black Lagoon


Gallery Black Lagoon was established in 2010 by Austin locals David Lujan and Singer Mayberry. Distinguished by its unmistakable mural facade, the gallery was founded with the aim of providing an exhibition space that would strengthen Austin’s visual arts community. Gallery Black Lagoon supports both emerging and established artists such as Rich Brouillet, Robbie Ortiz, Jeremy Kunzinger and Jessica Anguiano. Being a Supportive Arts Gallery, Gallery Black Lagoon works together with its exhibiting artists to create exhibition opportunities and has now shown the works of over 250 artists. As well as being a destination spot for eclectic contemporary art, with a strong reputation for photography exhibits, the gallery is a popular venue for themed events, artist-driven parties, music showcases and yoga classes. Gallery Black Lagoon also hosts a semi-regular trunk show selling handmade clothes and jewellery by local artists. © Gallery Black Lagoon

3. Big Medium

Art Gallery

© Big Medium
Austin-based non-profit arts organisation Big Medium provides an innovative year-round exhibition programme split between two venues, Big Medium Gallery at Canopy and Big Medium Gallery at Bolm. They also host several large-scale art events such as the East Austin Studio Tour, and the West Austin Studio Tour, self-guided tours celebrating the wealth of talent present in Austin’s wildly diverse creative community, and the popular Texas Biennial which provides an exhibition opportunity for all contemporary artists in Texas. Their dedication to the visual arts community in Austin has manifested itself in a variety of partnerships and projects with other Texan art organisations in order to support the arts throughout Texas. Big Medium also provides a number of affordable art studio spaces for local artists.

4. Art on 5th

Art Gallery, Museum, Theater

Art on 5th is one of Austin’s largest contemporary galleries. The unique space, with its museum-like setting spanning over 6,000 square feet, features an eclectic collection of modern and contemporary artworks by Texan, American and international artists. The gallery was opened in 1988 by Joe Sigel with a collection of works by renowned artists including Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Sigel’s collection has evolved over the years to suit Austin’s changing tastes in art and Art on 5th now holds one of the largest collections of the Secret Art of Dr. Seuss in the country. In 2009 the gallery expanded into artisan jewellery specialising in unique creations from award-winning national artists. In addition to their ongoing exhibitions programme and a permanent display of over 40 artists, Art on 5th also hosts touring exhibitions from Washington, Chicago and Montreal.

5. grayDUCK Gallery

Art Gallery, Theater

grayDUCK Gallery, Austin
© GrayDUCK gallery 
Contemporary art gallery grayDUCK Gallery, now located in East Austin, provides a social environment in which to experience art. The large open-plan gallery space has a modern feel suited to the artworks on display. grayDUCK Gallery specialises in cutting-edge works from emerging and established local and national artists shown through a diverse programme of paired and small-group exhibitions such as That Silky Smooth Feelingby guest curator Jaime Salvador Castillo featuring works by Christina Coleman, Clare Finin and Loren Schwerd. The gallery also aims to feature more solo shows on its calendar in the future, inviting more established artists to transform the entire gallery space into an exhibition. The gallery also hosts film, music and performance events as part of their aim to make the arts accessible to everyone, supporting their belief that art can show us how other individuals see the world.

6. Pump Project

Art Gallery

Pump Project Art Complex, Austin
© Pump Project
Non-profit organisation Pump Project is devoted to enriching the creative community in Austin. Working with emerging and established artists to present small and large group exhibitions, the gallery space and working artists’ studios provide a supportive environment for creativity. Pump Project Art Complex is home to over 50 artists working across a wide range of media including ceramics, glass, painting, jewellery, mixed media and printmaking. The gallery itself is an outlet for innovation, experimentation and collaboration, offering first-time artists a chance to exhibit their works alongside a programme of community workshops. Pump Project is a truly multifunctional venue in which to discuss and experience contemporary art.

7. Wally Workman Gallery

Theater, Art Gallery

Wally Workman Gallery
© Wally Workman Gallery
Wally Workman Gallery is one Austin’s best-loved contemporary art galleries. The gallery was established in 1980 in a 100-year-old historic house in Austin’s art district with two floors of exhibition space split into various rooms, each showing a small number of works. The gallery currently represents 53 artists, among which are both emerging and collected names. Their impressive roster includes Will Klemm, who has exhibited with the gallery for 23 years, Joyce Howell, and Ian Shults alongside figurative artists such as Tracey Harris and Fatima Ronquillo. Wally Workman Gallery also collaborates with Aether Magazine and Art Austin in promoting the local visual arts scene. Their regular exhibition openings attract a diverse crowd and provide a relaxed, sociable environment in which to experience the artworks on show.

8. Yard Dog Art Gallery

Art Gallery, School, Theater

Yard Dog, Austin
Courtesy of Yard Dog Art Gallery
Yard Dog Art Gallery opened in 1995. Starting with a small collection of folk art and outsider art from the South, the gallery has now grown into a well known venue for contemporary folk art, outsider art, pop art and fine art. Over the years the number of genuine folk artists has decreased and the gallery’s interests have broadened, leading them to a more varied approach to the artworks on display. Yard Dog Art Gallery now represent a diverse range of contemporary artists from a variety of backgrounds such as comic collage artist Mike Alcantara, woodcut artist Lisa Brawn and contemporary sculptor Camp Bosworth. From self-taught artists to art school graduates Yard Dog does not categorise its represented artists and provides a welcoming space for exhibitors and visitors alike.

9. Lora Reynolds Gallery


Graham Dolphin RIP Exhibition
© Lora Reynolds Gallery
Lora Reynolds established her gallery in 2005. She had been working in London and New York with Anthony d’Offay and Matthew Marks Galleries before starting out on her own, and used her connections to bring contemporary artworks to Austin that would not have otherwise been shown. The Lora Reynolds Gallery consists of a main exhibition space which holds six to eight exhibitions per year and a project space with four to six installations per year. The gallery represents a wide variety of emerging, mid-career and established national and international artists including the highly collected Ewan Gibbs. Reynolds has an original, accessible approach to her gallery and exhibits works across all media including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, film and video. The gallery also collaborates with local event organisers and online visual arts journals such as Glasstire in order to get more people interested in contemporary art.

10. The Contemporary Austin

Building, Museum, Art Gallery, Library

Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin
The Contemporary Austin is the rebranded AMOA-Arthouse at the Jones Centre. Originally founded in 1998, the institution re-emerged in 2013 under its new name with a distinctive vision and a reinvigorated exhibition programme. The Contemporary Austin aims to match the city’s strong reputation in music, film, and new-media entrepreneurship by supporting and encouraging the city’s artistic community. The gallery itself channels Austin’s renowned energy and eclectic spirit through its commission and exhibition of works by today’s leading contemporary artists from Texas and across the globe including Charles Atlas, Tom Friedman, Orly Genger, Charles Long, Tom Sachs and Do Ho Suh. A hub of creativity and inspiration, The Contemporary Austin has two sites; their main building in the heart of downtown Austin, and a twelve-acre lakeside estate, Laguna Gloria. Future plans for The Contemporary Austin include commissioning works for multiple venues across the city.

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