Insider Guide to the Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Texas

The Blanton Museum
The Blanton Museum | Courtesy of The Blanton Museum
Hannah Phillips

Famous for permanent, large-scale installations in the deserts of West Texas, the Chinati Foundation put Texas on the map as a destination for contemporary art lovers everywhere. But if you can’t make the trek out to Marfa (the closest airport is still three hours away), bigger cities like Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Forth Worth all prove that you don’t have to drive across the desert for your contemporary art fix. We’ve rounded up the best galleries across the Lone Star State.

1. The Contemporary Austin

Building, Museum, Art Gallery, Library

Contemporary Austin – Jones Center, Austin
In addition to the Blanton Museum’s excellent compilation of contemporary works, Austin is home to numerous innovative galleries worth visiting. Any guide to galleries in the state’s capital has to start with The Contemporary Austin (The Contemporary for short), which has two locations – the Laguna Gloria Art Museum in West Austin and the Jones Center on Congress Avenue. The beautiful 14-acre site at Laguna Gloria overlooks Lake Austin on the Clara Driscoll Estate, once owned by the city’s patriarch, Stephen F. Austin. In addition to the historical Driscoll Villa, Laguna Gloria visitors can enjoy temporary, long-term, and permanent contemporary sculpture and art installations in the Gatehouse Gallery and the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park.

The museum’s downtown campus, The Contemporary Austin Jones Center, was designed by New York firm Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL), and includes over 5,000 square feet of exhibition space and a roof-top deck for events and temporary installations, such as Jim Hodges’ current display, With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work in Progress).

2. grayDUCK Gallery

Art Gallery, Theater

grayDUCK Gallery, Austin
© GrayDUCK gallery 
Now located in East Austin, the large open-plan grayDUCK Gallery is as much an opportunity to experience art as it is to view it. Specializing in progressive works from both rising and recognized regional artists, the gallery also hosts film, music, and performance events in their mission to make the arts accessible to all. Be sure to check out the Collectors Show opening on May 20th, where local collectors will share favorite pieces from their homes.

3. The Wally Workman Gallery

Theater, Art Gallery

Wally Workman Gallery
© Wally Workman Gallery
Established in 1980 in a 100-year-old historic house, the Wally Workman Gallery is one of the city’s most beloved contemporary galleries. The surrounding area on West 6th Street is known as Austin’s art district, and with two floors of exhibition space, the Wally Workman Gallery is its premiere stop. The gallery collaborates with Aether Magazine and Art Austin to promote the local visual arts scene, representing over 50 artists both emerging and established.

4. Ruiz-Healy Art

Specializing in contemporary and modern art with a focus on representing the work of both Latin American and Texas-based artists, Ruiz-Healy Art champions the highest standards of quality and is a member of the International Fine Print Dealers Association, one of only three in the state. The gallery, which has a second location in New York, is a go-to for local art collectors seeking limited editions and prints from Colombian artists such as Johanna Calle, and photographs from Cecilia Paredes of Peru.

Ruiz-Healy Art, 201-A East Olmos Drive, San Antonio, TX 78212 + 1 210 804-2219

5. McNay Art Museum


McNay Art Museum
Todd Dwyer
While not exclusively a contemporary gallery, the McNay Art Museum is not to be missed, housing a fabulous collection of prints and sculptures from American artists after 1970. Highlights include Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture, geometric abstraction, and assemblage and minimal sculpture. The museum demonstrates its continued commitment to both contemporary and local art with regularly rotating installations on the entry wall of the AT&T Lobby. On display currently is San Antonio-based Leigh Anne Lester’s expansive work A Variety of Forms Recovering from Transubstantiated Clarity.

6. Gravelmouth

6. Gravelmouth
© Nan Palmero / Flickr

San Antonio has really come into its own in the contemporary art scene in recent years, especially thanks to community-oriented galleries like Gravelmouth. The space is run by artists fostering an appreciation of non-traditional art, aiming to “find a balance between urban interventions and formal institutions.” With a primary interest in street art, Gravelmouth also hosts collaborative projects with artists from other cities. It’s located in the South Flores Arts District.

Gravelmouth, 1906 S. Flores, San Antonio, TX, USA, +1 210) 367-2528

Gravelmouth Street Art| © Nan Palmero / Flickr

7. Gallery

Art Gallery, Park

Founded in 1978 by teacher Will Hipps and local painter Richard Childers, Texas’ oldest artist-run collective, 500X Gallery, is located in an early twentieth-century tire factory and air-conditioning warehouse near Fair Park. With over 3000 square feet of exhibition space, the gallery features monthly exhibits by the 17 current board members from September to June (closing in July due to lack of central cooling!) All part of the gallery’s combination of history and charm. The gallery also hosts a juried exhibit titled “Expo,” a contemporary survey of work chosen by a guest curator from the local arts community.

8. Conduit Gallery

Another pioneer in the Dallas art scene and member of CADD (Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas), Conduit Gallery owner Nancy Whitenack helped make the Design District the hot spot it is today when she moved her gallery here from Deep Ellum in 2002. The gallery encompasses three spaces under one roof, showcasing both established artists and exhibiting the work of new talent in a dedicated project room. Notable artist and collector relationships include Annabel Daou, Gabriel Dawe, Kirk Hayes, Stephen Lapthisophon, and James Sullivan.

Conduit Gallery, 1626 Hi Line Dr # C, Dallas, TX 75207 + 1 214 939-0064

William Campbell Contemporary Art

Outside Dallas, north Texas’ leading name in contemporary art celebrates forty-three years in the Fort Worth area this year. Owners Bill and Pam Campbell are an integral part of the Texas art scene, passionately promoting both nationally recognized and promising artists. The couple aims to nurture an awareness and appreciation of the exciting diversity of contemporary artists, connecting them with collectors on a local, national and international level. One current exhibition features the photography of Forth Worth native Luther Smith, including nearly two dozen stunning color photographs of everyday outdoor scenes shot in and around the city.

William Campbell Contemporary Art, 4935 Byers Ave, Fort Worth, TX, +1 817 737-9566

9. McMurtrey Gallery

Art Gallery, Museum

Established in 1983, the McMurtrey Gallery is one of Houston’s top art destinations. The gallery represents a number of Texas contemporary artists and acted as the debut venue for internationally acclaimed photographer Keith Carter. Other featured artists include Robert Jessup, Troy Dugas, Michael Guidry, Lance Letscher, and Katie Maratta, along with a select group of photographers and first-time exhibitors.

10. McClain Gallery

Exhibiting the work of artists across Texas and beyond, the McClain Gallery showcases not just painting, but sculpture, prints, photography, and conceptual installations from the 20th century and today. The excellent core program of solo shows make it a must-see, but be sure to check out the regularly rotating survey and thematic shows, too. In these, the gallery seeks to explore current themes in contemporary art, and its relationship to trending cultural, political, and social issues.

McClain Gallery, 2242 Richmond Ave. Houston, TX, +1 713 520-9988

11. Barbara Davis Gallery

Art Gallery, School

Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston
© Barbara Davis Gallery

Still one the biggest names in Houston’s contemporary art scene, the Barbara Davis Gallery has introduced the works of internationally acclaimed artists to Texas for over thirty years. Owner Barbara Davis helped nurture influential names like Joseph Beuys, Kiki Smith, and Allan McCollum, and her gallery was one of the first Texas galleries to be included in the prestigious Art Basel Miami Beach Art Fair. Davis also brought innovative international exhibitions such as Leipzig Select, artists from the New Leipzig School, and exhibitions for Beijing East Village artists Zhang Huan and Li Wei. Her beautiful space remains a favorite destination for both the curious art lover and serious collector.

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