Affordable Art Fair Comes to Austin

Participating artist B. Shawn Cox discusses why the international art fair is sorely needed in ATX

Rumpshaker by B. Shawn Cox, part of his Westward, Faux! series (courtesy of B. Shawn Cox)

Ever felt like collecting art, but have no clue how or where to start? Next weekend, the international Affordable Art Fair will give Austinites an opportunity to meet with and buy art from a global selection of contemporary artists.

“It looks like maybe Austin has caught the eye of the art world,” explains artist B. Shawn Cox. The former architect and lawyer will be part of the inaugural Affordable Art Fair Austin, the traveling celebration of contemporary art with an eye to acquisition. Hundreds of artists will be represented in booths run by 60 galleries from around the world. That means regulars of the Austin scene like Flatbed Press, Wally Workman Gallery, and Canopy Collective will share space with New York’s Fremin Gallery, Galerie Duret from Paris, and Fine Art Consultancy, which has offices in Tokyo and London.

“Austin has never had this before,” Cox says – but then, very few cities have. The original Affordable Art Fair took place in London’s Battersea Park in 1999 and was a massive success. In the intervening 25 years, it’s expanded to 13 cities in nine countries across four continents. Austin is part of the latest round of expansions and is the only U.S. venue outside of New York.

Cox has selected works to be displayed in the Davis Gallery collection alongside that of fellow Austin artists like watercolorist Jan Heaton, visual artist and musician Darden Smith, the paper-modeled taxidermy of Erik Wilson, sculptor Dana Younger, and fabric artist Amy Banner Updegrove. “You curate yourself, and then you’re curated,” he explains. “It’s something I’ve never done. ... It’s kind of exciting.” Even among that variety, Cox’s oeuvre is easy to spot, most especially his large-scale lenticular works that juxtapose conventions of masculinity and femininity as depicted in Westerns.

However, that’s just one element of his body of work. “I work in collage and folding paper,” he says, “and that will come back into structure and layers that I bring into the painting, and that rolls into the digital work.” In recent years, he’s seen increasing success – with seven gallery shows in 2022 alone – but he’s thrilled to be part of this bigger event: “A little publicity never hurt.”

The reality that Austin artists face is that, for a city of a million people, Austin’s gallery scene is surprisingly underdeveloped. When Cox moved here from Houston, he was shocked to discover that there wasn’t a real museum district, and that overall there were far fewer galleries than he would expect. Over the years, he’s continued the long conversation about why Austin hasn’t had greater visibility in the art world. The city is home to globally recognized contemporary artists but they have often faced an uphill struggle getting local recognition. “The world of famous musicians and live music overshadowed [them],” Cox says. Even though there was an art collecting scene, “it was posters and prints ancillary to the music scene.” Moreover, if you are serious about collecting art, “it’s not that hard to go to Dallas or to Houston.” For example, he noted that the renowned collage artist Deborah Roberts had her work displayed in New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and the Scottish National Gallery before she got her first hometown solo show.

That’s why he hopes the Affordable Art Fair makes a real change for both artists and collectors. The Palmer Events Center will be filled with pieces worth $100 to $10,000, with artists and gallery reps on hand to help potential buyers. There will also be panel discussions and print workshops to provide extra insight. For Cox, what’s really important is the venue this provides to connect Austin art lovers with working artists, both local and global. “I’m excited that they’re letting us put our art out there,” he says, “and letting the Austin community see this kind of art.”

Affordable Art Fair Austin

Thursday 16-Sunday 19, Palmer Events Center

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Affordable Art Fair Austin, B. Shawn Cox, Palmer Events Center

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