The Roadtripper’s Guide to Art in Texas

Artsy Editors
Apr 15, 2016 1:08AM

While it’s no easy feat to clock in a road trip across Texas, it’s well worth the mileage for an art lover. April’s annual Dallas Art Fair is an opportune time for an art adventure throughout the state—but there’s no bad time to see art in Texas. World-class museums, galleries, nonprofits, private collections, and public art abound, including many institutions and organizations dedicated to promoting diversity, supporting emerging artists, and connecting local and international communities.

Below, we offer daylong agendas for Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Marfa to help you get the most out of Texas’s deep art offerings. As you plan your trip, keep in mind that many museums, galleries, and nonprofits are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and many tours and private collections require advance reservations.

Dallas / Fort Worth

Known for its annual international art fair and serious collectors, Dallas is rich with high-quality public and private collections and younger programs that are focused on enriching cultural discourse and increasing diversity. A short drive away (around 40 minutes, without traffic), Fort Worth also boasts a vibrant art scene that should not be missed.


If you have a day:

11 a.m. | Visit the Dallas Museum of Art


TUES., WED., FRI.*, SAT., SUN. 11 A.M.–5 P.M.; THURS. 11 A.M.–9 P.M.


Start your day at Dallas’s encyclopedic museum—one of the largest art museums in the U.S.—which is home to 23,000 works that represent the last 5,000 years of history. Additionally, through the museum’s rich exhibition program, you can expect to see a broad range of art in a single visit—for example, modern paintings by Jackson Pollock and cutting-edge new media work by Hito Steyerl.

1 p.m. | See the Nasher Sculpture Center


TUES.–SUN. 11 A.M.–5 P.M.

Just a short walk around the corner, collectors Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s museum stuns with its collection of modern and contemporary sculpture—from Auguste Rodin to Constantin Brancusi to David Smith—spread across indoor and outdoor spaces designed by renowned architects Renzo Piano and Peter Walker, respectively. Its vibrant temporary exhibitions are devoted to the biggest names in the medium (recent years have seen shows of Giuseppe PenonePhyllida Barlow, and Katharina Grosse).

3 p.m. Make a visit to Dallas Contemporary


TUES–SAT. 11 A.M.–6 P.M.; SUN. 12–5P.M.

Begun as a local artist cooperative in 1978, Dallas Contemporary has become a renowned kunsthalle-style museum (meaning it doesn’t have a permanent collection). Along with a wide slate of exhibitions featuring major contemporary artists, both local and international—from Jason Willaford to Dan Colen to Paola Pivi—the museum also puts on an agenda of educational programs and events.

The Power Station

3816 Commerce Street, Dallas

Fri. 1–5 p.m., and by appointment

Located in a former Power & Light building from 1920, Dallas collector Alden Pinnell’s Power Station is an exhibition space that aims to push conversations around art and culture forward. Artists who exhibit here are encouraged to think beyond the traditional white cube and respond to the space’s industrial look and feel. Directly below it is the underground project space Culture Hole.

The Warehouse

14105 Inwood Road, Dallas

By appointment only

While predominantly reserved for educational visits, The Warehouse hosts open house events during Dallas Art Fair and on the last Wednesday of each month, during which visitors can see the current exhibition (be sure to make a reservation online). Expect to see high-quality exhibitions of post-war and contemporary art that draw from the esteemed collections of founders Howard and Cindy Rachofsky and Amy and Vernon Faulconer.

Explore shows on view now in Dallas.


James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany at Rice University. Photo by Adam Baker, via Flickr.

Houston has developed a serious art scene, bolstered by a central Museum District which boasts nearly 20 museums within a 1.5-mile radius—among them The Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The city’s vital artistic communities, like the one led by the inimitable Mark Flood, are complemented by important community nonprofits like Project Row Houses and a strong cohort of galleries. 

If you have a day:

10 a.m. | Meditate at the Rothko Chapel

3900 Yupon at Sul Ross, Houston

10 a.m.–6 p.m.

As much a site for art-viewing as it is for spirituality, the Rothko Chapel is what it sounds like—a non-denominational chapel filled with 14 paintings by the esteemed American Color Field master Mark Rothko. The serenity of the site-specific black paintings and the bespoke building in which they reside—an octagonal brick structure Rothko helped to design—has led it to become a destination for private prayer and meditation, as well as a venue for meetings among scholars and world leaders. Outside, a plaza with a reflecting pool (where yoga classes are offered) is home to Barnett Newman’s iconic sculpture Broken Obelisk  (1963-1967), a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

11 a.m. | Explore The Menil Collection and its campus

1533 Sul Ross Street

Wed.–Sun. 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

self-described “30-acre neighborhood of art,” The Menil Collection is a seven-building campus founded by the late Houston collectors John and Dominique de Menil (who also commissioned the Rothko Chapel). The campus is grounded by a main building featuring the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Within the permanent collection, don’t miss the European paintings and the room of oddities collected by Surrealists; outside of it, be sure to visit the Cy Twombly Gallery, the Dan Flavin Installation, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel.

2 p.m. | Check out Project Row Houses


WED.–SUN. 12–5PM

Begun by African-American artists in search of a beneficial creative space for their community, this nonprofit in the city’s historically African-American Third Ward neighborhood is dedicated to developing community-focused programming that pairs the arts with activism—spanning exhibitions, public art programs, artist residencies, artist talks, and roundtable discussions.

4 p.m. | See site-specific installations at Rice University Art Gallery


TUES., WED., FRI., & SAT. 11 A.M.–5 P.M.; THURS. 11 A.M.–7 P.M.; SUN. 12–5 P.M.

Rice University Art Gallery invites international artists to take over its space with site-specific installations—from video to large-scale sculpture. Past exhibitions have featured the metallic tapestries of El Anatsui, the intricate light projections of Anila Quayyum Agha, and a neighborhood made from cardboard and paint by Ana Serrano.

Sunset | Watch the sunset within James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany skyspace



The incredible Turrell skyspace on the Rice University campus is well worth a visit—especially at sunset. (Make a reservation if you’re planning to visit at sunset.)

Explore shows on view now in Houston.



Tom Friedman, Looking Up, at Laguna Gloria, Austin. Photo by @covatta, via Instagram.

Anchored by the University of Texas at Austin, the state’s capital is already lauded for its vibrant music scene—but it’s also home to a strong cohort of museums, public art, and smaller art spaces and galleries. 

If you have a day:

10 a.m. | Visit The Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria

3809 West 35th Street

Driscoll Villa: Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Grounds: Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

While this major contemporary art museum also has a site in downtown Austin, the museum began at Laguna Gloria, the former home of founder Clara Driscoll—an idyllic 14-acre lakeside estate, which is also a national landmark. Exhibitions and a permanent collection are spread across the property, from the villa where Driscoll lived to the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park.

1 p.m. | Check out Women & Their Work

1710 Lavaca Street

Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat. 12–5 p.m.

As the name suggests, Women & Their Work is a destination for seeing work by female artists. The  organization is known for showing and promoting female artists through an active calendar of exhibitions, performances, panels, and educational programs for youth.

3 p.m. | Visit the Blanton Museum of Art

The University of Texas at Austin, 200 East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Tues.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. 1–5 p.m.

Spend the afternoon at UT Austin, beginning with the Blanton and its significant collection of Latin American art, which was once the largest of its kind in the U.S. (Blanton was the first U.S. institution to appoint a curator of Latin American art). Also look out for the Old Master paintings and the contemporary American collection, as well as temporary exhibitions.

5:30 | Explore the LANDMARKS Public Art Program

The University of Texas at Austin

Take a walk around the UT Austin campus and you’ll find works by Mark di Suvero, Sol LeWitt, Nancy Rubins, and Louise Bourgeois—among other artists whose works are installed outdoors and within academic buildings. Use their map to plan out your route. Turrell fans should head to The Color Inside (2013) skyspace. (You can make a reservation to experience the work at sunset.)


Elmgreen & Dragset, Prada Marfa, 2005. Photo by Em Watson.

Ever since 2012, when Beyoncé took a jumping pic in front of Prada Marfa, and 2013, when 60 Minutes did a special on the Minimalism-rich West Texas town, Marfa has been a must-see on every art lover’s bucket list. But well before New Yorkers started making the city their home, Donald Judd made it his and left behind an extensive legacy (including some 15 buildings across the city). With a population that hovers below 2,000, and a footprint that spans just 1.6 square miles, it’s an unlikely city by art-world standards, but the abundance of high-quality modern and contemporary art is spectacular.

If you have a day:

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Explore the Chinati Foundation

1 Cavalry Row

Wed.–Sun. 9am to 4pm. Selections tours take place Wednesday to Sunday 11:00pm to 1:00pm or 11:30pm to 1:30pm.

Founded by Judd in 1986, the sprawling museum spans 340 acres and 15 buildings; the seminal collection includes works by Judd, as well as large-scale installations by John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, and Carl Andre, among others. Make a reservation for the two hour-long Selections Tour ($20 adult, $10 student), which will guide you through the collection’s works by its quintessential trio: Judd, Chamberlain, and Flavin.

1:30–3:30 p.m. | See what’s on at Ballroom Marfa

108 E. San Antonio Street, Marfa
Wed–Sat. 10:00 am–6:00 pm; Sunday 10  a.m.–3 p.m.

In addition to a rotating program of dynamic contemporary art exhibitions, Ballroom Marfa, housed in a former 1920s-era dance hall, is also a go-to for film and music. The nonprofit is dedicated to bridging local and international arts communities, and giving artists and curators a place to put on ambitious, challenging shows that could not take shape elsewhere.

4:30–5:45 p.m. | Tour Donald Judd’s residence and studios

400 and 416 West El Paso Avenue
Tours take place Monday to Sunday from 4:30pm to 5:45pm.

Take The Judd Foundation’s tour of La Mansana de Chinati (also known as The Block), Judd’s former living quarters and three main studios, which make up a full city block. In addition to early architecture projects and installations, the site is home to the artist’s 13,000-volume library and a swimming pool he designed. Be sure to make a reservation.

7–8:30 p.m. | Take a ride to Prada Marfa

US-90, one mile northwest of Valentine, TX, approximately 35 miles northwest of Marfa

Take a half-hour drive west on US-90 and you’ll hit Elmgreen & Dragset’s iconic permanent installation by the side of the road, Prada Marfa (2005). A pristine replica of a small Prada boutique, complete with accessories from the fashion label’s Fall/Winter 2005 line, the work is a luxury goods retailer that will never host commerce—but is a mandatory destination for any trip to Marfa.

Artsy Editors

Explore current shows in Dallas and Houston on Artsy.