Soho House Austin’s vibrant art collection reflects the city’s rich culture
Showcasing 72 artists, the pieces are as diverse and multi-faceted as Austin’s people and their way of life. Kate Bryan, our Global Director of Art, gives us a tour
Monday 30 January 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova
Soho House’s global art collection is one of the biggest privately owned assemblages in the world. The House Art series invites you to take a peek inside them, offering a closer look at individual works and collections, and revealing why they’re such an integral part of Soho House. First up, Soho House Austin.
Like all of our Houses, Soho House Austin is a living, breathing reflection of the unique atmosphere of the city that surrounds it – a combination of buzzing nightlife, live music, abundant nature, and the unique design sensibility that results from the many different cultures it brings together.
Austin’s art scene is a vivid part of the city’s cultural life, with many artists born and trained there, or for whom it is now their home base. While this made choosing art for Soho House Austin a rich and rewarding task, it was not an easy one.
Curated during the pandemic, the art team had to connect with artists remotely, with Zoom studio visits taking the place of real ones. For all the obvious limitations that implies, Soho House’s Global Art Director, Kate Bryan, describes the experience of being ‘connected by art’ across the Atlantic during such an unusual time in our shared human history as ‘strange but quite beautiful’. And the results of her search speak for themselves.
‘We wanted the collection to reflect what a special city Austin is as a haven for creative people,’ Bryan notes. ‘It’s a very liberal city in a very conservative state, which creates an interesting dynamic.’ As with all House collections, Soho House Austin’s only features the work of artists who were born in, based in or trained locally (in this case, the state of Texas as a whole), ‘but really more than 80% are based or trained in Austin,’ says Bryan.
‘We always make sure the collection is at least 50% women-identifying artists, but with Austin we wanted to take it further with inclusivity,’ she adds. ‘We looked at the latest census of the city and different ways that people self-identified in terms of their ethnicity and used those percentages to set the baseline of what we expected to see in the art collection, including African-American, Asian-American, and Indigenous artists.’
The result is a collection featuring 72 artists, two pieces of which are large site-specific works commissioned specially for the space. Whether you’re local, planning a visit or simply interested to see art from our global Houses, here are the six names for you to explore.
‘Rooftop Mural’, 2021
Dallas-based Desireé Vaniecia is a painter who has dedicated a large amount of her work to her family. Raised in a matriarchal home, her work deliberately challenges the portrayal of Black women in art and media. For Soho House Austin, Vaniecia has completed a poolside mural, located on the rooftop, which features portraits of women over azure blue in a series that captures the strength and vulnerability of each one.
Artwork commissioned for Soho House Austin, 2021
Born in Mexico’s Jalisco state, Escobedo-Garcia studied painting and drawing at Stephen F Austin State University. Deriving inspiration from their heritage as much as the surrounding shifting environment – as evidenced in the bold colours and unusual textures that typically co-exist in their works – Escobedo-Garcia’s painting for Soho House Austin (located in the front desk area) combines geometric and organic qualities, which entice the viewer in.
‘Raw Sex’, 2021, vinyl
Xavier Schipani is committed to fusing the personal and political through an exploration of the presence (or absence) of the trans-male body in art – filling the gap through his figurative work. The flesh-toned erotic scene – positioned on the ‘Break the Mould’ wall in the main club space – features a rainbow border, with each artwork defying the more traditional rectangular shape.
‘A Hundred Years’, 2020, acrylic, natural earth pigment and pencil on canvas
Evoking intimacy channelled through the iconography of queer desire, RF Alvarez’s paintings range from domestic interiors to nature scenes. What they all share is a common sense of capturing and preserving a fleeting moment that makes them especially pleasurable to look at. In this portrait – located on the third floor of Soho House Austin – the seemingly mundane details, such as white socks and a houseplant, create feelings of comfort and recognition.
‘Stairwell Mural’, 2021
Austin-based artist Hayley Mitchell is behind another site-specific commission for Soho House Austin. Spanning across the stairwell, the mural depicts human figures in the midst of dance or play – completely transforming what would be an otherwise utilitarian space.
‘Orientalist Painting, Antique Shop, Lambertville, Pennsylvania’, 2015-16, charcoal, wood stain, photostatic print, red oak, poplar, pine, OP-3 acrylic and adhesive
Colby Bird works predominantly with sculpture and organic materials, such as wood and fruit. The artist’s creations – which are somewhere between creatures and inanimate objects – evoke the heritage of surrealism and carry the echo of strange dreams. That same sense of endearing strangeness familiar to the objects Bird creates is on display in the House, in this dark-hued painting in a wooden frame, which is split in the middle and resting on a pear.
‘Untitled: Girl In Green’, 2021, mixed-media collage on paper
Deborah Roberts’ work explores otherness, race and beauty – frequently through the medium of mixed-media collage. The artist highlights the limited and very white nature of beauty in art and society, with a focus on inclusion, dignity and consumption. One of the most acclaimed artists working in Austin today, Roberts’ works have been acquired by numerous institutions, including Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA and Guggenheim Museum.