Tucked in the farthest most corner of the country, Seattle has long struggled to get a seat at the international art world table. The Seattle Art Fair, still relatively new on the circuit, comes at a time in the art world calendar (August 2–5) when there aren't any other major fairs going on, and it capitalizes on the city becoming a growing tourist destination (which is still weird to us Seattle natives).
A number of gallery shows and events are planned to coincide with the fair weekend. Whether or not you plan on going to the fair itself at CenturyLink Field Event Center—$33 for a day or $55 for three days—here are some free things worth checking out nearby.
• Statix (210 S Washington St) is a storefront and gallery that skews toward street and skate art, but its first solo exhibition features work by Japanese hyperrealist illustrator Shohei Otomo. This show features Otomo's contemporary take on the traditional Japanese hanging scrolls known as kakejiku. Inspired by film noir, Otomo's drawings mash up Japanese and American West Coast culture and challenge Japanese norms. For example, a depiction of a Japanese cop smoking a joint speaks to the harsh cannabis laws in Japan.
• Treason Gallery and Avenue Des Arts are hosting VICE & VIRTUE at the Piranha Shop (1022 First Ave S), a pop-up group show of international street artists. Works include pieces by the legendary wheat-paster Swoon, Italian street artist Pixel Pancho, Seattleite Duffyleg (also founder of Electric Coffin), and others.
• 1 Room is a salon-style group show organized by studio e gallery, located in the newly constructed Avalara Hawk Tower (255 S King St), and featuring emerging and established artists. Slated to remain open after regular fair hours and hosting a golf cart to shuttle fairgoers back and forth, 1 Room brings together studio e artists and longtime Seattle art stalwarts. With photography, painting, and sculpture by more than 50 Seattle-based artists (including Saul Becker, Dawn Cerny, Robert Yoder, and Fay Jones), this show functions as a stand-in for Out of Sight, the major satellite showcase of all local artists spearheaded by Greg Lundgren that isn't happening for the first time this year. (Lundgren said he couldn't find a big enough space.)
• This Noble Work at Inscape (815 Seattle Blvd S) features sculptural work by 10 neon artists. They include Kelsey Fernkopf, the artist who restored the Rainier "R", and Koko Jamison, creator of elegant neon chandeliers. A piece by Tracy Rector, the mixed-race Choctaw/Seminole filmmaker who won a Stranger Genius Award in 2016, called You Are on Indigenous Land: Coast Salish Territory will also be on view.
• At Da Da Da Gallery (513 S Main St), the experimental storefront project of local clothing brand Maiden Noir, the two artists who work under the name Lead Pencil Studio are creating a store that sells lines. They're calling it, naturally, The Line Store. Some of the pieces are line-art illustrations, and some are just lines. While I've never known artist/architect team Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo to be this—well—pointed, the show could be read as a critique of art fair prices. Their drawings of short fat multi-lines, flat lines, and thin lines go for only $8. If you're really on a budget, you can pick up a short lead line for $1.