Beyond Seattle Art Fair 2023: 6 must-see satellite shows

Art fairs are a bit like trees: while they unleash bursts of oxygen into the atmosphere and attract wildlife, they also take up a lot of sun. Luckily, a host of fresh initiatives tends to bloom around the Seattle Art Fair (July 27-30). This year, a larger-than-ever contingent of satellite exhibits is sprouting across Pioneer Square and downtown, not to be overshadowed by the hubbub at the Lumen Field Event Center, site of the Seattle Art Fair. Here’s your go-to guide to these buzzed-about art events.

XO Seattle at The Coliseum Theater 

On a recent visit to what used to be Seattle’s downtown Banana Republic store, a chop saw and large pieces of plywood on sawhorses awaited at the entrance. Soon, the plywood will be hanging on the wall neatly plastered, covering up former clothing shelves and serving as a backdrop for large-scale murals, paintings and photos as part of XO Seattle’s pop-up art show in the 13,000-square-foot historic Coliseum Theater building. 

Expect to be visually wowed by an extravaganza of artwork by more than 70 emerging and established artists (hand-picked by nine guest curators), including a pink tulle-covered couch, floating interactive artworks, a canoe carved from a cedar tree, a music-generating subterranean forest, a large-scale light projection visible from the street, fighting robots, artistic audio guides and more. Also part of the fun is a zine library/shop, live weaving by artist Megan Prince, DJ sets, dance performances (July 27), concerts, and an underground, ombré-tinted immersive artwork in the store’s former stockroom, courtesy of local design and art firm Experience Research Lab. As XO’s Julianne Johnson put it: “We’re definitely cranking it up as high as we can.” 

Through July 30: July 21, 5-10 p.m.; July 22-23, 29-30, 1-7 p.m.; July 28, closing reception 5-10 p.m. Coliseum Theater building, Fifth Avenue and Pike Street, Seattle; $11-$33; xoseattle.com 

Forest For The Trees at RailSpur 

Last July, as a heat wave gripped Seattle, a sprawling art exhibit and four-day block party called Forest For The Trees opened in a recently redeveloped, still-vacant office building in Pioneer Square. As throngs of art lovers swarmed across the building’s seven floors full of large-scale art installations, projections and paintings, the air became thick with heat — but the festival felt like a breath of fresh air for Seattle’s art scene. 

This year, Gage Hamilton and Dominic Nieri, of art nonprofit Forest For The Trees and art production company ARTXIV, respectively, are again transforming the street-facing ground floor into a live museum of sorts, where 16 artists will paint large-scale murals. Next door, East Coast artist Nick Fagan will be installing large-scale textile pieces. There’s more: on floor 4, expect a show by Vanishing Seattle, a local group chronicling the changing face of the city. They’ll be installing “remnants of our city” including signs, artifacts and memorabilia.

Floor 5 will showcase immersive light and various video installations, co-curated by Tamar Benzikry-Stern. One floor up, local artist Christopher Derek Bruno will be setting up a temporary installation of “improvised housing,” as Bruno puts it. The upper floor will be home to a giant group show with large-scale installations, sculptures and works on canvas. Last but not least: head to the rooftop deck with gorgeous views of downtown Seattle and the Sound for more art — and the official opening-night after-party of the Seattle Art Fair. 

July 27-30: July 27, 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Seattle Art Fair after-party on the roof starts at 9 p.m.; free but reservations required at artxiv.io/fftt23); July 28-30, noon-8 p.m.; also open First Thursday, Aug. 3, 5-10 p.m. 100 S. King St., Seattle; free; artxiv.io/fftt23

“After / Before” at Court in the Square 

Pioneer Square’s Court in the Square building stands out among the neighborhood’s red brick with its six-story-tall glass atrium, a popular wedding backdrop. Now, the venue’s new owner, Joe Nix of Seattle’s Jupiter Bar, is reopening the venue as an event/restaurant/art space. To celebrate the relaunch as Europa Events at Court in the Square and the return of the Seattle Art Fair, Nix and co-curator Devin Liston are organizing a pop-up art show called “After / Before,” meant to celebrate rebirth and regeneration.

Nix and Liston have invited more than a dozen artists with Seattle roots, including digital artist Neon Saltwater, longtime local artist Robert Hardgrave and multidisciplinary artist Moses Sun. “We’re celebrating these artists … and we’re also celebrating the birth of a new space,” Nix said. Besides art, there will be a stocked bar, pop-up food vendors and performances by singers Roxanna Walitzki, Caela Bailey, Maya Marie and others, as well as DJ sets by Wax Witch and REPOMAN — though the lineup is still growing, with one goal, per Nix: “How much fun can we pack into this weekend?” 

July 27-30: July 27, 5:30-9 p.m.; July 28, 5:30-11 p.m.; July 29, 11-midnight; July 30, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 401 Second Ave. S., Seattle; free; europaseattle.com

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AIR Open Studios at Nii Modo 

Among Seattle’s art spaces and Art Fair satellite events, Nii Modo has a more DIY edge. Here, you’ll find the biggest contrast with the “white box” vibe of the fair, thanks to colorful street art covering the walls and columns of the former downtown pharmacy Nii Modo currently occupies. During the fair, Nii Modo artists-in-residence — including Amanda James Parker, Kate Bailey, Rachael Comer and Nadia Ahmed — are opening their doors to visitors, a prime chance to meet and chat with creators and see how the artistic sausage gets made. In the main gallery space, local artists like Brandon Lawton and Jazzy Phillips will be showcasing paintings, photography and more. 

July 28-30: noon-4 p.m. 1404 Third Ave., Seattle; free; niimodo.com 

“The Exploded View” at The Jack  

The ground floor of a brand-new building on Seattle’s waterfront meant to house offices will, for a brief period, transform into an art space. This is thanks to artist-curator Jane Richlovsky, who persuaded The Jack’s developers, Urban Visions, to let the roughly 7,500-square-foot space be filled with art by Northwest makers. Named after a type of drawing that shows how things like machinery are assembled, “The Exploded View” celebrates the three-dimensional application of printmaking techniques via sculpture, installation, video and augmented reality.

Because of the size of the space, Richlovsky and co-curator Dawn Endean told the artists: “Don’t be afraid to go big” — and they did: Michéle Landsaat is installing a walk-in shrine where you can make an offering, Romson Bustillo will showcase a large projected video and perform during the weekend, Mary Anne Carter is working on a jumbo jewelry box featuring screen-printed soft sculptures, and these are just a few of the large-scale installations and sculptures by a variety of local artists. While some site-specific works won’t be for sale, a small store with affordable art prints will provide take-home opportunities. 

July 27-30: July 27, 6-9 p.m.; July 28-29, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; July 30, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 316 Alaskan Way S., Seattle; free; theexplodedviewshow.com

Superfine Art Fair at Block 41

Created as a more approachable alternative to your typical art fair, the multicity Superfine Art Fair returns to Seattle for a second year with dozens of booths by local artists presenting artwork priced between $100 and $3,000. The idea: everyone can be a collector, even if you’re not ready or able to spend thousands on a piece of art — and why not have some fun while you’re at it? Among the weekend’s events are body painting, live music and podcast recording, and a night market with food vendors. 

July 27-30: July 27, 7-10 p.m. (VIP Preview); July 28, 4-8 p.m.; July 29, noon-9 p.m.; July 30, noon-6 p.m. 115 Bell St., Seattle; $12-$40, $40 VIP tier includes free access to the Seattle Art Fair’s public hours. Seattle Art Fair VIP Pass and Fair Pass holders receive complimentary admission to Superfine; superfine.world/seattle-art-fair

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This coverage is partially underwritten by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.