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Ao5 is Turning 25

The area’s largest contemporary art gallery is celebrating a quarter century of curating art for Austin

Ao5 is an 85,000 square foot contemporary art gallery in the Arboretum. It opened on 5th Street in 1998 and moved to its current home in 2022. Todd Gresley has worked at least adjacently with the gallery since the beginning and full-time as the Gallery Director since 2013.  We stopped in for a chat with him about artists present in the gallery and those coming up, his secret sauce for sourcing art and what sets Ao5 apart from other galleries.

Where is the name Ao5 from? We were originally on 5th, but I wanted to change the name in case we wanted to open more locations.

Are there plans to expand?  I’d love to expand the empire and do Ao5 Houston, and New Orleans…but right now we're focused on making this the destination gallery of Austin. It’s the largest contemporary gallery in Austin and I want people to know it’s worth the drive. We have artists from Israel, Australia, all over the world.

How do you source the art? If I tell you that it's like the KFC secret recipe.
I'm really particular about how I source the art. One secret is I don’t like to go to Art Basel or big shows where it’s more of a fashion show than about the art. I go to Des Moines, Iowa, an art festival in Indianapolis and I find the artists that are undiscovered that deserve to be on a platform. Half the artists in here have never been in a gallery before and a lot of them we’re the only gallery they’re in…I’m friends with every artist in this gallery, unless they’re dead. And I don’t have any artists that are jerks. It’s important because I believe the artists personality and their goodness go into their art and that energy goes into my collector’s homes.

What percentage of artists are local? One-fourth of the artists are from Austin or Houston.

You have a range of art in the gallery, what’s the average price point? I would say average is $2400. I have $800 pieces and $6800 pieces, but the range is $25 to about $50,000.

What percentage of the business is framing?
About one-third of our business is framing. We have over 3000 moldings to choose from.

How long have you been selling Dr. Seuss pieces? Since 1998. It was done by his wife, pieces that he hadn’t released before his death because he didn’t want to be criticized, that’s why it’s called “The Secret Life of Dr. Seuss.” We have the largest collection and it’s always rotating.

What artists do you have coming up that you’re excited about?  Molly Magwire. She was the official artist for American Horror Story, Season Four: Freak Show. We’re bringing in Austin folklore - the salamander of Barton Springs, the ghost boy of 360 bridge… She's a big deal.
And Craig Tracy, he's an artist who’s been going blind his whole life. He paints on bodies because he only has two-dimensional sight. He can have three women lined up, their backsides exposed, and he’ll paint a tiger’s face and you can’t tell until you see the video and it moves they’re actually people. So, you can't take the art that he paints home, but we do limited editions of his work with a professional photographer. When you see it, it will blow your mind. Another one in the gallery right now I’m super excited about is Salt Studio, Natalie and Kellie North from Utah. They’d never been in a gallery before and we’re selling two pieces each month and they're big, bold and beautiful. They’re a play on mythology verse Americana and stunning. And I’m always excited about our Salvador Dali collection. I tapped into a collector who’s been collecting since the 60s and has them piled to the moon.

What sets Ao5 apart from other galleries?
Twenty-five years of my learning in this industry is put into this room, we don’t have salespeople who follow you around and the music is always loud so you don’t have to whisper. We’re also open seven days a week, which most galleries don’t do, and we have incredible parties.

Tell me about those. Galleries have openings all the time, but we party. I don’t mean like crazy woohoo, but we don’t have a party to close a sale or make people buy art, it’s a party. The parties are to elevate the artists, create excitement around a new artist or honor an artist that’s been with us for a long time. We’re also doing live music every other month to correlate with the art, Live at Ao5. We want things to be fun, art collecting should be fun.

Find more at ao5gallery.com and you can check out the Ao5 playlist on Spotify.

I don’t have any artists that are jerks. It’s important because I believe the artists personality and goodness go into their art and that energy goes into collector’s homes.

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