The 18 Best Artists, Galleries, and Artworks in Metro Phoenix

The best gallery in Phoenix? Look no further.EXPAND
The best gallery in Phoenix? Look no further.
Courtesy Lisa Sette Gallery

The 2016 edition of New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now. Here's our list of the best art and artists the Valley has to offer.

Best Art Gallery: Lisa Sette Gallery

Designed by Midcentury Modern architect Al Beadle, this semi-subterranean gallery wrapped in a white scrim beautifully backlit at night, is itself a work of art. Lisa Sette, a gallerist for more than three decades, presents visual art in various media, as well as installation and performance pieces from emerging and established artists for local and international art aficionados.

The Fortoul Brothers show at 40Owls.
The Fortoul Brothers show at 40Owls.
Lynn Trimble

Best Pop-Up Gallery: 40Owls

Isaac and Gabriel Fortoul, the brothers and artists who've adopted the moniker 40Owls, are making sure one beautiful space in downtown Phoenix doesn't sit completely unused. Their pop-up gallery inside an office space along the Central Corridor has great bones — exposed ceiling rafters, red brick walls, and concrete floors. During a March exhibition titled "Fortoul Brothers Phoenix," the brothers transformed the space into an immersive art experience. Visitors walked through an installation of giant teardrop sculptures suspended from the rafters as they arrived, then explored paintings and sculptural works — including a pair of pieces connected by a winding path of moist sand.

Inside ASU's Northlight Gallery.
Inside ASU's Northlight Gallery.
Lynn Trimble

Best Student Gallery: Northlight Gallery

Weave your way through the halls of Grant Street Studios, home to Arizona State University's master of fine arts students' studios, and eventually you'll arrive at Northlight Gallery. It's one of the university's four exhibition spaces dedicated to works by its students (and sometimes its faculty), spotlighting some of the Valley's most thought-provoking works displayed in the high-ceiling setting of a salvaged brick warehouse just south of downtown.

Cindy Schnackel at {9} The Gallery.
Cindy Schnackel at {9} The Gallery.
Michelle Sasanov

Best Hope for the Phoenix Arts Scene: {9} The Gallery

Gallerist Laura Dragon's art space {9} The Gallery has been hosting exhibitions and events for years now and has hit quite the streak, collaborating with Tara Sharpe's Artelshow to host an art show and site-specific dance performance, developing relationships with Valley art favorites including Joseph "Sentrock" Perez (who's based in Chicago now, but visits the Valley frequently) and Lauren Lee, and finally giving women street artists their due with a gallery exhibition titled "Rue Femme."

Best First Friday Hangout: Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield streets

If you want to ride the supreme First Friday vibes, you need to put yourself on Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield streets. Peruse the street vendors selling everything from original paintings to silverware jewelry, pop into one of several galleries that line the street, drop by the Lost Leaf to catch an inevitably cool local act, and grab an ice cream cone from Melt or an iced toddy from Jobot.

Steele Auditorium, located near the entrance to the Heard Museum.
Steele Auditorium, located near the entrance to the Heard Museum.
Craig Smith/Heard Museum

Best Place to Learn About Native Southwestern Culture: Heard Museum

Besides obnoxious, people who say that Phoenix has no culture are actually kinda racist. No culture? Tell that to the Heard Museum, the Southwest's premier hub of Native American art and history, home to educational events, art exhibitions, and festivals. It's been open since 1929, and serves as the Valley's go-to source for those curious about both their local history and what kinds of art indigenous people across the county craft.

Detail of Jeffrey DaCosta's Decoys installation at The Pavilions at Talking Stick.EXPAND
Detail of Jeffrey DaCosta's Decoys installation at The Pavilions at Talking Stick.
Jeffrey DaCosta

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Best Temporary Public Art: Decoys by Jeffrey DaCosta

Every year, the Valley gets a fresh influx of art courtesy of a public art program called, ahem, IN FLUX. For the 2016 cycle of the program, Jeffrey DaCosta brought 18 wooden deer sculptures coated with light-sensitive paint to an empty storefront at the Pavilions at Talking Stick. When the sun sets, the animals are illuminated in green, yellow, orange, and red, highlighting how the natural world melds and merges with technology.

Mata Ruda doing brushwork on his new mural in Phoenix.EXPAND
Mata Ruda doing brushwork on his new mural in Phoenix.
Lynn Trimble

Best New Muralist in Town: Mata Ruda

It was early in March that artist Karlito "Mata Ruda" Miller Espinosa did something you don't hear about too often: He left New York to further his arts career as a muralist in Phoenix. His first street piece as a freshly minted Arizonan depicts a woman wearing a crown of pinkish roses who longingly stares with a slight furrow in her brow toward a bright white moon. It's called Mas Alla, which translates to "further" and references the struggle of immigrants searching for better lives.

The 18 Best Artists, Galleries, and Artworks in Metro Phoenix
StephXmen | Courtesy The Hive Gallery

Best Mural: Reverberate Her Lines

Sprawled across the side of the Drumbeat Indian Arts store, the Reverberate Her Lines installation is a sprawling, cosmos-inspired work by a collective of Native American graffiti artists working together to create a wide landscape that incorporates elements of the desert — elote, canyon walls, sandy vistas — and vivid character work.

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