Shows & Exhibitions
See Inside Meow Wolf’s Fourth Psychedelic Exhibition, Opening in the Dallas Suburbs This Summer
The Santa Fe art collection turned arts and entertainment giant has enlisted 38 North Texas artists to contribute work to its fourth location.
Arts and entertainment juggernaut Meow Wolf has announced the name of its eagerly awaited fourth location, opening in the Grapevine Mills mall near Dallas on July 14. Titled the Real Unreal, the 29,000-square-foot, immersive, interactive exhibition will feature more than 70 installations with work by more than 60 artists, all building on the existing Meow Wolf mythology.
Conceived by Wisconsin sci-fi and fantasy author LaShawn Wanak, the story for the Real Unreal is about a missing boy, a chosen family, and something called the “Hapulusgarrulus Lophoaquaflori.”
To forge relationships with the local artist community, Meow Wolf hired Dallas muralist Will Heron as the artist liaison for Grapevine. The exhibition features 38 participating Texas artists, including Mariell Guzman, Riley Holloway, and video game designer XaLaVier Nelson Jr. Also included are a few Meow Wolf vets, like Emmanuelle John, Lance McGoldrick, and Nico Salazar (Future Fantasy Delight), who have now created artwork for all four locations.
One expected highlight is work by Dan Lam, who was born in Manila and grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Her neon dripping tentacles have won her close to a half-million followers on Instagram, and she’s building her largest-ever piece for Meow Wolf, a 16-by-16-foot installation in her signature rainbow hues.
All the participants faced the challenge not only of incorporating their own work into Meow Wolf’s maximalist, kaleidoscopic display, but tapping into the narrative for the space.
“It’s about finding the right artists who want to tell the stories we’re telling. We give the artists the theme, and let them interpret it their own way,” Kati Murphy, the company’s vice president of communications, told Artnet News. “It’s kind of an exquisite corpse. The stories are threaded through the art.”
Originally founded as an art collective in 2008, Meow Wolf exploded onto the scene with the 2016 opening of the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, its first permanent exhibition. Funded in part by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, the house wasn’t just a maximalist art environment brimming with Instagram-friendly photo ops—the abandoned family home concealing mysterious portals to other dimensions was the first chapter in a complex sci-fi-infused universe.
Then came the Las Vegas Omega Mart that opened in February 2021, a grocery store fueled by nefarious technology. That fall, the Denver Convergence Station, a gateway to a parallel universe where four dramatically different worlds converge, followed.
These ambitious expansions were fueled by a massive round of fundraising—$158 million, to be exact—but were not without their growing pains.
The original Santa Fe location unionized, reaching a contract agreement last spring after filing an unfair labor practice suit with the National Labor Relations Board. (The Denver location hopes it is close to finalizing its union contract, according to Murphy.) Plans for additional locations in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., fell victim to the pandemic, which also sparked a massive round of layoffs.
There was also personal tragedy, with the death of Meow Wolf cofounder Matt King in 2022. A posthumous solo show of his paintings, “Matt King: Becoming Light” is set to open at Turner Carroll Santa Fe’s Container in September, and King’s legacy still looms large as Meow Wolf prepares to open its first location without him.
But the company now appears to be on a strong growth trajectory. Ahead of the Grapevine opening, Meow Wolf will break ground on its forthcoming Houston outpost, set to open come 2024 in the Fifth Ward.
And, with each new location, the Meow Wolf mythos deepens. There are already little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the existing locations that hint at ties between the three.
“That’s something that’s going to continue to build and grow with each exhibition we open, connecting these spaces to each other,” Murphy said.
Although guests are welcome to enjoy the art on a purely visual level, the mystery of Meow Wolf has been key to its success, inspiring diehard fans to closely examine even the tiniest details for clues.
“Our Reddit is insane. They’re like investigative reporters who are dedicated to everything that we do, to the point that they look up our trademark and permit applications,” Murphy said. “It’s really wild how dedicated our fan base is, considering that we just have our physical locations without any preexisting properties or storylines.”
The longterm plan will be to bring the Meow Wolf universe into other mediums that can be experienced without making a pilgrimage to one of the locations. The first step in that journey was announced in March, with the addition of a Meow Wolf-themed golf course in the popular virtual reality game Walkabout Mini Golf.
Tickets to the Real Unreal are now on sale for $50 for general admission.
See more photos from the forthcoming exhibition below.
Meow Wolf the Real Unreal will open at 3000 Grapevine Mills Pkwy Suite 253, Grapevine, Texas, July 14, 2023.
“Matt King: Becoming Light” will be on view at Turner Carroll Santa Fe’s Container, 1226 Flagman Way, Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 8–November 5, 2023.
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