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Friday, November 9, 2012

What's to Like About the Affordable Art Fair

Posted by on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 9:26 AM

  • All photos The Stranger
The first-ever Seattle Affordable Art Fairhappening at Seattle Center every day through Sunday—opened last night, and you know what I like best about it?

It makes Northwest galleries and artists look good.

The galleries and artists from California and Tokyo and London? There is some truly bad art up in there. These are not the leading galleries from these places, to say the least. Their art was described variously to me as "the art in hotel lobbies that directs you to the bathroom" and "Home Depot art" and "tricky, slicky, dicky."

There is one strikingly bad idea to go with the bad art, too—immediately upon walking in, the banner booth that welcomes you carries dumb, bright prints by big-name artists Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, and Anish Kapoor. (There are no other big names anywhere else in the fair, so as an intro, it's misleading.) It's hard to imagine wanting to lay down thousands of dollars for any of these unless all you want to do is own a Hirst, a Quinn, or a Kapoor for status and money reasons (since their paintings and sculptures sell for millions and people who'd pay millions must know things, right?)—but isn't this the "affordable" art fair? Where your money is valuable to you and we respect that and really you shouldn't be swindled because we respect your hard-earned money?

Then again, if you're dumb enough to buy boring art for the expensive name, may you spend your days licking your tasteless wall candy.

Akio Takamoris sexy two-sided ceramic vessel at James Harris Gallery.
  • Akio Takamori's sexy two-sided ceramic vessel at James Harris Gallery.
Where you'll find the good stuff is in the galleries from Seattle and Portland. While that's kind of limited, it's also a good reminder that quality does not equal from-somewhere-else. And it's nice to visit the galleries all at once in a clean, well-lighted place.

The rule of the Affordable Art Fair (more background in this week's paper) is that more than half the art has to be priced between $100 and $5,000, and all of it has to cost below $10,000. This rule was not being followed by at least one gallery from San Francisco, Modernbrook, where a vintage 1954 print by Fan Ho was $20,000. The man running the booth had no explanation for why it was there. He was a nice man. It was a gorgeous print. But, well, unfair advantage.

At least some sales were already happening Thursday night during the preview. Galleries generally just hope to break even, dealers said.

Every dealer I talked to said the fair is organized and well-run, and makes it easy for them. There's even onsite storage space where dealers can stash additional works in case buyers are curious to see more by a particular artist. As fairs go, it's a handsome and good fair, is what I'm seeing.

"To me it's a gift to have an art fair here," said Patricia Cameron, whose gallery is on Dexter.

Cora Edmonds of Artxchange was excitedly running down an aisle to find wrapping for an encaustic painting she'd just sold. The fair also wraps art for free, making carrying it out easy.

Gail Gibson has taken her artists to fairs all over creation, but this one's advantage is simple. "I get to sleep in my bed!" she said.

More pictures of local art and local humans at last night's Affordable Art Fair preview at Seattle Center Exhibition Hall on the jump.


At Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland).
  • At Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland).

At M.I.A. Gallery (Seattle).
  • At M.I.A. Gallery (Seattle).

Expensive and dumb.
  • Expensive and dumb.

Expensive and dumb, part two.
  • Expensive and dumb, part two.

Glenn Rudolph, Pie Eating Contest, Maple Valley, 1988.
  • Glenn Rudolph, Pie Eating Contest, Maple Valley, 1988.

James Harris (art by Claire Cowie).
  • James Harris (art by Claire Cowie).

Reppin Seattle. Dirk Park at Prole Drift, with Anna Fidlers portrait of Heart.
  • Reppin Seattle. Dirk Park at Prole Drift, with Anna Fidler's portrait of Heart.

Saya Moriyasu at Platform.
  • Saya Moriyasu at Platform.

Evidence of things sold, at Blindfold.
  • Evidence of things sold, at Blindfold.


Comments (16) RSS

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Bob Anderton 1
I plan to go to this, but I'm not sure that this is "affordable art" just because "all of it has to cost below $10,000".

For those in the 99%, "affordable art" might be more along the lines of South Park Art's annual Art Under $100.…

By the way, this is not a competition, Art Under $100 is on December 1. So if you can afford "affordable" art, you can do both!
Posted by Bob Anderton on November 9, 2012 at 10:36 AM · Report this
I like to put my "affordable" art in the back of my "affordable" BMW 1-series.
Posted by tiktok on November 9, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this
Cienna Madrid 3
I loved walking through the space but I little disappointed that I didn't see anything priced for $100. It seemed like $500 was the new $100. There were some gorgeous pieces, but why advertise $100 to $10,000 if there aren't any $100 pieces--or if you're shoving them all in a dark corner somewhere, by the bathrooms?
Posted by Cienna Madrid on November 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM · Report this
sharonArnold 4
I totally support the idea of this fair - as I said, if this is a doorway/gateway for people to have access to art then I'm all for it. And Patricia Cameron is right - it's awesome to have an art fair in Seattle. Maybe next year I'll say yes if I can afford the booth. But a friend - I can't take credit for this - offered up an excellent, and better name for a fair that wants to make the price of art more approachable: Art Fair 101

I think that if people want to support and nurture fledgling art collections beyond the fair, there are quite a few homegrown options (yeah, I'm promoting, blahblah) including SEA-CAT, ArtsYo, ARTACHE market at Vermillion, and South Park Under $100 as mentioned above which is awesome.

So uh, hmm, maybe *we* should all start a homegrown arts fair .....
Posted by sharonArnold on November 9, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Make sure to check out all the Artist Trust grant recipients' work at the Affordable Art Fair! And come tonight for the party to benefit Artist Trust! 100% of ticket proceeds go to AT -- so we can keep supporting the fantastic artists of Washington State.
Posted by lila on November 9, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
Seattle Arts Fair 101: Everything costs between $100 and, what, $1500? $2000? I'd love to see more large, complex art but not too much that could be used as the down payment on a car.

And offer payment plans from the word jump! No, you can't walk out with the piece to hang on your wall, but if you can pay [xx]% of it and agree to pay the rest on a monthly basis, you'll have it later. It's not the greatest approach, I grant, but if I could have made that deal last night (as I've done before), I would have bought at least one piece, and I'm not exactly rolling in the spare cash.
Posted by Chris B on November 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
It is an idea who's time has finally come, and maybe 5 years late...
I agree with you Jenn, the Seattle/Portland artists looked good in that co., but I wonder if the notion of affordability will affect the sustainability of the fairs return. Too cheeep (...and already know, and if not known pretty bad art) for the swells and too pricey (...and already known, and if not know pretty bad) or the regular folk.
Posted by franc on November 9, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Schmapdi 8
I really like the idea of this - but to me an "affordable" art fair would be all the art being under $200, with more than half under $100.

I go to my local art fair every year, and it's really kind of insulting when the "affordable" art is a postage stamp sized print of something for $25-$30.

I did pick up a nice, small-but-decent-sized robot picture for $30 though ...
Posted by Schmapdi on November 9, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Compared to the NYC AAAF which I attended in the spring of 2011, this was priced way lower, which was great. Even the galleries from outside the PNW were deliberately priced lower for Seattle's market. I always find the definition of "contemporary" interesting. I also saw a women break a sculpture from a Spanish dealer like it was NBD.
Posted by KBB on November 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 10
You know who has affordable art in the range of $30 to $250? Schack Art Center in Everett. And they do layaway. Please go check it out.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on November 9, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Affordable Art? Based on what?

Like Sharon, I totally support the "idea" of this fair. However, I think the fair did a better job at promoting/comparing various galleries and artists around Seattle and beyond than to promote the affordability of art. Not to say that the art featured was not worth it's price tag but that maybe it wasn't the right art for the concept of that fair.
Was the artwork affordable? Well I suppose that's a personal question.

Here's one idea: Maybe next year instead of gallery booths the fair could be quartered by pricing, e.g., In the blue square we have artwork under $500. In the red square we have artwork under $1000... and so on. Del Webber had a great idea, how about activating the perimeters with truly local art under $250?

Nonetheless, the venue was fresh, easy to navigate and the excitement of another Seattle Art Fair emerging with mostly great art emanated.

This Saturday Georgetown (and Ballard) will be having their monthly affordable art fair, well actually it's an art walk... but believe me, it's super affordable.
Posted by AmandaMichele on November 9, 2012 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Oh, and thanks for the photo op Jen. I didn't realize I looked so amish last night!
... that was actually one of my favorite booths though. The gallery guy/instructor was really enthusiastic and informative.... But I felt bad for the girl who had to keep fishing garbage out of her, achem, found object art.
Posted by AmandaMichele on November 9, 2012 at 1:22 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 13
Actually, how about an Approachable Art Fair? Just anything to not make it sound like a bargain basement. Otherwise I really do want to start seeing "Affordable Science Fair" and "Affordable Technology Fair" and "Affordable Architecture Fair" or whatever. Blah. Blargh. Boring.

YAY A FAIR. let's have one.
Posted by sharonArnold on November 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Affordable art needs to be affordable for the artist as well. An artist would only get $50 if the piece sold for $100. Sometimes paying more is worth it.
Posted by artistsneedtomake$$too on November 10, 2012 at 8:51 AM · Report this
One thing being overlooked in many of these comments, is that on any day of the year, all across Seattle, even in the white box galleries, there are artworks priced from $100 - $1,000. I would bet that EVERY art dealer in Seattle has art below $1,000 and even below $500. Most of that will be by Seattle artists who live from the proceeds. We all have affordable art for those who want to seek it out and support it. And Seattle's art dealers are here every day to help you with advice, information, and time payments.

The AAF does look very attractive in its presentation. The Seattle dealers and artists do look very good by comparison and in context with the rest of the fair. Go, see, investigate, compare, and support these dealers.
Posted by Greg Kucera on November 10, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
One thing I think we should all keep in mind is that the artists put a lot of time, effort, education, practice, skills, research and money into a piece of art that they create. To support the arts is to support the artists, they need to eat and pay bills just like the rest of us.
Posted by AnaM on November 27, 2012 at 5:07 PM · Report this

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