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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.