The Affordable Art Fair in Seattle—the only US location for the UK-based franchise besides New York—survived its first year, and round two is upon us. Best about last year: The artists represented by galleries in Seattle and Portland looked great, particularly compared to the pap that came from elsewhere. No matter how little bad art costs, it's not affordable.
Prices are limited to $100 to $10,000, though a $20,000 vintage photograph was found at last year's event, and most of the art was in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, which mostly excludes those with less than a rent payment to spend. Fairs survive by charging dealers for the booths, and the dealers must sell enough art—or make enough connections—to justify the rental. It's always a gamble.
This year, 49 galleries are coming to Seattle's Affordable Art Fair, compared to 45 last year. The fuller story, unfortunately, is that some of the best regional dealers will be notably absent: Platform Gallery, Prole Drift, SEASON, M.I.A, Traver, PDX Contemporary, and Fourteen30 Contemporary are not returning. The local lineup does include James Harris Gallery, Linda Hodges, ArtXchange, Blindfold, Foster/White, G. Gibson, Abmeyer + Wood, Gallery IMA, and a few others.
One dealer who isn't coming back said he felt the fair was smoothly run—a comment echoed by every dealer interviewed last year—he just didn't make any sales.
"I'd love for it to do well," he said (he asked to remain nameless). "I just can't afford to support it." This year, he hopes to showcase his artists' works at Mexico City and New York fairs instead. He's betting that even if nothing sells in those cities, the broader exposure will be worth the trips.
As Susan Grover and Richard Thurston of Grover/Thurston Gallery in Pioneer Square explained last year, why open a second space when they run a gallery every day in Seattle? If the event were a draw, maybe—and Affordable Art Fair is trying to become one by offering more than just a convention of white-walled booths. This year's handful of potentially cool side events includes a Recent Graduates Exhibition for emerging artists curated by LxWxH founder/artist Sharon Arnold; an artist talk by Whiting Tennis; a conversation with Seattle artist Jean Bradbury about her recent time in a Syrian refugee camp making art with youth; and a workshop on Art Display 101 by Artech. Founder Will Ramsay says the Fair anticipates 10,000 guests this year, with, he pitches, "something there for everyone."