There’s been quite a buzz going around in New York City about the arts shows and fairs this Spring that all took place within the last few months – one after another with two-three weeks in between. New Yorkers had an opportunity to visit five contemporary art shows, which was an absolute delight for both the art lovers and buyers. The over-indulgence, definitely, took place.
And while many art critics have been saying that nowadays the art shows have been becoming more about the sale of the art work rather than having been educational venues, one could disagree. The fact is that the art shows still draw a lot of people, both – who are looking to buy and those who are looking just to see what the contemporary artists are doing out there in U.S. and beyond. From my personal observation, there are quite a few art show attendees who are interested to see what mediums are used in the contemporary art and what galleries represent what artists and why.
I can’t say for the most people who attended those art shows, but I can at least state that I was the one who attended to be educated, even at the shows that were meant to be more about the buy-sell atmosphere than for the art viewing of it.
One of the last art fairs that were actually meant to be more about the buying of the art was the New York City Affordable Art Fair that took place on April 3-7, 2013 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. And last weekend PULSE NYC contemporary art show wrapped-up, which I’ll be talking about in the next few days.
The Affordable Art Fair four-day event hosted over 80 galleries, featuring a huge array of contemporary art. They describe themselves as simple, yet unique: an inspiring and friendly atmosphere in which you can find thousands of original paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs all under one roof, ranging from $100-$10,000, with more than half priced under $5,000. They featured the work of young, emerging artists alongside some of the biggest household names.
Way back in 1996, Will Ramsay opened Will’s Art Warehouse in southwest London to bridge the public’s increasing interest in contemporary art and London’s highbrow gallery scene. By concentrating on relatively unknown artists not carrying a premium for reputation, the gallery was able to offer works from about $100 up to $5,000 from a stable of over 150 artists. The response Will received from his Art Warehouse inspired him to take his approach to the next level, and three years later the Affordable Art Fair was born. By embracing other friendly galleries selling affordable art, the first fair was launched in 1999. 10,000 visitors took advantage of the ease of buying, breadth of choice, affordable prices and user-friendly approach.
Today, Will’s Art Warehouse still stands and the Affordable Art Fair has become something of a global phenomenon. The Affordable Art Fair now takes place in: Amsterdam, Bristol, Brussels, New York, Milan, London, Singapore, Hamburg, Mexico City, Rome, Seattle and Stockholm. Globally, over 1 million people have visited an Affordable Art Fair and purchased over $250 million of art.
Although I didn’t plan to bring the cash to the Affordable Art Fair in the first place – so to speak – to buy the arts, I did ‘shop’ around to see what art works I’d like to see someday on the walls of my permanent apartment once I finally have it. I did take the business cards of the galleries and artists, whose work impressed me with its uniqueness and style and the work that answered my personal taste in the arts, and I do intend to keep those contacts.
However, to my most recent observation, there are a lot of people who believe that if an art show has a name ‘affordable’, it means that this art fair is only for the collectors, buyers and resellers, but they can’t be any further from the truth.
As I’ve browsed through the Affordable Art Fair, I’ve noticed how many people came to just hang out, meet the artists, immerse in the art scene of the city and just to be entertained. I believe it’s a great indication that art is still important and it doesn’t have to be ‘on sale’ to draw the attention of the art aficionados and general public.
The arts shows are quintessential to the cultural scene of New York City as are the other art forms, like theatre, music and cinema, and it will always be the best way to see a wide variety of the art forms, directions, and styles from both local and international artists – all in once place and at once. It’s like a ‘moving’ art museum, only the art works are being upgraded each season and the new artists are being introduced.
I find the arts shows even more exciting than the museums; they have a different vibe – they seem to be more exciting and one gets to see the art work up close and personal. You can even touch it, hold in hands, and feel the canvas. It’s a very personal experience, even if you didn’t come to buy any arts.
In the last few posts I talked about The Armory Show, International ArtExpo and The SCOPE Art Show – those were of a wider scope and they presented the art works that had higher price and the audience seemed to be more sophisticated eclectic and international in a way, while the Affordable Art Fair is as the name says – is affordable.
The ads for the Affordable Art Fair said that there will be plenty of the art works priced below $100, which in NYC is an affordable price to pay for a piece of art. However, as I’ve learned, those pieces that were priced at $100 or less were just a few art pieces, which, to tell you the truth, were not very impressive. It’s not a harsh statement, it’s the fact that art is never meant to be cheap. It never was, never is and will never be cheap – unless you made the art yourself, and even then – the cost of the art materials you might have used if you were to create your own piece of art would probably cost you about $100.
Art has never been cheap – neither for the makers, nor for the buyers. I always found it ironic that there are many artists who spend a great amount of personal finance to create an art piece that might never sell or worse – to never be appreciated in the artist’s time. Would you call it fair? Not at all.
Another difference between the art shows that are taking place in New York City is that they all carry out a particular purpose.
The Affordable Art Fair is actually the event that is meant for the art buying. It’s where the art dealers and artists seem to be more aggressive. Hence, if you are not a big fan of being approached by the gallery owners as you walk by the arts and stop to admire ones, then it is not the show for you.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of being approached myself, especially if I’m not there to buy. I’m the kind of an art show goer, who wants to take time to admire the works while still maintaining a personal space. That’s said, one of the best things about the art shows is that of the interaction between the artists and the show attendees.
Much of what I know about contemporary art I learned from hanging around artists and from going to the galleries and shows. It’s a true privilege to be able to not only see the art works, but actually to see the artists who’ve made this art. It’s even more of a privilege, when an artist is trying to explain you his/her art – the concept and idea behind it, the mediums used, the mood he/she was in when making the art, etc. It does make a big difference.
For example, during The Armory Show last March, I’ve met an artist from Mexico, whose art looked like a digital version of the ocean waves. I would have easily passed the art, as it didn’t appear to me as something of a unique view of the waves, but rather as a computer-generated and modified artificial look of the waves. However, as I was almost walking away from the art piece, a young man approached me. This young man ended up to be the artist of this work. He started to explain the idea and the mediums he used to make this art and the longer I was listening to him, the more fascinated and interested I was becoming in the art piece that I almost underrated and ignored.
Another great thing about the art shows is that, unless you are talking to yourself, it’s a space, where one can express his/her thoughts of an art-work to the person standing next to him/her. In most cases the other people respond to you by expressing their thoughts of the art work you’ve just commented on. The art shows are like a free platform for the art critics to say and hear what the other people think about it.
When I attended the School of Visual Arts student portfolio showcase at the Art Director’s Club, featuring students’ graphic design and computer animation final projects, I remember I was looking at the wall that was displaying the print ads designed by the students, when I’ve heard someone next to me saying: “Well, I’ve looked at all the pieces here and not one offered me anything unique. I’ve seen it all before – in one way or another – and as much as these pieces are done professionally, executed nicely visually – none of them impressed me…” I turned around and saw a middle-aged man, who’s made these comments. Then he asks me: “What do you think? Do you like any of these?” I said: “Well, visually, all of these pieces are very well executed. I, for example, like this ad for PETA that advocates against killing fish…” Then he says: “Well, personally, I don’t get the message of this ad campaign. As a non-vegetarian, this ad won’t stop me from eating fish and meat…Thus, it’s not effective, despite the nice looking graphics.” And the discussion went on and on and would have been useless, if he didn’t say something that I definitely took away from attending this showcase.
Then he says: “You know how many graphic designers overthink and overdesign business cards, for example? They overlook the main purpose of the card…” “Which is…” – I say. “Which is – when you get a business card, a good professional would want to make the notes about this person as not to forget who, why and when he/she made this acquaintance. If you are attending a big event and you end up with more than 20 business cards at the end of the event, it’s very easy to forget who was what. But if you put a note on it for yourself to remember, it’d make your life easier…Thus, a good business card would never ever use the back space for graphics, it would be plain white, so that you could write your notes there…”
I thought about it and he was right. How many times you see a very good designed business card, but the card overwhelms the space with too much graphics and text? Often! The morale is: attending an art show might give you more education than you’d think – just from the interaction with both the other attendees and the artists themselves.
The art shows are as useful for the non-buyers as they are for the buyers/collectors, and these shows are never the same. That is why this Sunday I’m going to attend another contemporary art fair – The Pulse New York. Surprisingly enough, the Pulse NY has been also found by Will Ramsay, who found The Affordable Art Fair. Here’s someone who appreciates the contemporary art.
All in all, no matter what your intentions are for attending an art show, at the end of the day, you come out of the art show with a bit more knowledge about both the local and international art, and, perhaps, with the professional connections.
To see more photos from the Affordable Art Fair 2013, click here.