Affordable Art Fair makes original works accessible




Visitors observing artwork on the fair's "Under $500 Wall."

Visitors observing artwork on the “Under $500 Wall” at the Affordable Art Fair. Photo Credit: Talia Abbas.

The Affordable Art Fair returned to the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea to showcase original artwork for aspiring and established art collectors to buy. The event took place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, featuring 500 artists hailing from 17 countries.

Now in its 16th year, the bi-annual fair provides a platform for emerging artists to sell contemporary works ranging from $100 to $10,000, though more than half cost under $5,000. The fall fair averages 13,000 visitors who get the opportunity to engage with local and international galleries, some of whom represent world renowned artists like Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor. The fair typically sells 1,00o works or art.

“New York is a very eclectic city, with an even more diverse population, so it’s very important to showcase a wide range of artists from every corner of the globe,” said Cristina Samastrelli, the Affordable Art Fair’s Regional Managing Director.

Visitors are mostly from New York said Samastrelli. “We’ve realized over the years that New Yorkers like certain things more than others.” The fair typically sells 1,000 works of art that are usually, “small works, probably because the apartments are smaller,” said Samastrelli who added that abstracts and photography are also popular items because New Yorkers “like to be challenged.” 

For the last five years, the Affordable Art Fair has partnered with the Art Therapy Outreach Center, a non-profit organization that teaches art as a coping mechanism for those struggling with traumatic experiences such as veterans, at-risk youth and survivors of domestic violence.

“At first we wanted to raise awareness with visitors, then the galleries,” said Samastrelli of the art therapy connection. “And now we wanted to get the artists involved too.”

With the theme “Turning negative energy positive,” 27 artists donated tiles to be auctioned off at the ATOC’s annual gala on October 20 with bids starting at $100 per piece, said Ahn Hee Strain, an art therapist at ATOC. The fair hopes to raise $3,000 to support for art therapy programs.


In partnership with the Art Therapy Outreach Center, 26 tiles were donated by participating artists in AAF. A doodle board was also available for visitors to make small drawings. Photo Credit: Talia Abbas.

Lenny Campello, a Washington-based artist from the Alida Anderson Art Projects, contributed a tile designed with a drawing of an appropriated image of President Obama.

“I wanted to choose a subject that was accessible,” he said, “and it never ceases to amaze me how the audience will interpret it however they want.”

Samastrelli said the fair’s mission is to democratize the contemporary art world. “We try to be mindful of New Yorkers’ preferences and needs because, “At the end of the day we want our visitors, whether they know about art or not, to come here and start falling in love with art,” she said.

Despite the name of the fair, Campello said that the term “affordable” shouldn’t be associated with cheap. “What’s affordable is all relative; it’s a way to transmit art that falls within a certain budget and there’s a lot of high quality artwork at the fair,” he said. “You can get more exposure in four or five days at the fair than in any gallery show.”

“I’m just happy that I can make a career as an artist,” said Jenny Keith, a multimedia artist based in Edmonton, Canada who thinks showing at the Affordable Art Fair is just as prestigious as any other. “The name might throw some people off, but all the works here are juried,” she said. “As an artist, you know you’re showing work in a respectable place surrounded by other quality work, which is important to not feel underappreciated.” On the second day of the fair, Keith had already sold five of her paintings to both young and seasoned collectors.

While many international galleries take advantage of the exposure, Virginie Barrou Planquart, owner of her eponymous Paris gallery, said the main difference with New Yorker clientele is that they are “keener on buying.”

One such buyer was Kim Ronis, who visited the fair for a second time in 10 years with her sister. Ronis bought a $125 print because the price was “too good to pass up.”

Her sister, Amy Ronis, who is a professional quilter, said she regularly goes to museums and art fairs to get inspired. “I don’t have to come here to find something to put on my wall, but I loved the op art and there’s a part of me that wants to recreate in fabric what I can’t afford,” she said.

Rita Ataviado, a psychiatrist from Long Island, was considering a painting for her office from the French gallery Envie D’Art. “There’s this artist, Silvia Calmejane, whose work reminds me so much of Basquiat’s. But I can’t buy it impulsively so I’m sitting on it overnight,” she said. Calmejane’s paintings sell for about $4000-$7000 each.

Ataviado is an aspiring collector and attended the AAF for the first time. “I came with an open-mind.”