By Sabina Mollot
It was nearly two decades ago when William Ramsay, founder of the Affordable Art Fair, opened a warehouse in London that he stocked full of affordable works by 150 relatively unknown artists. The warehouse as gallery wound up being such a hit that he went on to expand on the concept, to form the Affordable Art Fair where works of art are priced between $100 and $10,000 (half of it costing under $5,000).
AAF has since grown from its original London home to operate in other cities and overseas, including in New York, where its next event is set to take place from September 10-13. The fair will be run out of the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street in Chelsea, while AAF New York is headquartered out of the same West 22nd Street building in the Flatiron District as Town & Village.
This week, T&V interviewed the director of AAF’s New York operations, Cristina Salmastrelli, about the fair, its ongoing mission and the kind of art New Yorkers tend to spend money on.
According to Salmastrelli, the mission of the organization has remained the same over the years, which is 1. “to support living artists” and 2. to “create a welcoming atmosphere where people aren’t intimidated by art.”
As for what one can expect at an AAF event, along with the booths, at this week’s event in Chelsea, there will be daily art education panels and live drawing in process by artist Shantell Martin.
“It’s a very welcoming and engaging group,” said Salmastrelli. “It’s not quiet. It’s very transparent. Prices are on the walls. No question is dumb. Every question should be asked.”
In New York, the works of art that tend to sell the most are smaller pieces, due to most buyers’ limited apartment size, and the average price tag is $2,500. Photos are always popular. Oil paintings have also been a draw lately, which Salmastrelli said she’s personally happy about.
“More and more New Yorkers are buying them now,” she said. “It was kind of your grandmother’s kind of artwork, but now it’s coming back into fashion.”
While the fair has expanded over the years from London to Bristol to New York as well as Brussels, Hamburg, Singapore, Seoul and Hamburg, to name a few of the fair’s homes, Salmastrelli said it’s still London, “the mothership,” where the event is the biggest. New York has grown as well, though, and this year, the fair here will showcase over 1,000 works from 70 galleries.
Similar to other trade expos, the participating galleries rent booth space at the fair. But, noted Salmastrelli, even though they pay a fee to participate, every application is still screened to make sure the art is a good fit for AAF’s target audience.
“It is a deeply vetted process,” she said adding that artist histories, “where they are, where they’ve been” are looked at. “We want to make sure they’ll fit our New Yorkers’ tastes. We don’t want to bring a gallery that brings art that isn’t up New Yorkers’ alley.”
Admission to the fair on any day costs $18 in advance or $20 at the door, $10 for students and seniors (ID required), and children under 12 are free. There will also be a silent auction at the event to benefit ATOC (Art Therapy Outreach Center), which will go towards the organization’s classes for people who use art to deal with traumatic experiences. To purchase tickets or for more event information, visit the website.