Who said the art market is suffering? Yes, we’ve all read the news of how the glum US economy is hurting the art market; there have been plenty of reports from Christie’s and Sotheby’s about the latest Picasso hitting the auction block selling for $41 million rather than the expected $44 million. But, I have reported in the past that I hate seeing the art market solely measured by the multi-million dollar sales of famous work on the secondary market. This just isn’t an accurate way to measure what is really happening out there. It’s like judging an entire iceberg by measuring only the tip sticking above the surface of the water. So much more lies out of sight. I am here, however, to say that the grass roots art market is far from dead.
As first hand experience, I offer this: Laura and I spent last week in New York City where Migration exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair. All art offered at the fair was priced between $100 and $10,000 (hence the name "Affordable" and, I believe, is a better representation of the broader art market rather than what a Picasso or Van Gogh or Koons is currently selling for). It was billed as "the place for new and established collectors to discover and buy paintings, drawings, sculptures, video, photography and limited edition prints from distinguished galleries." Over 70 top-notch galleries from around the world exhibited.
From our perspective, the results of the fair were tremendous. For starters, the attendance figures were huge – from a long line of people strung down the block on Wednesday’s opening night, to a constant flow of people coming through the doors each of the following four days. But what truly stood out in my mind was the overall high level of energy at this fair. Virtually everyone was thoroughly engaged, genuinely inquisitive, thoughtful, appreciative, and most were savvy enough to look at everything, take notes, and return with a list of excellent questions about the art and artists. Neither Laura nor I ever felt any of that "art attitude" or snobbery that often floats through some of the other gallery fairs out there.
Although dubbed "affordable", the quality of art exhibited was terrific and the gallerists were all working hard to keep up with the many potential customers. To top it off, the AAF administrators and staff maintained a great enthusiasm and professionalism throughout the four and a half days. Kudos to fair director Laura Meli for her most excellent work. (I particularly like this quote from Ms. Meli and how the fair is an excellent opportunity for collectors and artists: "It's a way for those interested in the arts to get their first exposure to the art world. It's a way for experienced buyers to see galleries they've grown to love and be introduced to new and young artists. And it's a way for us to help artists get the exposure that they need to continue to make the beautiful things that we enjoy so much.")
Bottom line… We all may be grumpy about spending $4 per gallon of gas, but there is still a strong desire to buy beautiful and meaningful artwork which enriches our daily lives. The grass roots art market is alive and well.
All the hard work Laura and I put into exhibiting at AAF NYC paid off in spades. Promoting and selling the artwork of Migration’s artists is what it is all about for us. Fair attendees clearly enjoyed and appreciated the work we exhibited, and they bought (with gusto) what they loved. Sales were made to museum collectors, first-time art buyers, experienced collectors, local buyers and international buyers. We sold a significant number of pieces from each of the six artists we exhibited (even a complete sellout of Arturo Mallmann’s paintings). It was a great fair for us and our artists.
We’ll be back next year.