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Affordable Art Fair draws young collectors.

NEW YORK -- Strollers. Lots and lots of strollers.

That was what first hit you (not literally) upon entering the Affordable Art Fair. The summer show, which brought to New York 70 dealers from as far away as Berlin and Thailand, celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. The defining aspect of the AAF, as always, was the fact that all works had to sell for $5,000 or less, and that might explain the strollers. Young art lovers are naturally loth to drain their savings accounts to build their collections. Hence, what better way for them to enter the fray than to stroll the Affordable Art Fair?

Of course, at that price point (especially in New York), some corners did need to be cut. The Leo Castelli Gallery did not lower the price of Jasper Johns' oils to $5,000, just to enter the show. Rather, this fair encouraged the "little guys" to gather together without fear of the domineering dealers from Madison Ave. Given this collegial atmosphere, just what did they decide to bring to show?

In general, the pieces offered fell into three categories: minor works by major artists; knock-offs of works by major artists; and major works by not-so-major artists.

By way of example, in the first category, there were multiples by Christo, prints by Art Spiegelman, and Mark Kostabi paintings. The Christos, at $4,500 each, just made it under the wire and would have been ideal for young collectors coveting "big name art."

In the second category were paintings by artists working in styles scarily close to those of Mihail Chemiakin, Alex Katz, Kenny Scharf, and others. While these, too, represented ways to bring famous-looking works into the home, there is little doubt that these artists will forever be regarded as "also rans."

It is in the third category, though, where most of the activity could be found. Collectors just love to get sneak peaks of works by artists who are on their way up. Spotting the "Picasso-inthe-making" is what always gives such a show its lottery-like thrill. Hey, in 1959, you could buy small Calder sculptures for $500; now they bring $300,000.

Trend Watch

Even with such a variety of works on offer, some trends were discernible.

For example, it seemed that many of the artists worked with found and/or inexpensive materials. (After all, that is one way to keep the final price of a work to a minimum.) Ted Larsen used pieces of metal pulled from abandoned cars to create his appealing, Mondrian-like assemblages. Hyungsub Shin painstakingly wound stretches of wire to build fractal-like trees. Elizabeth Lecourt cut and folded maps to make mock frocks that were so popular that eight of the 10 that Byard Art had brought were sold by the end of the first day. In fact, fashion, (as in clothing), also seemed to be a leitmotiv. The works of Ran Hwang were composed of buttons, pins, and thread attached to haute couture shopping bags. At $1,500 each, it might even be cheaper to buy them than anything in the real Hermes store.

Also, plastics seemed to be particularly popular. There were lacquers on aluminum by Rusty Wolfe (an appropriate name for someone working on metal), and epoxies and 3-D acrylics were also well represented in other booths.

All in all, the 7,000 visitors to the fair bought approximately 1,250 works--not a bad ratio. A representative from Winterowd Fine Art called it their "best fair to date" and one from Museum Works Galleries commented that works sold "paid for their booth four times over." For more information, visit www.aafnyc.com.

BARDEN PRISANT

ABN Contributing Editor
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Title Annotation:news: SPECIAL REPORT
Author:Prisant, Barden
Publication:Art Business News
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:610
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