The Affordable Art Fair (AAF) is coming to Seattle for the first time Nov. 8 through 11 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. The Emerald City was selected as one of two U.S. locales, along with New York City, to showcase and sell local and international art ranging from $100 to $10,000.
The event was founded by British art collector Will Ramsay in 1999, attracting a crowd of 10,000 people during its inception in London. Ramsay wanted to challenge elitist stereotypes sometimes associated with the purchase of original art in order to allow art lovers from a wider range of incomes to engage in the art buying process.
Since then, the fair has expanded to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bristol, England; Brussels, Belgium; New York; Milan, Italy; Singapore; Hamburg, Germany; Mexico City; Rome; Seattle; Stockholm, Sweden; and Hong Kong. To date, more than 1 million people have visited an Affordable Art Fair, with purchases exceeding $250 million in original art, according to Affordableartfair.com.
Affordable gallery work
So how did Seattle make the cut? Jennifer Jacobs, director of the Affordable Art Fair Seattle, explained that Seattle was a very natural selection for such an event.
“We started programming in the U.S. in 2003, and we launched in New York, where we now do two fairs a year,” she said, “Last year, we incorporated a show in L.A., and in looking for another destination…, Seattle was a natural fit — such a culture of creativity and innovation.”
Local artist and upcoming AAF participant Milan Heger, of the Patricia Cameron Gallery, also cites Seattle’s culture as a major attraction for artists. “I think that Seattle, for sure, has people that truly love their regional artists, their own artists, very much,” he said.
Heger was chosen to represent his gallery, one of nearly 12 local businesses that were selected by an art-fair committee responsible for curating the process.
Gail Gibson, also a local gallery owner, echoed the same enthusiasm about the opportunity to participate in a globally renowned event. “The organizers came through Seattle earlier this year and approached our group about it,” she explained. “A lot of us do art fairs out of state quite often, but we weren’t sure about one in our own city. Eventually, people starting signing up, and then a lot of us followed suit.”
“The show is with exhibiting galleries rather than with individual artists,” Jacobs said. “It’s a little bit different than an art show. We have a number of Seattle- and Washington-based galleries, as well as regional, national and international. We require that each gallery brings a minimum of three artists.”
Gallery owner Patricia Cameron is thrilled at the prospect of sending her artists to the AAF.
“I think it is going to be a huge, wonderful thing for the city that they have never seen,” she said. “Some people are really nervous about going into galleries. They think they need to have millions of dollars and know a lot about art. [So] the energy at these art fairs is incredible.”
In line with the $100 to $10,000 pricing requirements, a minimum of 50 percent of works sold at the AAF must be priced below $5,000.
“The galleries priced all of the artwork,” Jacobs said. “A lot of galleries are trying to bring things on the lower end of the spectrum.”
Pricing is based on several factors, including media used and whether an artist has previously showcased his/her work in a museum or gallery.
“‘Affordable’ is a relative term,” Jacobs added. “What is affordable to one person certainly is not to another. I think what it really is, is an indicator that we are really trying to make an effort to encourage galleries to bring work that is in the affordable range according to the art market.”
Participants can expect to see artworks in a variety of media, from photography to painting to sculpture. “You will see artists making work in your own backyard to art being made in Barcelona or Tokyo…a variety of artistic standpoints,” Jacobs said.
An interactive experience
In addition to providing a relaxed, friendly atmosphere to enjoy and buy art, the Affordable Art Fair provides several interactive components for children and adults alike.
At a general admission rate of $12 for adults, visitors will have the opportunity to participate in an array of workshops, lectures and guided tours, as well as printmaking demonstrations with a variety of local artists aimed at demystifying the art-buying process.
“You will be able to follow an expert through the fair,” Jacobs explained, “pointing out different pieces of work and letting you know what questions to ask.”
For children younger than 12, admission is free, and there will be tours and activities in what is called the “Young Collectors Lounge,” put on by LittleCollectors.com.
“If people would allow themselves to buy what they love, then that is the whole point of loving art,” Heger said. “Art is energy, and when the right viewer stands in front of it, it will just jump out and overtake the senses.”