Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art Fairs = price/value ratio

It goes without saying that cheap is not the same thing as inexpensive. At the gaggle of art fairs last week, it seemed many booths had brought work specifically designed to appeal to customers looking for one or the other. I frequently think about price vs value so this was an opportunity to explore the realities.

To me, cheap implies low price, while inexpensive has implications of higher quality and value. Also, inexpensive can be at any price point. A $250,000 Rothko would be inexpensive, right? But Rothko's aren't cheap no matter what the price. At Volta, Alejandro Diaz’s black-marker epigrams on cardboard could be had for $99.99. At Scope, artists hawked T-shirts and other multiples priced from $5 to $250 in a separate pavilion marked “Cheap, Fast and Out of Control.” None of these did anything for me or my sense of value.

On the other hand, there was Christine Hill's faux apothecary in Ronald Feldman's booth. This booth got a lot of press, and deservedly so in my opinion. For between $20-50 you could get a private performance by Ms Hill, a remedy/drawing (signed and stamped), and various metaphorical prescriptions for whatever ailed your soul. I participated at the $20 level and I was very happy with the experience and sense of high value received. This was very personal, performative, and conceptual art that just happened to be priced at a low dollar mark. No cheapness here!

Also at the Armory Pier 94, Pierogi had multiple possibilities that wouldn't break the bank and also offered high art nutrition. But that's no surprise from this gallery. I'm always happy with what I see there and the price/value ratio they offer. I've written about them many times, so I'm sure you're tired of my preaching about them. But really, go look in Brooklyn if you doubt my word.

Pulse, too had multiple good values. A treasure trove of high price/value and very low cost was the Aids Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA) booth. This organization offers photos and works on paper by both established and younger artists who have donated the work to ACRIA for fundraising. Edition sizes go from relatively big (100) to unique works. The Marco Breuer photograms were a steal at $500, and I personally bought 2 $100 photos; one by Sara Vanderbeek, and the other by Sarah Charlesworth. Really good work by two fine young artists I have been watching for some time. The catch with philanthropic orgs like this is the quality of the art. Many organizations offer benefit prints, but not all of them offer the consistently high quality the ACRIA seems to offer. Take a look.

On another level of value, we have to look at something like the portfolio offer from Baer-Ridgway from San Francisco. I wrote about this portfolio, called "Golden Gate", when I saw it in Miami. At $15k, it's not cheap, but to get 10 absolutely first rate prints for just over $1100 each is certainly the kind of price/value ratio I want. If I had the 15k, this portfolio would have been in my collection 3 months ago.

Also high on my list were the Nina Katchadourian map collages from Catherine Clark Gallery. There were a number of really fine pieces in the $3000-4000 range. Not expensive for one of a kind collages from a well-known and much respected artist.

So that gives you a kind of range. From $100 to $15,000, there are still good pieces to be found that are both low price and high content. If your acquisition itch needs to be scratched and you don't have as much scratch as you used to, there's still a few exciting works out there to ease the craving. Happy hunting!


  1. I can completely second your account of the Christine Hill Apothecary at Armory Show. I went there on Sunday and I was treated to perfect, swift and individual service by Christine and her "staff". Christine even dropped in some German words to explain the procedure. It was great.

    I posted some pictures of the "piece"I bought over here: http://tinyurl.com/c9oqcv

  2. ack, the apothecary sounds incredibly pretentious.

  3. A fearless comment from someone who didn't see it and posts anonymously. I think comments to the blog are more useful and generate more feedback if they're positive or have a criticism with substance and personal experience. For example, if you had said that you had seen the piece, knew the artist, or were familiar with this kind of performance I would be much more interested in your thoughts. A random potshot doesn't do much for anyone. It sounds.....well...pretentious?