The Good, the Bad and the Cheap Art: Tampon Chandeliers and Sequined Dogs at the Affordable Art Fair

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Could that be a giant chandelier made out of tampons? Yes, yes it is.  The only information about this sculpture by Vadis Turner is a handwritten card on top of a dresser, amid various items like painted dildos, lavish fake nails and a brush and comb set.  It reads “My Beautiful Education,” and has no price attached to the vanity, chandelier or the framed crotchless white lingerie hanging on the wall.

In a completely different fashion, the booth across from Turner’s were a series of Alice in Wonderland-themed illustrations by Maggie Taylor for $1,350 and hosted by the Modern Book Gallery (California).  All around me were cubicles brimming with art, as well they should be for the seventh annual [Affordable Art Fair] running through June 15.

Let it be known if you happen to be a starving graduate student, no art is affordable unless it’s free—or $20 from a vendor in Union Square.  Looking at art, however is, or at least cheap (day passes range $12 for students, $17 for general admission).  Yet in many people’s heads, art between the prices of $100 and $10,000 is a reasonable sum and this year’s show, with over 70 galleries from across the world, is just the ticket.  And for those people like myself who can only drool on the lavish paintings, it’s worth going to, if only for the good, the bad, and the cheap art.

The most unusual background story came from the ChinaSquare Gallery (NYC/China).  Director Carrie Clyne explained that Sheng Qu’s image of a large, pinky-less hand holding a tiny military photo was actually the artist’s own hand and he had cut off his finger in protest of Tiananmen Square Massacre.  He did a whole series of photographs that were being sold for $6,500.  Clyne didn’t know where his pinky ended up.

At the Sous les Etoiles Gallery, I was drawn to J.M. Berts’ large, beautiful photograph of The Porto Rico Importing Co., my favorite place to buy coffee in the West Village, which ran $7,000.  Not far off at the Migration A. Gallery (Virginia) a $3,300 Gustav Klimt inspired painting by Randall Stoltzfus called “Coriolis” resembled bare trees in the falling snow with splashes of gold.

One of my favorite pieces was the colorful pop print by Dan Baldwin at Gallery One (U.K.).  “The World’s Gone Mental” proved to be one of the cheaper art pieces, $695, and featured a giant yellow cat head on top of a cartoonish body, its hands in the air to ward off the yellow T-Rex coming from the side of the canvas.  Director Marian Orchard-Webb toted him as the next best thing showing work along big names like Damien Hirst. 

Now the problem with a large art show like this tends to be the amount there to see, which can cause your brain to start melting all the colors, images and impressions together.  Halfway through the show I started to loose gumption and became increasingly picky about what I would allow to pull me in. 

The next thing to spark my interest was a plate of crocheted fish and chips at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery (UK).  Seriously, they were awesome and only $1,300.  The artist Kate Jenkins also offered “The Fry Up,” a classic English breakfast to go with “Fish and Chips on Newspaper.”  At the same gallery was Donya Coward’s “Black French Bulldog,” a beautifully framed dog head made out of lace, buttons, cloth and sequins for $4,500.  She also does cats and personal orders can be worked out.

Honestly the art at this fair is pretty good and definitely fun: The New Grounds Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico featured Japanese artist Shinji Ando’s plant etchings including, “After the Wind” for $650 framed, a great deal for both the size and the quality.  Other art in the show costing less then $1,000 were the tiny Moby-esq heads in bondage and placed on a wooden pedestal by Edmund Law titled, “Open” and “Out, Out Out,” for $700 and the delicate still-life scanned flower image, “Dogwood” by Joanne Koltnow for $400. 
The fair proved that you could get good art cheap and definitely you could get a nice piece for a couple thousand dollars.  But the best thing about a show like this isn’t so much the buying, it’s seeing all the artists that you wouldn’t see by taking a trip to the MOMA or the Met and being able to ask people about the artists and the inspiration behind their work.

The Affordable Art Fair at The Altman Building and The Metropolitan Pavilion, 135 W. 18 St. (betw. 6th & 7th Aves.) June 12-15 from noon – 9 on Thurs., noon – 8 Fri. and Sat., noon – 5 Sun.  For a list of galleries go to

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