If you live in Manhattan, you’ve probably seen the many bright, pink banners flapping up Sixth Avenue announcing the Affordable Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion. The four-day event hosting 78 galleries from all over the world started on April 2nd and goes until Sunday, April 6th in Chelsea. Deemed the Affordable Art Fair for a reason, no piece under the Met Pavilion’s roof costs over $100,000, with many settling below the $5,000 mark.
With the typical stark, white walls of a gallery setting, the art itself was better reflected by those shocking, pink banners. The array of pieces from emerging and established artists formed an amazing collection for those looking to buy or those simply hoping to soak up the lively atmosphere. It felt like all of the pieces came together in Chelsea to explode, scattering glitter, bright colors, Disney references (like a metallic Batman with a vastly enlarged erection), aerial views, and splattered paint.
Some of the more standout results of this explosion included interactive pieces by Waller & Heneet from Cambridge, UK, the “Eye Series” by Myung Nam An, and photographs by Sebastian Bieniek, a Poland-born German artist. The first, made of “mixed media,” featured a number of different colored balls that felt like wool attached to a surface over which viewers were free to run their hands, creating a vibrating effect across the “canvas.” Meanwhile, An’s ceramic “Eye Series” stared from across the pavilion, a handful of abstract “eyes” adorned with spikes, points, and blobs. Representing the most unique idea, Bieniek’s art occupied my attention for some time.
His most intriguing work starred his former girlfriend, whom he photographed in rather unique makeup. Using eyeliner and lipstick along with the woman’s own two eyes, Bieniek created the illusion of two faces by using her hair to cover her actual nose and lips, drawing new ones on the left and right sides of her face. In one photograph, a well-placed gun at the center of her face created the picture of a shocking, two-faced hold-up.
Current themes of surveillance and concealed violence pervaded the fair. Whether it was a collection of explosives crocheted from glittering, gold and silver fabric or a Homer Simpson-like Jesus wearing a bulletproof vest and double-fisting guns over the Hollywood sign, such imagery was hard to escape. Artist Warren Keating beautifully captured the surveillance era with paintings from an overhead perspective. The subjects were people walking down the street, depicted in a way that made them look “digitized,” as if they were being watched on a camera hooked up to a computer.
Of course, not all of the fair’s pieces embraced boldness and pop culture. Amidst the young, suit-wearing buyers scrutinizing wild, new works, a number of more traditional pieces unassumingly took up space on the white walls. It was refreshing to see some oil paints of restaurant scenes and sidewalks between the bold colors and sometimes vulgar images that mark contemporary art. Jonelle Summerfield of Indiana, Pennsylvania stuck out as an artist who captured such traditional subject matter through her own, unique lens. Taking an “impressionistic approach to her romantic street scenes,” in the words of UGallery, an online gallery that features Summerfield’s works, the artist did a beautiful job of capturing lighting, painting from photographs she took herself.
So whether you can afford some (not actually so) affordable art or you’re a student looking to spend ten bucks on a very cool exhibition, try and make it over to the Affordable Art Fair in Chelsea before the end of the weekend. Perhaps bring your sunglasses to prepare for all the glitter.