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Guide to the Affordable Art Fair: Pieces to buy, plus shopping tips

By: Amy Greenburg

If you’re looking to decorate your walls without bursting the budget, you’re in luck; the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) is back for its second run this year (20-23 November 2014). Featuring thousands of original artworks from both new and established international artists, along with a jam-packed line-up of art-related programmes for adults and special workshops for children, the popular four-day event promises to be bigger and better than ever. Here’s our handy guide to making the most of it, including helpful tips for choosing art.


Pieces from the Affordable Art Fair – from $100 – $10,000

About the Affordable Art Fair
Created to bring art to everyone in an accessible way, the AAF was founded in London 15 years ago. It has become a popular event for both art novices and seasoned collectors alike, as it provides a platform for buying and learning about art in a laid-back, pressure-free environment.

Having debuted in Singapore in 2010, the Fair is now presented here twice a year, with an ever-growing roster of participating galleries and creative talents. There are over 100 international galleries this time around, featuring an extensive range of styles and media from photography, drawing and painting to sculpture, street art and contemporary calligraphy. Unusually, the original works of 360 emerging artists and 440 established artists will hang side by side, further underscoring the AAF’s mantra, “art for everyone”.

The best bit? The art is priced between $100 and $10,000, with 75 percent of the works priced under $7,500. For those looking to stick strictly within the three-digit price range, the Under $1,000 Wall brings together a specially curated assortment of even more wallet-friendly finds.

Tips of the Trade
Especially for the inexperienced art buyer, selecting the right piece for you can be a bit overwhelming. Fair director Camilla Hewitson shares some pointers on tackling the Fair like a pro.

What makes the Affordable Art Fair concept so different? 

The fact that the Fair provides a fantastic learning ground for first-time buyers who are interested in contemporary art; quite often, they become collectors. It’s a relaxed and easy platform to view a great variety of art under one roof – a place where you can meet gallery owners, and sometimes the artists themselves. Growing affluence in Asia, coupled with a growing interest in collecting, is seeing the Fair become a trusted resource for people with an interest in contemporary art. But it’s not just about new collectors; many experienced collectors come to test their eyes and see if they can find an up-and-coming artist whom they can track in the future.

The Fair has brought, and continues to bring, a new generation of collectors into the market here. It helps to break down barriers, proving that art isn’t only for the rich; this means that new buyers don’t feel intimidated. In doing so, it has initiated an important change to the Singapore art market, by making art accessible to everyone.

What are some important things to consider before heading to the Fair?
To take full advantage of all the Fair has to offer, check the programming schedule available on our website (affordableartfair.com) so you don’t miss anything interesting. We are offering a number of art talks on a range of topics, including how to begin an art collection and how to frame and preserve works. There are also live demos and workshops in the multi-disciplinary workshop area, where you can learn, hands-on, how to create an artwork.

Also, don’t miss our Friday night Arty-Licious party, a fun night of music, food and drinks, including a live painting performance; it will provide a great insight into the up-and-coming local artists featured at the Fair.

How do you know when you’ve found “the one”?
It’s a good idea to take time to consider an artwork that has caught your eye. When you step away from it for a while and you just cannot get it out of your head, you know you have found “the one”. However, there is also an argument that can be made for buying spontaneously – you fall in love with an artwork the minute you see it, and you have to have it; quite often, the first reaction is the correct one.

What are some common mistakes people make when choosing artwork?
* Not reserving an artwork they’re in love with, and finding when  they come back to buy it that it has already been sold! Remember to ask the gallery to hold the piece for you while you think about the purchase; they can call you if they have another buyer.

* Buying an artwork that they’re not truly in love with, or are not really connected to; emotional attachment is very important.

* Putting an ill-suited or cheap-looking frame on an artwork. The frame should do justice to the piece and should be a part of the investment, both financially and emotionally.

What advice can you offer those looking to start a collection?
The most important thing is a desire to learn and a passion for collecting what you love! If you develop a love for art collecting, there are many books that you can read and art talks you can attend, such as the ones on offer at the Fair.

Camilla’s tips for first-time art buyers
* Don’t be afraid to ask for more information about the artists and their techniques.
* Ask for a copy of the artist’s CV; it’s useful to see at what stage in their development they are – for example, if they’ve had any solo shows.
* Ask to see other examples of the artist’s work. It’s a good sign if you like their whole body of work and, although this isn’t essential, it can indicate that the artist is consistent in their output.
* Many galleries will be happy for you to pay in instalments – just ask.
* Two or three works can look as effective in a space as one large work. Ask the seller about how best to hang and light the work.
* A good frame can greatly enhance a picture; a bad one can ruin it. If it’s unframed, then ask if the gallery offers a framing service.
* If a painting you like is over your budget, ask to see other works by the same artist.
* If buying for investment, only look at original works by established artists with a track record of increases in actual sale prices and growing popularity.

Hints before you hit the fair
* Do a little pre-Fair prep by measuring the spaces you’re looking to fill
* Wear comfortable shoes for walking
* Pace yourself – don’t rush!
Visit the Affordable Art Fair from 20 to 23 November at the F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard. Head here for a full lineup and list of participating galleries.