They say New York City is a melting pot—a city more diverse than almost any other in the world. If my recent visit to the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) was any indication of the validity of that statement, I’d say it’s a fact undeniable to even the harshest skeptic.
From September 9th through September 13th, over 10,000 visitors and 72 galleries packed the halls of Chelsea’s Metropolitan Pavilion for the fall edition of the Affordable Art Fair—and they came from everywhere. Spain, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Latvia, Pakistan, France, United States… the list goes on… and on.
The mission of the Fair is simple—to create a welcoming, friendly atmosphere where visitors can find an eclectic mix of original paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs ranging in price from $100-$10,000.
“Our participating galleries bring all types of artists and art to the Fair, from emerging and famous, to photography, sculpture, and traditional oil paintings, all at varying price points,” said Cristina Salmastrelli, Director of the Affordable Art Fair NYC. “We had galleries from four continents and artists from five continents! The Fair attracts an incredibly diverse group of people from all across the world. It’s one of my favorite things about the show.”
Connecticut-based AiBo Gallery, for instance, displayed the work of self-taught Spanish painter Daniel Marin. “Marin was born in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, but is the child of Spanish immigrants, so he was raised with Spanish values,” said Glenn Aber, gallery owner. Marin started painting in Germany when he was 16 years old, but returned to Southeastern Spain with his family shortly thereafter.
“As a young man, Marin was interested in gems, fossils, and minerals. He studied Gemology at the University of Barcelona, and visited the jungles of Brazil to find minerals he could paint with,” Aber said. “His paintings reveal colors and movement in an abstract style that clearly reflect his experiences and emotions.”
The Young Talent Exhibition, which highlights an emerging artist, brought self-taught artist Boy Kong to the forefront. Kong, who was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, had several pieces on display, including a mural, sculpture, and 50 pieces of art installed as a collection of images that fit almost seamlessly together. Each of his pieces welcomed visitors to the show—the mural was positioned so that it could be seen from the street level as folks passed by, the sculpture greeted guests as they entered the building, and the 50 paintings hung on a wall just past the registration counter.
“Kong is a self-taught painter, illustrator, muralist, and collage artist—oh, and he’s only 22 years old! I met him about four years ago through an artist in Orlando, where he spends his time when he is not in New York. When I went to his home for the first time, I was blown away by the originality and beauty of his works—the works of a high schooler! Within a year, I had bought about 40 of his pieces for myself,” said Avi Gitler, director of Gitler &_____, the New York based gallery that curated this year’s Young Talent Exhibition.
“Gitler &_____ is dedicated to showcasing rising artists from around the world—and the Young Talent Exhibition allowed us to do that,” he said. “I chose Kong specifically for this show because I wanted to make an impression at the entrance of the Fair, and I think there is something epic and memorable about his work.”
Tigers are often the subject of Kong’s creations, as can be seen in the images above and below.
“Animal folklore played a big role in Kong’s upbringing, and you can see that playing out in his artwork,” Avi said. “It’s also interesting to note that the titles of his pieces have little to do with the subject matter. They’re more about what’s on the artist’s mind at the time.”
The JoAnne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach, California featured artwork by self-taught sculptor Matt Devine. Originally from Salem, Massachusetts, Devine moved to San Diego when he was 20 years old and learned how to weld and fabricate metal.
“Devine forms shapes out of sheet metal and welds them together in harmonious patterns—making the heavy metal appear as light as paper,” JoAnne Artman, Director of the gallery, told me. “The contrasts of nature and industry, light and shadow, chaos and order are all themes found in his pieces. These contrasts address his desire to contain chaos and push out the discord of an information-saturated culture.”
“I am such a fan of Devine’s energetic, sculptural works and vibrant colors, as well as his use of natural elements. I was excited to introduce his boldly executed pieces at the AAF NY,” JoAnne said.
Vibrant colors are also a defining characteristic of Idoline Duke’s floral compositions, which were on view as part of West Branch Gallery’s display.
“I have been working as an artist of one form or another all of my adult life. First as a landscape designer on the East End of Long Island, then as a curator in Vermont and only about eight years ago turning my full attention to painting,” Duke said. “Turning to painting was a response to and an attempt to get away from the stress of the business aspects of landscape design.”
Duke initially, and still does, use painting as a kind of meditation. She has always loved being in nature and in the garden, so her flower paintings seem very instinctive, even predictable.
“I try to capture the flower’s essence and personality, and am not too concerned with getting things botanically precise. I may amp up the color, distort the form, have some fun, but there is always reverence there for the powerful beauty in nature,” she said. “I believe in keeping it simple, working from the heart, focusing on beauty, and staying in the moment.” – a statement that truly encapsulates the essence of the many self-taught artists at this year’s Fair.