In New York, artists pin hopes on "affordable" art

Fri May 8, 2009 6:59pm EDT
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By Aarthi Sivaraman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Artists and gallery owners have their fingers crossed at New York's Affordable Art Fair this week, waiting to see how the economic downturn affects sales of their work even as demand in the high-end market crumbles.

Taking place for the eighth year, the fair aims to lure new art buyers and longtime patrons with prices ranging from $75 to $10,000. Most of the work is priced at $5,000 or under.

Despite the "affordable" tag, attracting buyers is still a daunting task when consumers are shying away from anything expensive or unnecessary in the economic slump.

About 64 galleries are participating in this year's affordable art fair, down from 70 last year. The fair opened in Manhattan on Thursday and ends on Sunday.

Jenny Hirst, an artist from Manchester, England, who exhibited her work at the namesake fair in London and was attending the New York show, said the demand for affordable art "is struggling a bit."

"They (consumers) say it is nice, but walk away instead of pulling out their checkbooks," said Hirst, referring to art buyers.

The economic downturn has ravaged the high-end art market. Sotheby's posted a 71 percent drop in auction sales in the past quarter, while some experts say demand is rare, or in the best case, sparse for expensive art.

CAREFUL BUYING   Continued...