Ten questions for Cristina Salmastrelli, the director of the Affordable Art Fair, New York City

She reveals how much works can go up by, why they have an artist in residence, and how they keep out the fakes
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Cristina Salmastrelli, the director of the Affordable Art Fair New York City
Cristina Salmastrelli, the director of the Affordable Art Fair New York City

"I do not want art for a few,” wrote the British artist and activist William Morris, towards the end of the 19th century, “any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.” It’s a noble sentiment and one that we, as publishers, hope to live up to. Yet how well are Morris’s ideals served by international art fairs? Most are the preserve of the few. However, one, successful international fair has managed to marry fine art with pay-cheque friendly prices. Read on to discover how fair director Cristina Salmastrelli hopes to bring great art into the homes of ordinary people at the Affordable Art Fair New York City, 25-29, September. 

What does the Affordable Art Fair consider affordable? From $100 dollars to $10,000. Those are our limits. Half of the works on show are under $5,000, and all works carry price tags, so there’s no confusion. We want to cater for people just starting their collections, but also serve established collectors.

The New York Fair celebrates its 14th anniversary this year. If someone had bought wisely that first year, what might these works be worth now? Works could be worth two, three or four times what collectors paid for them even a decade ago. After all, we focus on emerging artists, the next generation of contemporary artists. Of course, not all works will have gone up in value, and we hope this isn’t the only way our people will find value in the works.

 

Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner
Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner

How do you hope buyers find value in these works? We hope someone comes here, falls in love with a work of art, and buys something that lives on with them, at home or in their office or another special place. It should be fully appreciated. Art isn’t complete until someone sees it, in my opinion.

How do you prevent unscrupulous galleries from passing off fakes at the fair? We have a very extensive vetting process. I am heavily involved with this. Ultimately, we do make sure that all works on show are original ones, by contemporary artists.

You say contemporary. So, all the artists featured are still alive? Yes, all the artists are still living. We want you to come along, fall in love with these works, and support living artists, so they can devote themselves to making great art.

 

Artist Mitch McGee
Artist Mitch McGee

And speaking of living artists, you even have one in residence at the fair don’t you? Indeed. Amazon Art, the online marketplace from Amazon.com is joining us this year. They’ve outfitted a lounge with a live artist’s studio, so you can get up-close and personal with the artist Mitch McGee. The New York gallery, Elisa Contemporary Art, represents him.

You’ve worked in art fairs for the past decade or so. How have they changed over that time? Fairs have become more of a lifestyle choice, rather than something just for the art world. Once only a small selection of the art insiders would come along to them. Today, people with an interest in art, who are not necessarily part of the art world, can include these events in their schedules.

What do you collect? What have you bought in the past? I love photography and drawing and I tend to buy a work every year. Recently, I picked A Standard Moment No. 02 by Manolo Campion, who is represented by the Luster gallery.

 

A Standard Moment No. 02 by Manolo Campion
A Standard Moment No. 02 by Manolo Campion

Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner, authors of Collecting Art for Love, Money and More are doing a talk and a signing too. What will they bring? They bring such great knowledge and expertise. Their talk will be quite informal, so new collectors should feel free to come up and ask them a question. It’s at 11am-1pm on Monday 29 September.

Phaidon has a stand at your fair too. Which of our books have you got your eye on? I really like Hans Eijkelboom’s People of the Twenty-First Century. It looks fascinating, and the people on the cover are all wearing pink, which is the Affordable Art Fair’s colour of choice too, so it makes for a good fit.

Find out more about the affordable art fair here. Buy a copy of Collecting Art for Love, Money and More here.


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Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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