Affordable Art FairBengt Nyman, flickr

Most people can’t claim to know very much about art. And that’s where they make the first mistake.

Art isn’t a set of facts, like knowing who painted the Mona Lisa or the ability to tease out the metaphors in Salvador Dali’s surrealist works. These rules especially break down when you get into contemporary art, whose meaning and context come from our modern world.

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“This is the art of your day; you’re growing up in this city, with this art,” says Cristina Salmastrelli, director of the Affordable Art Fair, going on this weekend at the Metropolitan Pavilion. “One of the most amazing things about contemporary art is you have a history along with it. We encourage everyone to relate to it and find that similar kind of experience.”


The fair also offers an international perspective, with half of the works coming from “all four corners of the globe.” Salmastrelli and her team have curated a show of 72 galleries, with half of the works priced below $5,000, vetted to ensure all of the art is contemporary, original works by living artists.

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The fair is also about bringing together the public and artists in a more relatable way. At the booths, you’ll be talking not just to gallery owners and curators, but often the artists themselves. And this year’s artist-in-residence also offers a unique opportunity to see the world as an artist does: New York City-based Shantell Martin will be filling an entire furnished room with her whimsical black ink drawings, to experience what it’s like to see the world as an artist and ask questions about her work.

“It’s kind of a collaborative process: She is influenced by all of the people around her, letting her take her creativity in certain ways,” explains Salmastrelli.

“Art fairs are overwhelming, so my best recommendation to narrow it down is to really think about what you want to add into your home, office or special place,” Salmastrelli says. Prepare by checking out the Affordable Art Fair’s guide tobuying artandstarting a collection. Once you’re at the fair, keep these five tips in mind to find the perfect piece.

Medium:Tastes can change with time, but you’ll want to consider what appeals to you now. If it’s pencils on paper right now, don’t reject that for fear of not loving it in the future. (See No. 4 on how that doesn’t have to be a problem.)

Color:“Color affects how one thinks - it is an amazing kind of way to change our mood,” Salmastrelli points out. For a piece in the bedroom, go for gray, which is subconsciously relaxing. In the living room, try bright colors, and especially yellow, to energize guests and ignite conversation.

Dimension:Measure the space you have for the artwork. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding the perfect piece, only to have it look disproportionate on the wall.

Price:You never need to extend yourself financially in your artwork. Many galleries offer payment plans, and some will even buy back pieces you bought from them once you no longer want to keep it.

Personal shopper:If you just can’t think of what would work in your space, the Affordable Art Fair has a concierge service where you can browse the show with an art pro who will make suggestions and guide you to a piece you’ll love.

While practical preparation is important, Salmastrelli advises allowing your emotions to lead your exploration of the fair. “Purchasing a piece of art is an investment in your happiness,” she explains. “We want to share with you how art can really bring an amazing, different part to your life and enhance it in many ways."

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