Early May is an important time on the fine art calendar, marking both the opening of Frieze New York and marquee contemporary sales from Sotheby’s and Christies. But between billion-dollar auctions, record-breaking works by Picasso and the inevitable DiCaprio sightings, this week’s slate of art events can feel pretty intimidating to anyone who doesn’t have the resources — or the stomach — to make seven-figure acquisitions. These stories may occupy the headlines, but they belie the reality that art fairs are full of incredible, striking works that one can purchase without a collateralized loan.
To prove our point, we asked the up-and-coming art advisor Andi Potamkin to suss out some of the best works for the budget-minded. Potamkin is quickly building her reputation as an influential consultant and advisor to collectors. She’s also one-half of the team behind Kasher Potamkin, a gallery-cum-boutique-cum-salon in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. And, at only 25-years-old, Potamkin is well-versed in the notion that an art collection can begin at any age and at any price level.
With this in mind, we tapped Potamkin to venture into the massive tent at Frieze in order to suss out the best pieces for value-oriented collectors. Of course, this being a swanky contemporary art fair, we went with a pretty liberal definition of “affordable”: under $15,000. Read on as Potamkin walks us through her favorite pieces that won’t (completely) break the bank.
Frieze is the place to go if you want to see blue-chip, jaw-dropping pieces — so being tasked with finding attainably priced works was a bit overwhelming at first. But I found the challenge terribly fun and approached it with a treasure-hunting attitude.
As I walked down the aisles and through the booths, I realized that a lot of the work by emerging artists featured in the fair exuded a sort of playfulness in attitude and color consistent with the arrival of spring. Perhaps it’s just that I’m thrilled about the change in season, but I found an irresistible humor and lightness in the pieces below.
Inspired and uplifted by what I had seen, I walked out of Frieze in quite a jovial mood — though I was weighed down by at least 15 pounds of books (the ArtBook store at the South Entrance of the fair is a treasure trove for art tomes and catalogues).
1. Harmony Hammond, Rim Series #2 and Rim Series #6, from Alexander Gray Associates — $5,000 each
The artist Harmony Hammond is an openly queer woman and long-standing feminist who combines gender politics with a post-minimal concern of material. Her pieces are subtly provocative, made up of soft fabrics and hand-made papers (the feminine) pierced with metal grommets (the masculine).
2. Ken Tisa, Boyfriend, from Kate Werble Gallery — $7,000
Ken Tisa’s work is fantastical and playful. I loved the cartoonish characters and cheeky text the artist uses to refer to psychedelic ’70s-era San Francisco, where he lived and worked. Classically trained as a painter, Tisa gives his ceramics a ton of personality, but it was his framed embroideries (read on) that really made my heart sing.
3. Ken Tisa, Swelling Thighs So Friendly, from Kate Werble Gallery — $12,000
4. Patrick Jackson, Pistachio Red Rock, from Francois Ghebaly — $5,000
Patrick Jackson’s oversize mugs contain little treasures emerging from glossy resin inside. One mug, painted with little sperm-like characters, had fingers protruding from the interior. The candy red crystals in this one were my favorite. Jackson likes to play with people’s comfortability around augmented mass and quotidian objects.
5. John Beech, Photo-Painting #111, from Peter Blum Gallery — $6,000
John Beech is known for his utilitarian sculptures made with basic building materials like plywood, acrylic sheet, adhesive, screws and house paint. There is a humorous play between the usefulness of the materials and the lack of usefulness in the work of art itself. This piece, featuring a black and white photograph of a dumpster painted over with orange enamel, is reminiscent of Ed Ruscha’s artistic style.
6. Zachary Leener, untitled ceramic sculpture from TIF SIGFRIDS — $11,000
Zachary Leener’s playful ceramics draw equal inspiration from the human figure and mechanical elements. The textures vary from rough grainy clays to smooth reflective glazes. Leener has a delightful knack for composition, effortlessly transitioning from flowing lines into complex networks of shapes.
7. Fausto Molotti, Copetta ceramic bowls from CRG Gallery — $7,500 each
These bowls are super delicate and precious. Molotti employs a complicated firing and glazing process that combines skill and chance. The stunning result gives the bowls their metallic wabi-sabi element.