The time has come. Those empty, bland walls in your home just aren’t cutting it anymore, and you’re finally ready to give them a fresh look — not with another poster, but with some real art. There’s only one problem: Money is tight.
Not to fear, there is hope. According to Alex Goldstein, owner of the Fridge, an alternative art and performance space on Capitol Hill — and an avid collector himself — “Even really high-end artists tend to sell affordable versions of their work.” Goldstein estimates that he owns several thousand pieces of art, including hundreds of paintings and a wealth of sticker art.
Just because you’re not able to shell out thousands of dollars for a piece of art doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel. There’s plenty of quality, affordable art that is just waiting to be found. (For the purpose of this guide, that means under $100.) The key is knowing where to look, how to look and what to look for, as you start up — or build up — your collection. And yes, you can even find good deals at those intimidating-looking galleries. (They really aren’t all that scary, once you realize many of them sell works within your price range.)
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There are many places to discover great art. Check out some of these suggestions for finding yourself — or someone on your shopping list — that perfect piece.
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There are a number of shops that specialize in merchandise from the local maker community. Shop Made in D.C., which has an online store and four bricks-and-mortar shops — in Dupont, Georgetown, the Wharf district and inside Apple’s Carnegie Library building — sells prints, paintings and other works that are mostly under $100. Many of these pieces are D.C.-centric — think landscape paintings and drawings of the city — though you can also nab fine art pieces that aren’t beaming with D.C. pride. (Pro tip: follow Shop Made in D.C. on Instagram, as the store does a solid job highlighting new works that are in stock and providing information about the artists behind these works.) Takoma Park’s ArtSpring is another alternative if you’re looking to start — or add to — your collection. The store, which supports Hyattsville’s nonprofit Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, is a volunteer-run operation and sells paintings, pottery, painted furniture and more work from regional artists that are within the $100 price range. Both Shop Made in D.C. and ArtSpring are run just like any other retail store: List prices are usually final, unless there is a sale.
At any given point, there’s likely to be an art event somewhere in the Washington area that caters to a highly specific type of art aficionado. Some are even geared to those of us on a budget. Alexandria’s Del Ray Artisans gallery hosts a biennial “$100 & Under” exhibition in which gallery members sell their art, as the show’s title explains, for $100 or less. The pieces include ceramics, paintings, sculptures and fabric art. As pieces get sold, the gallery replenishes the work with fresh artwork. Pyramid Atlantic Art Center does a similar event each year — called the “10x10 Invitational” — with a twist: All the works are 10 inches by 10 inches, and priced at $50. Regional and national artists from all disciplines donate their work to the show, and all proceeds are funneled back to the nonprofit. In the same vein as Del Ray’s “$100 & Under,” new pieces will be rolled out during its multiweek run.
10x10 Invitational. Through Jan. 5 (hours vary). 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville. Free.
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Image: 2019 10x10 Invitational opening reception, photograph by Stereo Vision Photography