Art fair challenges household budget crisis

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When former PE teacher Bec Statton and a friend invested $5,000 to start an art gallery in the Queensland town of Toowoomba, they didn’t know if they would ever get their money back.

“It was pretty instinctive and I guess a little crazy, but we really felt that if it didn’t work out, we wouldn’t lose more than we were prepared to lose,” she told AAP.

At the Melbourne Affordable Art Fair this weekend, their Toowoomba Gallery sold over 170 works of art with takings exceeding $300,000.

“We kind of wanted to test our skills. We thought it would be a good opportunity to test them in the real world. It’s the big city, I guess,” she said.

Not bad for a gallery that has only been around since August 2021.

Ms Statton was aware that inflation and cost of living pressures could dampen sales, but instead said there was strong demand.

Fair director Stephanie Kelly Gordine said concerns that cost of living pressures could affect the 2022 event had not been confirmed.

A total of 17,000 people visited the art fair, with sales valued at over $3 million and over 1,700 works sold.

“Art isn’t a frivolous purchase, it’s something personal and emotional. I think people are waiting for their artists to come back,” she said.

Ms Gordine said people spending more time at home wanted to enhance their space with art.

Artwork at the fair costs less than $10,000.

Artist Kerry Armstrong, who runs the Studio Gallery at four sites in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, has also reported great interest from buyers.

“We were absolutely flabbergasted, there were so many people. We didn’t expect this. We’ve had fairs before, but it was an incredible success,” she said.

Ms Armstrong said young buyers were looking to spot emerging artists, especially those with foreign profiles.

The Affordable Art Fairs began in London in 1999 and have since sold works of art worth $732 million.

Sydney Contemporary, another art fair launched this week, will feature 90 galleries selling works by more than 450 artists.

Sydney Contemporary is at Carriageworks September 8-11.

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