gallery-going is the best deal in town. Most shows are free, and the institutions that charge admission usually offer free hours. (Check NOW's listings for details, this page.) The work on the walls can be fabulous, and if you love the art enough, you might even be able to take some home. Not -- obviously -- from museum shows, but the bottom line for commercial galleries is that they're retail operations. It's good business to welcome the public to browse (hence the free exhibitions), and to offer some pieces that are affordable. If you look, you can find excellent original art for under $100.
Here are some tips.
Guerrilla actions can work in your favour. Right now, Bucky And Fluff's Craft Factory (aka Lex Vaughn and Allyson Mitchell) has works for as little as $10 in their Rumpus Room show, at 1080 BUS (1080 Queen West, 416-537-8827) until September 16. They're also selling ultra-affordable objects as part of Paul Petro Contemporary Art's annual Christmas Spice group show, opening December 1 at Petro's new 900 Queen West location. NOW's art reviews and gallery listings will keep you on top of the scene.
Art Metropole has the best selection of artists' books around, and it's also got amazing artists' multiples. Felt postcards by Fluxus giant Joseph Beuys are $27, plywood postcards by Jenny Holzer are $6, and a limited edition (500 are in production) of DJ slipmats by conceptual artist/turntablist Christian Marclay will be $35 a pair (788 King West, 416-703-4400).
Akau framing gallery proprietor Fernanda Faria is a serious budget collector. Her space is packed with her own collection when she isn't hosting a show, and she's happy to let people know where she's shopped. Plus, she has some drawings by Ian Fraser for $100 (742 Queen West, 416-504-5999).
In the month before Christmas, non-profit artist-run centres hold fundraising shows of members' and supporters' works. The artists who donate are extremely generous, and the prices are brilliant.
Gallery 44's Festive 44 (which happens December 6 to 9, in conjunction with the 401 Richmond West building's Holiday Marketplace, where you can also catch some terrific studio sales) features works for as little as $45, and nothing over $300 (401 Richmond West, 416-979-3941). Their spring fundraiser has similar prices, April 26 and 27, 2002.
A Space's annual themed members' show/fundraiser also takes place during Holiday Marketplace. Most pieces are priced from $50 to $100, and some go even lower (401 Richmond West, 416-979-9633). Gallery TPW's Photorama 2001 opens November 28, with works from $50 to $300 (80 Spadina, 416-504-4242). The Red Head can also be counted on for a fabulous Christmas sale (96 Spadina, 416-504-5654). We've spotted stuff for $3.
Open Studio's AP (as in artist's proof) Sale is a huge event: all the cooperative print studio's walls will be plastered with original works priced from $30 to $300. The best stuff sells out at the opening (December 7). But don't wait until then -- OS's sales program operates year round, by appointment (468 King West, 416-504-8238).
Finally, don't be afraid to tell an art dealer if you see something you love but can't afford. You may be able to make payments over time, and there's always a chance that there's a smaller piece in the back room that's more in your price range.
Be warned, though: collecting art can be habit-forming .