The World’s Thriftiest Art Fairs

I’d love to be a big-time art collector, but that’s never going to happen unless I win the lottery. Instead, I have to find ways to satisfy my love for art with what little I’ve got – and luckily that means I get to trot the globe, too.

Sound impossible? Let me explain. I’ve got to know which are the world’s most affordable art fairs (plus some other places where you can get great value on art), and I take advantage of cheap flights, last-minute deals and budget accommodation to keep my travel expenses low. That way I tend to fit in three or four art shopping trips a year. (The one thing worth spending a bit on is Allianz Global Assistance Annual Travel Insurance, and that’s just to prevent expensive unplanned nightmares!)


Here are my favourites – you’ll want to bookmark this if you’re a wannabe collector like me, or even if you just fancy picking up some unique wall decorations in your travels.

Global – Affordable Art Fair

Back in 1999, Will Ramsay launched his first Affordable Art Fair in London’s Battersea Park. The idea was to keep prices low and make art collecting accessible to everyone. With a concept that appealing, it’s no wonder it’s been a raving success. Since then, Affordable Art Fairs have attracted more than one million visitors, who have purchased more than £155m of art. Go down this route, and you’ll have your pick of amazingly diverse destinations and art, too, as Affordable Art Fairs are now held in Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Seattle, Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam, Brussels, Hamburg, Milan, Rome, Stockholm – and their original home of London, too.

Affordable Art Brussels'11   01

New York

Sure the Big Apple is packed with glamour-galleries with their suitably steep price tags. But it’s also a great affordable art destination. Time your visit for March, and you could bag a bargain at the hip Scope Art Fair for up-and-coming artists. Or check out one of Frere Independent’s twice-annual fairs for experimental and underground artists. (Frere and Scope, by the way, both use cool hotels as their showrooms – giving me a glimpse into the New York I can’t afford!) There are plenty of other ideas for buying some New York art on the cheap in this New York magazine guide:

New Orleans

Thanks to some pointers from a like-minded art devotee, I’ve been clued up to the opportunities for buying art direct from local artists in New Orleans – and I’m making that beautiful city the very next stop on my art itinerary. Elaine Schoch, writing for Carpe Travel, recommends looking outside the galleries of Royal Street and going direct to street artists in Jackson Square, the French Market and Bywater Art Market. 

Worldwide – Student Art Fairs

Another tactic to try is to hunt down emerging talent at their graduation exhibitions or art-school-run fairs such as the California College of the Arts Student Fair in San Francisco.