As a former exec from the museums world and someone who enjoys collecting, I’m often asked by friends where I shop for art. Art is a necessity in my opinion – nothing spruces up a condo, completes a room and makes you smile/think/feel quite like a piece of art.
If you’ve recently purchased a condo or you’re starting to look at condos for sale in Toronto, you’re probably stretched a little (or a lot) financially. But you can still surround yourself with good art on a budget.
Let’s clarify something first – when I say “good” art I don’t mean works by famous artists or even pieces that are recognized for their technical merit although those are desirable qualities, especially if you’re looking at art as an investment.
But I buy art on a tight budget and so I throw out any rules. What I focus on are two things and two things only: price and art that either makes me feel something or that I find aesthetically pleasing or interesting (ideally, both). It’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be popular or critically acclaimed. It just has to be “good” in your eyes.
What’s great about today’s art world is that with cheaper, print-on-demand capabilities and numerous online sources for original art, art is more affordable and accessible than ever both both for buyers and the artists themselves who have new channels for making their art available to the world.
Here are my top five sources of affordable art when my walls (and I) need a pick-me-up.
Top 5 Shops For Affordable Art For Decorating Your Toronto Condo
Eyes, 2012 by Talia Rainyk, courtesy of UGallery. Starting at $250 US.
UGallery offers a stellar selection of original art at reasonable prices and their customer service is top-notch. They even let you try out art in your home before committing with their “try before you buy” program.
UGallery is a curated, online gallery where you can search by medium, style or subject and includes everything from stunning, contemporary photography like the piece above by one of my current favs, Talia Rainyk, to sculpture, acrylic and oil paintings to mixed-media works. The photographic works are great because you can choose your print size. If you can’t afford a large-scale, gallery piece, you can still buy the work you love, just at a smaller size.
They focus on mid-level and emerging artists to keep their price points down and provide an opportunity for amateur artists and those not yet established in their careers to reach a wider audience.
I love pieces that tell a story and stir a sense of wonder. Swiss photographer Beat Hauser’s images of abandoned places could hold a library of tales within their frames, as seen below in this shot of a never finished cable train station near the border of Switzerland and Italy.
On the Top of Europe, 2010 by Beat Hauser, courtesy of UGallery. Starting from $125 US.
And it’s rare to find large oil paintings at these price points. I love Ronda Waiksnis’ paintings of the Montana sky like this beauty.
A Montana Sky, 2013
Praia Piquinia 14/08/12 14h00 by Christian Chaize, courtesy of 20×200. Starting from $60 US.
The tagline of 20×200 says it all: It’s Art For Everyone. Their philosophy is that everyone can (and should) be able to collect art and artists should in turn be able to make a livable wage. And the model’s been well-received having released more than 1,000 editions now by over 300 artists.
They have a great reputation in the industry for affordable quality and an eye for emerging talent. But they also have a number of established – or as they like to put it, “legendary” – artists on their roster.
Plus, their customer service is absolutely stellar. As they say about themselves, they’re serious about art but they’re not stuffy about it. And that’s evidenced by their friendly, approachable staff.
Their site is divided by fine art and photography. I love the bold, colourful geometric works of Jennifer Sanchez, like ny.09#19 seen in our lead image, starting at just $24 US and I’ve purchased a piece by Mike Sinclair previously.
As you can tell, I’m a sucker for photography – especially pieces that take me away to far off places – and so naturally, I have a total art crush on French photographer Christian Chaize. His panoramic beach series Praia Piquinia, example seen above, is just about the coolest thing ever. Chaize has shot the same location in Portugal since 2004, traveling from France several times a year. On his website he quotes Proust as inspiration behind the series:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust
In addition to galleries across Europe and North America, YellowKorner operates an online store for limited edition, original photography. YellowKorner is a really interesting concept. They’re all about taking works by established photographers and making them more accessible through increasing the number of prints.
From their website: “The YellowKorner concept is very simple: to introduce the greatest photographers from all over the world and to increase the number of copies of their work to make it accessible to as many collectors as possible. So, instead of offering 10 prints at 5,000 dollars, YellowKorner chooses to publish 500 at 100 dollars.”
The photographic prints are of very high quality and they all come with a certificate of authenticity. I particularly love the hard yet whimsical fashion photography by UK photographer Steve Heitt and the haunting quality of the abandoned sites photographed by French photographer Aurélien Villette.
For those on super-tight budgets, fear not – you can still find dang cool art on a dime.
Society6 is my favourite site for art under $50. They have thousands of prints by photographers, illustrators and designers from around the world that you can frame yourself, purchase together with a frame or as a ready-to-hang, canvas print.
What’s particularly awesome about Society6 artists is that there’s no pretension here – it’s all about the love of design. So you can get the same piece you love as a wall print, an iPhone case, a laptop skin – even a throw pillow. Just don’t go too matchy-matchy – there’s too much amazing art on this site to stick with just one design.
I also love the whimsy and wit these artists have. My favourites include the charming illustrations and designs of Cat Coquillette; the works pictured above are perfect for a nursery or office. In fact, I have her Stay Curious skin on my laptop.
Coquillette doesn’t shy away from use of bright colours and while she has a fine touch and clean brushwork, giving a delicate quality to much of her work, her pieces are bold statements – often literally, incorporating famous quotes such as “though she be little…” seen above, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
And I can’t resist Steve Payne’s Replaceface series. A master at Photoshop, Payne literally replaces the faces in digital copies of George Dawe’s 19th century paintings of Russian generals with modern-day celebrities (think Bill Murray and Christopher Walken) for humorous results. Hang one or more of these in your dining room and you have an instant dinner party conversation starter.
No Noise by Patrick Lajoie, 20×16 photograph on panel, courtesy of Art Interiors. $250 CDN.
Now for a local gem… Art Interiors is a lovely gallery in Forest Hill with a great online shop.
Both online and in-gallery, they have a vast selection of art along with a wide range of price points to suit most buyer’s budgets – from $25 to $6,500. What’s great is that their website has a search function by price so you don’t have to worry about falling in love with a piece that’s outside of your budget. The other great thing is that they have a strong focus on Canadian Art.
I prefer going to the physical location whenever possible. What I love about the gallery is that most of it is self-service making it really accessible and not in the least bit intimidating. I’m like a kid in a candy store here, discovering new Canadian artists and finding pieces that speak to me among the piles of beautiful things.
I bought this wire creation by Iza Mokrosz a few years back and I have my eye on some of the quirky, vintage-feel photographs on panels by Patrick Lajoie pictured here. The first piece would be a great tongue-in-cheek addition to an at-home office space; the work below is perfect for either a modern condo kitchen or an industrial loft space.
Barista by Patrick Lajoie, 30×10 photograph on panel, courtesy of Art Interiors. $250 CDN.
For those looking under the $250 mark, be sure check out their annual Festival of Smalls event that showcases smaller artworks ranging from $55 to $250 CDN.
And A Few More For Good Measure…
As well, I always believe in supporting local artists, especially young artists just starting out. Visit the OCAD U Student Gallery and keep an eye out for annual student exhibitions from Toronto colleges and universities like Ryerson with strong art programs. It’s a great way to discover local talent at affordable prices. And of course, let’s not forget the rich resource for talented, amateur artists that is Etsy.
My best art purchase ever was from an emerging talent Amanada Arcuri who, at the time, was finishing up her degree at Ryerson University. I purchased a huge 60×40 (with mat) framed photography print from her Land and Sky series, seen here hanging in the living room of my former house.
While not “cheap” – this is a gallery-sized, framed piece from a limited edition series – it was much more affordable than comparable-sized pieces from established artists.
Plus, you’re supporting emerging talent in Toronto and making a statement that art, whether it has a famous name or fancy brand attached to it or not, still means something in today’s world.
And remember – art is not limited to artworks in the traditional sense, at least in my opinion. Your décor choices can be works of art in and of themselves. Check out my previous posts on stunning kitchen backsplashes and affordable lighting to bring some bling to your Toronto condo.
Now go forth, seek affordable art and surround yourself with beauty. Because life’s too short to stare at builder’s grade painted, bare walls.