A new event this week catering to the city’s well-heeled art collectors will give regular Philadelphia art fanciers a rare chance to rub shoulders with collectors who don’t blink at the opportunity to add a Jackson Pollock or Henri Matisse to their lofty portfolios.
The inaugural Philadelphia Fine Art Fair (PFAF), at the 23rd Street Armory Thursday through Sunday, will feature works that even on the lower end of the price scale – say, $3,000 – may seem daunting. Sales prices for individual artworks could reach into the hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars.
But general admission is just $25. And, hey, maybe you’ll find a deal.
Rick Friedman, executive director of this weekend’s armory show, is a collector whose Southampton, N.Y., home now boasts more than 300 works of art. But he still remembers the anxiety he felt the first time he shelled out for a piece — in his case, a Roy Lichtenstein print he bought at a charity event for a local museum.
“I didn’t sleep for two nights,” Friedman recalls with a laugh. “I definitely had buyer’s remorse. But I put it on the wall and felt so good looking at it every day that I caught the fever. It became a hobby and then a passion, and now it’s a business.”
Friedman hopes that fever is contagious as his event production company, ShowHamptons, brings its first contemporary art fair to Philly.
In a city that boasts several world-class art museums, galleries, and schools, and its share of antique and craft expos, Friedman saw an opening for a fair of this sort, which increasingly represents the way that art is bought and sold in today’s marketplace.
“It’s an untapped market,” Friedman says of the city. In the past, ShowHamptons has presented regional fairs in places like the Hamptons, Aspen, and Palm Springs.
Christianna Potter Hannum, a former director of major gifts at the Institute of Contemporary Arts who is now affiliated with ShowHamptons, championed Philly as an even more-fitting destination.
“Philadelphia is steeped in history and culture,” Hannum says. “We have the Liberty Bell and cobblestoned streets. We have the Barnes Foundation and the PMA. The PFAF and its focus on contemporary art gives that storied history a little sass.”
Opening on Thursday night in the 23rd Street Armory, PFAF will feature exhibitions by more than 30 galleries from around the world, representing the work of 300 established and emerging artists.
In addition, the fair will feature a number of special exhibitions, events, and educational programs, including an exhibition of pieces by brain-twisting artist M.C. Escher, a pavilion of works by Latin American masters, a discussion of the passions and pitfalls of art collecting, and a documentary on Brandywine School painter Jamie Wyeth followed by a Q&A with its director.
“One of our missions is to stimulate art collecting,” Friedman says. “We really want to inspire people who would like to put some beauty on their wall and take pride in it.”
AT THE ARMORY
Philadelphia Fine Arts Fair
April 4-7 at 23rd Street Armory, 22 S. 23rd St. Tickets: $25. Information: philfineartfair.com