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After spending lots of time at home for the past 10 months, are you tired of looking at the same white walls, or the same artwork? Do you want to add some art (and color) to your apartment, but find choosing artwork intimidating?
You’ll be happier in the long run if you don’t take the easy route. You don’t have to buy the same print that everyone else has (like the overused Franz Kline-esque prints that are in almost every apartment listing)—you can go for something eye-catching and one-of-a-kind that matches your personal aesthetic. Whether you’re on a tight budget or want to start a fine art collection, there are resources that can help you buy original art.
That's because New York is an art mecca and you can find unique artwork, both online and offline, for an affordable price. Whether it’s a custom-framed print of an Andy Warhol silkscreen or an original painting by an emerging artist selling his work on Houston Street, there are options for New Yorkers in all price ranges—even in the middle of a pandemic.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this article ran in December 2019. It has been updated with new information for January 2021.]
Here are six places, including online retailers, virtual art fairs, and street vendors, where you can snag one-of-a-kind wall art for your NYC apartment.
Society6 sells original work from emerging artists as well as prints from famed artists like Rothko and Matisse. Each print is available in an array of sizes, available framed or unframed, and if you go for framing, there are several styles and colors to choose from. The pricing depends on your customization, but you can easily order a framed print for under $100.
If you’re looking to invest in fine from either NYC-based galleries or international ones, Artsy is the place for you. Fran Lebowitz might scoff at the idea of buying fine art without seeing it in person in her latest Netflix docuseries, but it is 2021, after all. Artsy sells art of all styles from artists like Damien Hirst, Jean Dubuffet, and everyone in between. Of course, this isn’t cheap art at all, but they also have live auctions, work for sale from international art fairs, and they do have smaller works and those of emerging artists if you’re looking to spend less than $1,000.
Etsy is a staple of the online independent artist world, where you can buy handmade and original everything. And when it comes to wall art, there’s just as many options. You can also custom-order original work from the artists. Think: an artsy typography map of your hometown or prints of zoo animals with your newborn’s name and birth date. When you buy original art on Etsy, you’re buying directly from the artist.
Art fairs (virtual for now)
Just like most things in New York, many art fairs have been postponed until later this year or have moved online. The Armory Show, for example, is scheduled for early September 2021, so if you’re a serious art collector and want to get a deal, you’ll have to wait a few months. But, if you can’t drop thousands on art for your apartment, there’s the Affordable Art Fair, which is hosting their second virtual fair from March 12th to April 5th, with art for sale ranging from around $70 to over $8,000. You can register for updates here.
Artist street vendors
If you walk around Manhattan, you’ll find street vendors selling many kinds of art. The best places to look are outside of museums, and along Madison and Lexington avenues on the Upper East Side, and in Soho. Now that museums have reopened, most of these vendors are back and selling their work, so you can buy art and help out an artist who probably was left without sales for months.
While some are vendors selling prints, many are working artists selling original work. Prices will vary. I once asked an artist selling mixed-media collages in Soho how much he wanted for a large work. His price was $175, proving you can get a deal for something special that you won’t come across in your friend’s apartments.
Art school shows/fundraisers
Young artists from around the world move to NYC to study at one of the city’s many art schools and a lot of students sell their art to pay for their expenses. Most art schools host open studios and fundraisers year round, where you can buy affordable art—and who knows, perhaps that student will be the next de Kooning and it’ll be worth millions one day. Of course, with Covid, some of these are now virtual, but are still available for you to check out