“It’s a clever way to start — you don’t see that often,” he said.
“Everybody talks about emerging artists but that’s a bit of a minefield in terms of knowing what the future holds,” Shapiro says. “I’ve always been a big believer that you buy what you like, not because you think you’re going to triple your money. That’s the icing on the cake if it happens.”
Glenn Manson, manager of Fitzroy’s Alcaston Gallery, says many emerging artists go on to be highly collectable, and part of the joy for new collectors can be following an artist’s career. He says prints are a great option for first-time buyers, which Alcaston Gallery has for as little as $300.
High-profile artists’ smaller works can sit in a lower price range. Renowned Tiwi artist Pedro Wonaemirri’s original works, for example, sell for between $10,000 and $30,000, yet one of his limited edition prints is $1000.
A print by the late acclaimed Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, whose work has featured in retrospectives at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, comes in at $3500.
Art fairs offer a huge array of work catering to many budgets. Melbourne Art Fair holds a virtual show in the first week of June, with work from more than 40 galleries originally intended for this year’s physical fair, as well as webinars and interviews with artists such as Christian Thompson.
“The participating galleries have been encouraged to display prices to remove the barrier for engagement,” art fair director Maree Di Pasquale says. “We don’t want the audience to assume that something may be inaccessible.”
For those on particularly straitened budgets, there are other options. Luke Scholes, curator of Aboriginal art at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, recommends Darwin’s Salon Art Projects and Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists studio and Tangentyere Artists in Alice Springs.
Elisabeth Cummings is a graduate of Sydney’s National Art School, an institution the likes of which are gold for anyone keen on work by emerging artists. NAS hosts two shows a year, one for undergraduates (which last year included 135 works) and another for those in the Masters program.
Exhibitions by students at the Victorian College of the Arts, similarly, and all universities with fine arts departments, provide an insight into the next generation of artists, with works for sale at very accessible prices.
Print workshops such as the not-for-profit Australian Print Workshop in Fitzroy consistently produce excellent work and cater to those with minimal budgets.
George Matoulas, one of the dozens of artists whose work is available online through the Print Workshop, recommends Art Project Australia, which supports artists with a disability. More than 150 emerging, mid-career and established artists work with the organisation, and works, sold online, span a range of mediums.
Small galleries, public and private, across Sydney and Melbourne, showcase work by artists starting out. Artist-run spaces are important vehicles for buyers and makers alike. If photography appeals, look for shows by early- and mid-career photographers at venues such as the Centre for Contemporary Photography and the Australian Centre for Photography.
After months at home in virtual isolation, Shapiro says there is a strong appetite from buyers. “Everyone is at home — they know they can’t go out for dinner or go travelling in Europe. They’re looking for what can make them feel good.”
Check out Melbourne Art Fair’s virtual viewing rooms at melbourneartfair.com.au/viewing-rooms
Kerrie is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald