You’ve unpacked and settled into your new condo, and while the space is warm and cozy, the walls are looking a little bare. Since painting is usually off the table, the next best solution is to hang something with personality.
Before you head to a poster sale, though, high-quality art isn’t just for oil tycoons. If you’re on a budget and looking to spruce up your wall space, here are five easy ways to pick up affordable art for your condo without breaking the bank.
1) Check out the student galleries
There is no less figurative up-and-coming artist than the artists you’ll find at student galleries. Both the OCAD U Student Gallery and Ryerson Artspace exhibit regular and eclectic collections of student work, and yes, they are for sale. Exhibitions rotate throughout the year, and programs are available on their websites or on a drop-in visit.
If you’re into innovative, cutting-edge, new-generation work—or just like the idea of being able to follow artists from the start of their career (and say you knew them when!)—the student gallery route is a great one, and gives you the chance to pick up something original, one-of-a-kind, and fabulous without a major markup.
2) Visit an art fair or pop-up craft market
Summer and fall in Toronto are rotten with creativity. Once the weather gets nice, a veritable bouquet of art shows, craft fairs, pop-up markets, and exhibitions bloom all over Toronto, with exhibitors from around the GTHA.
The big one is The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, the most venerable of local art and craft shows, which runs every September at City Hall and brings over 350 artists a year to show their stuff at booths and demos. It’s juried, which means your haul will definitely impress anyone in your life who’s prone to being impressed by art.
But every major downtown neighbourhood will have its own art or craft pop-up, from the Beaches show in June to the Roncy Flea to regular events at CSI Annex. Check out event listings near you to see when it’s your block’s turn in the barrel and spend an afternoon browsing.
3) Hit the art show at your local fan convention
If you’d be okay with hanging landscapes as long as they’re in space, get thee to your nearest fan convention. Not that you likely needed much prompting.
While Toronto conventions like Ad Astra, Fan Expo, TCAF, and more are pretty ridiculously famous as places to get celebrity autographs, hear talks about how comics get made, and talk over the finer points of your favourite fantasy novels, they’re also home to in-convention art shows, complete with auction-style bidding and best-in-show awards at the end of the weekend.
Fantasy, science fiction, anime, or other fandom-inspired art can reach an amazingly high quality—especially work by professional cover artists and the steampunk community, which prides itself on an aesthetic—and the fact that it’s a niche interest means original pieces don’t reach the kind of price tags you’ll see for original fine arts work (except perhaps in comics, where original art can get steep). If it’s your niche, you’re in luck.
If bidding isn’t your thing, you can also pick up prints or sometimes originals in each convention’s artist’s alley or dealer’s room, where working artists man tables and sell prints and sketches, zine fair-style.
If you’ve got a little more time to use than money, your next stop should be the Toronto Timeraiser, an annual silent art auction that buys work from emerging artists at a fair price—and then sells it to you for a commitment of volunteer hours to one of the participating local non-profits.
Instead of dollars, you bid in hours to an organization you’ve picked from the attending group at their (pretty swanky) spring fundraising night, and if your bid wins, you have a full year to work the volunteer hours you’ve promised before taking your awesome piece of original art home. You win, the artist wins, and the charity you’ve helped out wins too.
Non-profits that throw their hats in the ring include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Toronto Friends of Refugees, the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, St. Christopher House, and Evergreen, so there are a whole range of causes to choose from. And once you’re done, that piece of art won’t just be a great accompaniment to your couch; it’ll be a reminder of doing some tangible good in your town.
5) Go online
Etsy has a rep as home for everything crafty—whether it’s great or not so great. But there’s also a whole section of the site devoted to painting (by medium!), photography, prints, collage, glass art, dolls, and even sculpture. Prices range widely—it’s a marketplace for individual creators rather than a curated selection—but there are one-of-a-kind works to be had here, and they’ll even ship them right to you.
Closer to home, local startup Eye Buy Art has a mission to make art affordable and accessible, and sorts its photography offerings by price point: $100, $250, and onward from there. With easy shipping options and an inclusive framing service in the works, it’s an online market run by people who understand art well.