Help me class up the joint.
September 7, 2009 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me find affordable art that doesn't suck!

I just moved into a beautiful new apartment. My bedroom is quite big, and I want some art for my walls. My taste skews toward the modern, minimalist, and abstract (Egon Schiele and Paul Klee come to mind), but since I'm not, in fact, a millionaire, I'm looking for some cheaper (but still quality) alternatives. I've been poking around on Etsy, but I'm mostly finding amateur paintings of unicorns and, well, this.

I'm wondering: have you found any high-quality, relatively low-cost (under $150 necessary, under $70 would be incredible) online sources for art? I'd be interested in second-hand paintings or well-framed prints as well as art student castoffs.
posted by oinopaponton to Shopping (19 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
eBay is where amateur artists go. You'll also find large canvas reproductions of Scheile, Klee etc there, such as this.
posted by fire&wings at 11:38 AM on September 7, 2009

Don't know where you live but a REAL WORLD exploration of your local art scene is highly recommended ... particularly the fringes. Not only are the prices lower around the edges, the work is often far better.

And it's fun (the exploring that is).
posted by philip-random at 11:48 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll echo logic vs love's suggestions - also, I'm a huge fan of Wallblank, which posts a new piece each weekday, and tends to run in the $20-40 range (unframed, of course).
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:56 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't give up on etsy. You have to dig, but there are some things that might work for you, especially given your price range.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2009

seconding Tiny Showcase.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:28 PM on September 7, 2009

You can find some really nice art (oil paintings) on eBay, a couple of months back I bought a beautiful replica Picaso (I know what your thinking...) for only $9.99 it was the only one there that I liked, damn thing cost me $30 postage to have it sent to Australia and the frame cost me $60AUD but I love it.
posted by jakubsnm at 12:34 PM on September 7, 2009

There's an artist I like on ebay: Onelio Marrero. His website with portfolio is here; his ebay "About me" page is here.

Another artist I like, and you might too, used to sell on ebay and now has a shop in Asheville, N. Carolina: Genie Maples. Her website with portfolio is here; her former "About me" page on ebay is here. Her website says she's willing to sell paintings via email.

Another artist I like very much: Dave Easter. I bought a painting from him at a juried art festival. He used to have a website with his portfolio, and you can see his art at the archive of that website here.He now sells through an art gallery in Houston (this one, and you can see some paintings if you click his name under the Artists list). However, I'd bet he'd be willing to sell directly via email. One email address for him is on the Contact page of his archived website; another email address is here (type his name in the Search field to find his email address).

For all three, I've purchased original paintings from them directly, at prices within the range you gave (although Dave Easter's started at your upper limit).
posted by Houstonian at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always felt like Etsy was impossible to search well. I'd give the local art scene a shot, especially keep an eye out for shows of student work, which can be fantastic and cheap.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2009

The Contemporary Craft Council is a great place to start. The shows set the standard for American Crafts, (not folk art--totally different than crafts). Get familiar with the work they show. Sometimes you can find smaller pieces that fit your budget at the shows. I sometimes go to their website and check out the links to artists that are provided.

It all takes time.
posted by 6:1 at 3:21 PM on September 7, 2009

Your profile says you're in Cambridge -- have you checked out ?

MassArt does a holiday sale each year, too (

And -- disclaimer, I organize the Cleveland edition of this show -- Bazaar Bizarre Boston usually has some really great stuff every year in your price range:
posted by at 3:30 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, great suggestions! I'm definitely interested in local art fairs (I'm especially looking forward to the SMFA holiday sale in November), but there don't seem to be any particularly soon and I'm sick of empty walls-- hence the online.

Also, since there seem to be a fair amount of other MeFites interested in affordable art sold online, Little Paper Planes has been a longtime favorite of mine for smaller prints and jewelry (and the owner's been really nice and helpful every time I've bought from her).
posted by oinopaponton at 4:14 PM on September 7, 2009

Blogs. Artist blogs.

Go to a small gallery and fine a few artists you like a little bit. Google them. Lots of artists blog, and they always link to a shit-tonne (metric, not imperial) of other artists with a similar style or quality. It will quickly lead you on an exciting international adventure of fine art, visual poetry and ecstasy. Many are cheapish. I've bought quite a lot of art this way.
posted by smoke at 5:05 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite] is a good blog for links to various and sundry illustrators and cartoonists and other things. There's a pretty huge archive of artists to look through, and most posts have a link to the artist's personal website or such, where you can often buy prints.
posted by that girl at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2009

If you are at all travel or transit inclined, the London Transport Museum has as HUGE collection of historical posters (the link above is just the start--use the search engine to get into the depths of what's available). Lots of excellent graphics reflecting styles from the last 150 years or so, most available in reproduction.
posted by Sublimity at 8:09 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]
posted by VikingSword at 8:42 PM on September 7, 2009

The university in the city I grew up in had yearly print sales, also they had a gallery that showed student artists on a monthly rotation or so. The print sales were amazing, and the general shows, while inconsistent and not explicitly a sales venue, were also a great source for emerging artists. You could find something you loved, and often the artists would accept a really good price for their work. Of course, I've also lived in cities whose art communities produced work of a markedly lower calibre, so YMMV. But really, support original art - please don't waste your money on Ikea prints or cheap posters!
posted by Bergamot at 11:26 PM on September 7, 2009

Gallery Nucleus!
posted by wiretap at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2009

Did you see my earlier post? There was a lot of good stuff there, too...
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:13 AM on October 20, 2009

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