This Woman Wants To Make Art Accessible To The Masses
5:15 pm, April 3rd | by Meredith Lepore
When I think of art, I tend to take the Jack Donaghy approach. “We know what art is! It’s paintings of horses!” To me, the art world is all about sophistication, interpretation and well, money. One young woman, Cristina Salmastrelli, is trying to change that perception of the art world. She is the Director of the Affordable Art Fair, a four-day event hosting over 80 galleries and a huge array of contemporary art. The the spring edition of the New York City Affordable Art Fair starts today, April 3 and will go until April 7 at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
We were lucky enough to talk with Cristina about her very cool job, why you should consider going to an art gallery instead of dinner and a movie and why professional young women should embrace the art world.
First of all, tell us about your role as Fair Director?
As director, I need to have a pulse on everything that is going on. The venue that houses the fair, the production team that builds out the fair, the exhibitors that will fill the fair and the patrons that will visit the fair, I need to know how every cog is going to fit into the wheel that is the NYC Affordable Art Fair. It takes 9 months to plan a fair, from gallery applications transforming into participating exhibitors to marketing plans manifesting themselves into tickets sales. I need to be conscious of how my exhibitors, partners, and staff feel at all times and communicate my excitement to all of them so that it transfers to the visitors while the fair is open.
Tell us about your career in art that led you to this role?
I did my undergraduate at Colgate University in Art History and History and then I did my graduate degree at New York University for Museum Studies. I wanted to originally work in the temporary exhibition department in any NYC museum. I wanted my job to constantly change with the seasons.I wanted to learn constantly and working with temporary events would have given me that. Nothing is better than planning, in my book. That combined with my love of art seemed always to be my ideal job description.
But I ended up never working in a museum because during my second year in graduates chool, I started working at the art fair management company, Sanford L. Smith and Associates. It was a fabulous place to begin my art career. I was able to work on many types of fairs, Print Fairs, Modern Art Fairs, Old master Fairs and even Book Fairs. I could plan and learn about art all day long. My dream had come true! About two and a half years ago, I got bit by the travel bug and wanted to take my career to an international level. That is how I found my home at Ramsay Fairs and the Affordable Art Fair.
The Affordable Art Fair is a global fair that has editions across the globe, from Singapore to Hong Kong,from Milan to Stockholm and from Seattle to NYC. The first Affordable Art Fair began in London in 1999 and now, 14 years later, we have 17 fairs in 14 cities. It’s an amazing company to work for that has given me wonderful opportunities. I have fallen in love with the Affordable Art Fair, its message and mission.
I know you said you work mostly with women? Tell us about that!
Working with women is a very empowering experience. I went to all girls school in Princeton, NJ, called Stuart Country Day School, and there we really focused on empowering women to be assuccessful as they could be. Stuart gave me a lot of confidence and it was so refreshing to come to the Affordable Art Fair and see other confident woman from around the globe make up my team!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is making everything come together. I have visions that look great on paper and seem great in my mind, but making them all happen and work simultaneouslyis challenging. It’s hard, but when the final product comes together, it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I work well in a team atmosphere and I have a great team. We all share the same goal: to make Affordable Art Fair successful, current, and exciting. It’s wonderful to come to work with these women every day. Its always fun.
What is your reasoning behind making the Affordable Art Fair more of a lifestyle brand?
Our business model focuses on bringing art to the people. We do not ask people to travel across the globe to see art, but rather we bring art to their cities. Our goal is to have art become a part of people’s lifestyles, interests and social lives. We want people to mark their calendars weeks in advance for the fair and look forward to it every season, whether for them it’s a night out (instead of dinner and movie) or a special occasion.
We at Affordable Art Fair love art, and we want to get people as excited about living with contemporary art as we are.
What is your goal with the fair?
My goal for this edition is to make it more successful than the last edition. That success isn’t only marked by ticket sales or art sales, but more importantly, it’s marked by visitor satisfaction and exhibitor experience. I want exhibitors and visitors to leave the fair wanting to come back for the next edition. I then, lastly, want my team and I to walk away feeling that we accomplished our goals, worked together well, and created a product we are all proud of.
What do you say to someone who is intimidated by art?
I understand the intimidation factor that an art fair might have — hey, I still walk into some art fairs and feel nervous and intimidated! Art fairs can be overwhelming, I know. We at Affordable Art Fair pride ourselves on being a welcoming crew of staff and exhibitors. We want to melt any type of fears, nervousness or trepidation when you walk into our doors and interact with the first of our many friendly staff members. All of us love to answer questions and love sharing our knowledge about art and contemporary artists. This goes for our partners, extended staff and all of our exhibitors. Everyone that participates at any Affordable Art Fair is on the same “friendly” page.
If visitors want to prepare themselves pre-fair, we have an entire section of our website dedicated to what to expect at our fair, plus recommendations and tips on how to navigate the fair. We have a similar tips page in our fair guide, so when one arrives at the fair, they can refer to this guide when walking through the fair. And remember, all the prices are visible at all Affordable Art Fairs.
What kind of art is here? Anything that is well known under $10,000?
The most expensive pieces at our fairs are $10,000. Half of the works we bring in are under $5000 and we have many works that are $75-$150. We have a special Under $500 section at the fair, where all art is $500 or less. Its very important for us to attract visitors that have different budgets and discretionary income. If one loves art, we want him or her to be able to purchase work and start their collection, no matter what their price range is.
Affordable Art Fair showcases only contemporary art. We focus on artists that are just beginning their careers in graduate school to well-established artist like Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor. We have a wide range of artists here that are in very different stages of their career. Many people have the misunderstanding that the price cap of $10,000 means that there are not famous artists here or works that are incredible desirable, but this is a completely incorrect assumption. You can come to theAffordable Art Fair and leave with a Damien Hirst for $500!
What is important to know about art for young career woman?
It doesn’t matter how much you know about artists, gallery life, auction house processes, art fairs, anything. You need to want to learn and to be eager to learn, that is what is important. Being able to absorb knowledge, learn from that knowledge and then utilize that knowledge is far better than any book-learned information that you came into the art world with. Open your mind and it will be a beautiful process!
And now, for the most important question: What did you think of Gallery Girls?
I think it was a sad showing of an integral and important part of the art world. I was a gallery girl, but when I was interning, I worked very hard at any job that was given to me. I was able to meet very interesting people and improve my knowledge about art, contemporary arts and the art world in general. Some jobs aren’t the greatest, of course — you’re an intern! Some jobs were tedious, some were boring, but all were necessary. Interns are a vital part of the art world, truly. You learn a lot of practical knowledge in your internship years that will help mold careers. There are many girls that I that I wish Bravo documented and followed around NYC because it would have showed how much these hard working, young woman do to contribute to the art world.