Those of you who know me know that I thrive on the joys of the hunt.
In the winter, pickings are slim for bargain hunters, but there are still some places you can go to satisfy your craving for “a find.”
This is my latest find. It’s acrylic, on board, about 9-1/2 inches square, with a slightly battered but perfectly presentable frame. It cost $2. It’s sitting handsomely on my bookcase, and we’re staring back at each other as I sit across the room.
This is not my first super bargain art find, but it’s rare to find something this good so cheap. I hate to admit this, but even though I really love this work, I probably would have walked away if it were $10, and possibly regretted it later. It’s an ongoing effort to seize on a real bargain and not to walk away when I find one.
I never used to look for art in thrift stores or tag sales, but a number of years ago, when I was helping my brother dress up his place, I suddenly started developing a keener eye. Although I have been bargain hunting for a few years now, I find myself just relying on pure instinct. Art is very personal. The conventional advice is that if it speaks to you, go for it. And I agree.
This advice is about the only comfort I have, especially when competing with other people who are actually experts at identifying a good piece of art, but do so with the motive of resale.
Once, years ago, a friend who is knowledgeable in art saw some of my framed mass-produced art posters of renowned artists on my wall. He hesitated before urging me to aim higher. He told me that sometimes, it’s OK not to have art on the wall at all. He was gently gearing me toward original art. When I think back, that was an epiphany. I agreed with his advice, and I started going to art galleries more, and started to think of myself as a consumer of original art and quality prints — albeit within a limited budget.
Through the years purchases have been made here and there, starting off from a street artist in San Francisco, Paris flea markets, an art cafe in Merida, an icon vendor in Athens, a NYC fundraiser, Provincetown galleries and many others in Fairfield County, and tag sales – especially in Black Rock, the area’s best place for tag sales (Fairfield takes second place).
In Black Rock I once picked up a beautiful piece done in muted color tones, and not believing my good fortune I uttered, “are you really selling this?” and came the response “you know I wasn’t sure” and the piece returned inside the home never to be seen again. Lesson learned.
From summer art festivals in Fairfield and New Haven counties, to our areas thrift stores, to our regions’s answer to the Paris flea market, the Elephant’s Trunk, I thrive on the joy of the hunt. But my purchases are treasured forever. I derive great satisfaction from purchases made from favorite galleries I support such as Gallery 305K, City Lights Gallery, Nylen Gallery, and the former Ulla Surland Gallery, which I miss.
I also tend to have good luck at silent auctions, which are typical fundraising vehicles for various causes. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition, but somehow, I’ve landed some good finds, and knew that my money was going to something meaningful.
Original art is everywhere and quite affordable at any budget. Still, there really isn’t anything wrong with a poster in the meantime.
Paul Arroyo is an avid art collector who grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s East Side. Paul is one of six children of parents who arrived here from Puerto Rico, by way of New York City, in the 1950s. He has worked in the area of criminal justice and mental health, but more recently he was co-owner, with founder Eileen Walsh, of the Gallery at Black Rock in 2009. He lives in Black Rock, Connecticut and continues to be engaged in the local art community.