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NEW YORK — Artist Kate McCavitt once traveled a route typical of local San Diego artists. She joined membership organizations, put her paintings up in coffee shops and libraries, and schlepped her work from one art fair to another.
The Oceanside artist had heard about annual ArtExpo New York, an international trade show for artists and galleries, but was frightened by the cost. (This year the price to rent the smallest booth, measuring 5-feet-by-10-feet, was $3,300.)
One day, she added up what she spent in one year on her membership galleries, shows and art fairs across the west and realized it was the same as she would pay to show her paintings at the New York trade show.
“It was a no-brainer to do ArtExpo,” she said.
Last weekend, McCavitt displayed her work for the fourth time in five years at an ArtExpo. More than a dozen of her colorful, contemporary paintings with an Asian aesthetic were hung in a 5-foot-by-20-foot booth at the ArtExpo on Pier 94 in Manhattan.
She was within a convention center that was a frenetic maze of about 400 artists, galleries and publishers from 30 countries. The aisles between the booths were full of people. Artists, gallery owners and collectors discussing art technique and value.
McCavitt’s goal was to meet U.S. and international gallery owners interested in selling her work, and possibly selling a painting or two to an art collector.
She has made connections with most of the nine galleries where she now shows her paintings through ArtExpo New York,
One of those galleries where McCavitt shows her work is local — Art & Frames by Wood Gallery in Coronado.
The owner of that gallery comes to New York every year, “just like an instinctual migration,” McCavitt said, to look for new artwork to show.
As an artist myself, I have heard about ArtExpo New York for several years. Some local artists have raved about how it changed their careers while others have gone and not done as well. I figured by visiting the event this year, I could determine if it would be worth my time and money next year. McCavitt’s experience indicates it certainly is. She insists the key is returning repeatedly so gallery owners can see the quality and consistency of an artist’s work.
McCavitt attracted the attention of at least one new gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Another gallery owner who buys artists’ work before she sells them at her gallery, and already shows McCavitt’s paintings, expressed interest in purchasing a few new pieces from McCavitt’s display. McCavitt also sold a painting to a collector.
“The show has been rich with opportunity,” McCavitt said.
ArtExpo organizers said that over the three days, more than 10,000 people attended, up 40 percent from last year. It is the 33rd year of the show.
ArtExpo organizers said based on conversations with artists and galleries and the number of red dots signifying sales around the convention center that sales were up as well.
While I was there, I ran into two other artists with local ties: Vince Chang, a Carlsbad designer who uses Photoshop with sports photos to create art, and Tenold Peterson, a former art professor at San Diego State University now living in Oregon. (He also has a few pieces at Alexander Salazar Fine Art in downtown San Diego.)
Chang and Peterson had few sales, but some great opportunities came their way.
Peterson, who was showing fine art prints for the first time, met a Chicago art dealer who wants to show an original painting and prints at a gallery there.
Chang, who was showing his art for the first time ever, was nervous Friday as he put up the pieces on the wall. “But if I sat home knowing this was going on and did nothing, I would get mad at myself,” he said.
On Sunday, when I stopped by his booth again, Chang immediately pulled his smart phone out of his pocket to show me an image of a newspaper article with a photo of him in front of his work at the ArtExpo.
“I was interviewed by a major Chinese newspaper!” he said, grinning broadly. “This is definitely the beginning of something big.”
So will I venture out here to New York City again at this time next year, my paintings tucked under my arm? It’s possible. I suppose it depends on how well sales go at my favorite art fair, the Mission Federal ArtWalk April 30 and May 1 in Little Italy.
If I do go to ArtExpo, I have a good feeling I’ll have McCavitt, Peterson and Chang to keep me company.