Where can I find affordable art in Chicago?
Because I’m an art critic, when friends visit my apartment they often wonder why my “collection” consists of a soy sauce–stained David Hockney postcard stuck to my fridge. I tell them I can’t buy art because it would lead to too many conflicts of interest. But if I could collect, here’s where I would start. Focus your search on “multiples” (i.e., prints and photographs), which tend to be cheaper than other media. West Loop gallery Western Exhibitions (119 N Peoria St, No. 2A, 312-480-8390) sells prints by respected, mostly Chicago artists (as well as drawings, artist-made books and a few small sculptures) through its WesternXeditions division. Most prints cost $250–$850 unframed, whereas the gallery’s paintings range from approximately $3,000–$30,000. Spudnik Press (1821 W Hubbard St, suite 302, 312-563-0302) carries prints by young artists including Lilli Carré, a favorite of mine whose work has appeared in The New Yorker. No one has to know you paid less than $100 for them. And for approximately $350–$400, threewalls (119 N Peoria St, No. 2C, 312-432-3972) will send you four works from its Community-Supported Art initiative. Like a conventional CSA, the program gives you little control over what you receive. Be confident, however, that the pieces will be made by local rising stars or midcareer favorites.
Framing that won’t cost a fortune
Frame Factory The shop’s Pulaski Road location is attached to the factory where it makes its frames; cash saved on shipping and middlemen results in lower prices. As part of its poster special, Frame Factory mounts your piece on foam core and provides the frame, glass and hardware—just $60 for a 16" x 20" work. 3400 N Pulaski Rd (773-427-1010); 1809 W Webster Ave (773-862-1010).
April 7s Custom Framing Place an order for three pieces to get a 10 percent discount, and savings go up as you frame more works. “Oops” frames left over from custom jobs top out at about $50; if they’re oddly sized or slightly damaged, they could cost as little as $5. 766 N Milwaukee Ave (312-666-4707).
Foursided Eco-framing, in which the shop uses salvaged frames, can save at least 50 percent. Foursided also sells frame kits in a range of sizes. An 18" x 24" kit, including basic metal molding, glass, foam-core backing and hardware, is $53. 5061 N Clark St (773-506-8300); 2939 N Broadway (773-248-1960).