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How to find cheap art to buy at this week's huge art fair

Ben Neutze

Sydney Contemporary is the biggest international art fair in the country, and it has one central purpose: to be a one-stop shop for art collectors looking to spend some serious cash. Although it's really all about the buying and selling, it still attracts plenty of people just after a glimpse of the latest works from the stars of Australian art and international heavyweights.

And there's certainly plenty of reasons to head to the fair at Carriageworks, even if you don't have cash to spend beyond the $25 ticket price: there's a talks program, performances, plenty of large-scale installations and, of course, some fancy bars and food offerings.

But making that step from visitor to buyer can be pretty daunting, and some of the works are eye-wateringly expensive. There's a Jean DuBuffet installation that'll set you back a few million dollars. Eek.

If you didn't just fall off your chair, we've got some hints for how those of us who don't belong to a royal family can score a beautiful artwork at Sydney Contemporary without going hungry.

1. Buy a work on paper

There's a full room (Bay 19) at Sydney Contemporary devoted to works on paper, featuring drawings, limited edition prints, posters and even artist books. We found some great drawings for as low as $150 (and you can probably find something even cheaper if you're willing to rifle through). We particularly loved the brightly colourful works by Peter Dudding from Studio A, which are all around the $500 to $1,000 mark.

2. Head to Future Contemporary

Bay 20 houses 'Future Contemporary', a showcase for the newer galleries on the scene working with some progressive and boundary-pushing artists. In that bay, you'll find the Egg and Dart gallery, up in Sydney from Thirroul, showcasing the work of Gabrielle Adamik (you can pick up one of her glass and ceramic works for $900 to $1,700) and Archibald finalist India Mark (you can get one of her small oil paintings for $350).

Photograph: Jacquie Manning

3. Visit the National Art School's stand

For the first time, Sydney's National Art School is at the fair, showcasing works from current students and alumni who aren't yet represented. They'll be having two hangs (meaning they'll rotate works) over the course of the art fair, and all the works are affordable. Rebecca Gallo has an unusual trophy sculpture going for $450, and Sarah Goffman is selling PET plastics painted and drawn to look like blue and white porcelain, from $350 to $900.

4. Get some Art Money

If your next pay day is still a little way off, you can always look into Art Money, a service that allows you to pay off artworks between $675 and $50,000 at most of the Sydney-based galleries in the fair. It's essentially an interest-free loan, and all you need is a 10 per cent deposit. 

Sydney Contemporary is at Carriageworks from September 13-16.

Looking for more art around the city? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney this month.

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