Are you interested in collecting art but afraid to get your toes wet because of the cost? Quality artworks can be had at affordable prices, if you know where to look and what to look for. For instance, prices come down when there’s no middleman, so don’t be afraid to go directly to an artist whose work you like. Get to know Denver’s co-ops, too, where artists can stretch out and try new things while offering smaller works at lower prices. Even Pirate Contemporary Art patriarch Phil Bender, whose work is included in the Denver Art Museum collection, had art for sale for as little as $20 in his recent show. Studio enclaves like the Globeville Riverfront Arts Center (GRACe) and Helikon open their doors to visitors on First Fridays, allowing direct contact with artists in their studios, as well as a look at current shows in the gallery, and the Denver Art Society operates like an art-focused flea market, supporting unknown artists looking for exposure.
Art fairs and flea markets are also a good bet: The Art Students League of Denver’s Summer Art Market, where you can find quality deals and meet the artists, is a favorite with the locals. And there’s nothing wrong with buying art off the walls in coffeehouses (Crema, Pablo’s and Bardo are just a few) and boutiques (Sacred Thistle, Goldyn, Lowbrow, Relevant Goods, OkHi Co.), if you like what you see. Zine fests offer up DIY art on turning pages, and even the pricier galleries keep less expensive prints and drawings in bins for discerning buyers.
Don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to look — looking is free. Buying isn’t, but it’s also not necessarily going to break your bank. Here are a few places, in alphabetical order, to find affordable art in Denver.
CHAC Gallery and Cultural Center
772 Santa Fe Drive
The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council staked a claim on Santa Fe Drive long before it became a thriving arts district, bringing art from the barrio to gallery walls. CHAC remains a cornerstone today in the district, throwing accessible shows, both folkloric and modern, while next door at CHAC North, mini-galleries are maintained by such Chicano community stalwarts as Stevon Lucero, Michael Penny, Daniel Luna and others, as well as rotating featured artists. ¡Viva la cultura!
3004 Larimer Street
A showcase for emerging and experimenting local artists, the RiNo gallery founded by artists Jeromie Dorrance and Adam Milner in 2013 still carries on today under Dorrance’s direction, offering collectors a direct pipeline to what might become the next big thing in Denver.
I Heart Denver
Denver Pavilions, 500 16th Street #264, 720-317-2328
Southwest Plaza Mall, 8501 West Bowles Avenue, # 2035, Littleton, 303-918-9715
Samuel Schimek’s I Heart Denver focuses on Colorado artists, carrying travel-ready small works and archival prints with price tags that are easy on the eye, as well as hand-screened Colorado-centric T-shirts, housewares and souvenirs. Regardless of what you buy there, you can’t help but support your local artist and thereby chip in to keep the local economy rolling.
Indyink at Abstract
84 South Broadway
Indyink functions as the retail face of a working screenprinting shop, interfacing directly with Denver’s whole DIY design community, which has grown to include some names, like Ravi Zupa, Mike Graves, Scot Lefavor and Ray Young Chu, who’ve gone national. Drop in and you might find, along with Indyink posters and T-shirts, small works by all of the above on the walls for bargain prices.
1112 East 17th Avenue
Leon encourages exhibits that not only stretch the limits of what an artist has to offer, but also cater to collectors of all skill levels looking for a piece of the action. A recent show by Denver artist Jonathan Saiz is a perfect example: Saiz filled the front window with an installation comprising hundreds of tiny paintings enclosed in plastic boxes, which sold for $20 apiece, offering collectors an easy-swinging gateway to ownership.
Keep reading for more places to find affordable art in Denver.
40 West Bayaud Avenue
Mark Lunning’s working print studio gives artists a place to learn new skills with a pro and show finished works in occasional exhibits. In particular, Open Press’s annual holiday show is a stunner, spotlighting a wide variety of prints by multiple Colorado artists, priced at $300 or less.
Larimer Square, 1423 Larimer Street
If your taste tends toward lowbrow and popsurrealist imagery, Sally Centigrade, tucked into an tiny underground spot in Larimer Square, caters to that specific clientele, offering affordable small works from both local artists and top names in the genre. For another take, also affordable, check into Lowbrow on South Broadway, where fun monthly shows give you a chance to check out works from under-the-radar names you’ve never heard of — and a few that you have.
The Source, 3350 Brighton Boulevard
Svper Ordinary in the Source carries a one-two punch, offering up a smart retail take on jewelry and modern lifestyle goods side by side with monthly design-friendly gallery shows focused on Colorado urban artists like Jaime Molina, Marsha Robinson, Travis Hetman, Jason Thielke, Evan Hecox and others. The concept of “buying local” applies to art, too; help our artists thrive in Colorado by taking home something affordable and Svper Ordinary.
VSA Colorado/Access Gallery
909 Santa Fe Drive
Some people with disabilities are artists, too, and VSA Colorado supplies such talents with tools, mentorship and a leg up on successful self-expression. The organization also gives its young artists a place to show their work in public, at Access Gallery. Affordable urban folk art, streetwise canvases and even commissioned dog portraits are available through Access, and the gallery’s autumn fundraiser, 99 Pieces of Art on the Wall, raises the stakes by selling off small works on particle board by a who’s-who of local artists, VSA Colorado artists and national superstars like one-armed painter Matt Sesow at affordable prices.
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Zip 37 Gallery
3644 Navajo Street
Soon to be the last operating gallery at 37th Avenue and Navajo Street, the seventeen-member Zip 37 co-op mounts new shows every three weeks throughout the year, providing gallery-goers with a revolving rack of imaginative local art priced to sell. But you’ll find Zip’s most affordable works in the Back Room, a must-visit nook filled with small pieces, tiny paintings, prints, sculptures and more.
Wondering where Zip’s block-mates have gone? Pirate is closing its chapter on Navajo Street in May and preparing for a move to Lakewood’s 40 West Arts District, joining Next Gallery, which has already moved in at 6851 West Colfax Avenue and officially opens on April 28. Edge Gallery pops back up in June in its new home at Prism Studios, 999 Vallejo Street, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Santa Fe Art District.