Whether you know a lot about art or just enjoy collecting interesting things, there’s sure to be something that catches your eye at this year’s Holiday Art Sale of original students’ work at the Art Students League of New York Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery on West 57th Street, starting Tuesday, December 14 through Christmas Eve. From subtle to bold, still life or abstract, hundreds of paintings, drawings and prints are beautifully arranged, in varying sizes and price points, with one major thing in common: every piece is under $1,000.
The Art Students League dates back almost 150 years and specializes in studio-based art classes designed around a month-to-month payment model, where incoming students get to choose the instructor they would like to train with to acquire the skills and technique they are interested in learning.
“If it’s a fit, you might stay there a month, you might stay there for 20 years,” said Anki King, associate director of the spacious, high-ceilinged gallery, herself a former student of the League and still an active artist. Some students will stay with an instructor for the month, then try other classes, while others remain in the same class for an extended period, mastering the fine points of a particular technique.
The goal ultimately is to have incoming artists, some already with an art background, and some brand new who “have never even drawn a line” learn the fundamentals of style or styles they choose, then be prepared through workshops and exhibitions to be part of the actual art world as professional artists. The Holiday Art Sale is one way to support students, King said.
“The show is a good overview of all that’s being taught here,” King explained: “acrylic, abstract, figurative; [there are] sculptures, carving and clay and ceramics,” she said, walking toward a small sculpture on display that was made from stone. Also affordable, the sculptures have only a slightly higher price range, and the exhibition include some unique pieces made from welded metal.
The annual sale event is so popular among the school’s almost 2,500 students, that they have to enter a lottery system in the hope of getting a space for their work to be displayed in the show. It is a point of excitement and encouragement for student artists to have their work sold, and as pieces go out, more are added throughout the week and a half sale.
King shared that like most schools, the instructors had to quickly learn “how to do things online” during the early days of the pandemic, and while most students are back to in-person classes now, she said the experience “opened up an amazing new venue for us where people from all over the world now have access to our education.” A part of New York’s rich history where artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell studied, is now available to anyone from anywhere.
And that is what the League is hoping will happen with this annual tradition now returning after the 2020 pandemic pause – that people will come out in full force, to support a new generation of eager young and not so young artists, and starting for as low as $50 for some artwork, claim a part of New York history and “take a piece of The League home with you.”