It was raining last weekend, the U2 packed with people staring into their phones as I was on my way to the BAAM #06 - Berlin affordable art Market #06. An event bringing together more than 100 upcoming artists within one gallery and opening it to the public. Our magazine was also exhibited so I was especially curious. “How will people react to our publication surrounded by art? What vibe will it be? How many people will be there?”
The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the stacked walls of endless art were overwhelmingly impressive. I believe I have never seen a collection of original art pieces on that scale and after two days walking around in the gallery I would still discover new pieces.
In between rearranging artworks and taking pictures of happy customers I got the opportunity to chat with the organizers Sofia Nordmann and José Contreras Aguad, who told me about their aspirations and where it all originates from.
How did the BAAM start?
S: “It all started two years ago. We [José Contreras Aguad and Sofia Nordmann] met each other at Monopol, where both of us have our studios. During the pandemic, we organised some BBQs with the residents and noticed that many of them were out of work. Barely making money, as most of them were working in bars, clubs you name it. They lost their day jobs and didn’t sell their art. So decided to organize a little market: Monopol and friends. Just friends and friends of friends, in a small gallery. And it was madness. From the moment we opened it was packed. And it was just the two of us. Doing the bar, sales, and corona stuff. We were running around with our tongues hanging out of our mouths at some point. But it was such a success that we immediately decided that we wanted to do it again. And from that moment it grew. People started helping us out, places reached out to us if we wanted to use their location. It kind self perpetuated from there.”
“We are like a big family. It’s insane how so many different artists come together. Help each other, and get to know each other. In an industry whichever so often sticks their elbows out towards each other. We are replacing artworks constantly. As one gets sold we take it off the wall and add a new one. The exhibition is constantly changing and evolving. And at the same time, it engages people to interact with the artworks. It’s not elitist. People simply take the frames off the wall themselves, walk to the desk, and buy it. It truly feels like we are democratising art a bit more.”, adds José Contreras Aguad.
And just a week later, today and tomorrow actually, the “Paper Baam” takes place at KU’POP here in Berlin. "It will be no framed work as it’s a metal container. So everything will be attached with magnets to the wall. I think it will look super cool!"
Again, prices range from 50 to 5000 Euros for an original or edition. While it’s not cheap, I looked at a broad range of styles and colours. “This one could look amazing inside my kitchen”, I thought when I looked at a painting of a smoking old woman, probably set in Italy as the clichée red and white checkerboard tablecloth made me believe. Art here really is affordable.
“Affordable does not mean cheap. It’s just saying everybody can find something within their price range. You can find a one-of-a-kind art piece for 50 bucks here.”, Sofia responds to my reaction.
What does the BAAM mean to you?
S: “As laborious as the time leading up to each market is, whenever we open this door the weekend just becomes a constant high. This community of artists comes together to celebrate each other and help each other sell art. It’s wonderful to witness. When you see young artists selling, sometimes it’s their first-ever piece. Seeing the smile on their faces is wonderful. It’s just such an insanely loving atmosphere. Just a constant trip.”
J: “It’s like a party. It’s us celebrating ourselves. And if you see that after one weekend 50% of the artists we exhibit were able to sell something. That makes you proud.
Last weekend you had more than 2000 art pieces from almost 200 artists exhibited. How can artists become a part of it?
We had more than 600 submissions from artists for this market. So sadly, we have to turn people down as we only have limited space. Every artist pays 30 Euros to exhibit and we take a fee of 30% on each sale to keep things running. In addition to that, artists need to bring and set up their pieces themselves and we ask them to help out for an hour or so during the event. That way we can keep the fees low. They work at the bar or collect the entrance donation, whatever occurs really. Every market is a collective effort. What we are offering is the space and platform.
What is the plan for the future?
We want to go beyond Berlin. We just did our first “HAAM - Hamburg affordable art market” and we hope to do a KAAM, MAAM or BAAAM - Buones Aires affordable art market next. Three A’s. *Laughs* For now it’s within Germany but we really would love to go beyond German borders.