Local art lovers might remember the Baltimore Fine Art Print Fair, which, years ago, was routinely put on by the Baltimore Museum of Art. The museum stopped holding the fair after Christopher Bedford came on as director in 2017, but this year, former BMA curator Ann Shafer is reviving the beloved event—the only contemporary print fair in the Mid-Atlantic region—in partnership with Brian Miller and Julie Funderburk, the owners of Full Circle Fine Art Services.
Shafer—who worked as a curator in the BMA’s department of prints, drawings, and photographs for 12 years—directed the museum’s print fair in 2012, 2015, and 2017. After Shafer and Miller met a few years ago, they started planning to host their own fair, which would no longer be associated with the museum.
“The fair was the most fun I had on the job,” Shafer says, “I think what people may not know is that, in the art world, the contemporary art pillar can be a little intimidating. But print people are the nicest. They are ready, willing, and able to engage with you if you come to the fair and talk to them.”
The fair will kick off with a VIP preview party on Thursday, April 28, and continue to run April 29 through May 1 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Baltimore Innovation Center in Pigtown. Tickets range from $15-25, with VIP admission (which must be purchased in advance) priced at $75.
Twenty four booths—the featured exhibitors are made up of both emerging artists and blue chip shops—will be selling contemporary prints ranging from $100 to $25,000, according to Shafer. She’s made it a priority to bring in exhibitors who are actually the ones making the prints, so more than half of the presenters include print publishers. Plus, many of the featured artists will be on site to discuss their work with attendees. It’s all in an effort to attract both seasoned collectors and new buyers alike.
“Prints are always less expensive than their counterparts of paintings or sculptures, for example, so that you and I can both have a print by whichever artist we might choose,” Shafer says. “For young and new collectors it’s a great way into the whole sphere of collecting art.”
One of the biggest national vendors set to present at the fair is Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl. The original founder of Gemini G.E.L., Sidney Felson, is still running the New York print shop, which he founded in Los Angeles in 1966. (There is a “great group” of collectors of these prints in Baltimore, Shafer says.) Attendees can also look out for Maryland-based vendors, including Rockville’s Lily Press and Baltimore’s own Catalyst Contemporary gallery. While Catalyst is not specifically a print gallery, it will be presenting prints from two New York artists that focus on noteworthy events throughout the past two years, such as the murder of George Floyd and the Capitol riots.
Overall, Shafer is not only looking forward to reviving the event for the Baltimore community, but she’s excited to provide art enthusiasts with an opportunity to shop at any print fair—many of which have been on hiatus due to the pandemic. “Even if you wanted to go to one in New York, you couldn’t, because they weren’t having them either,” she adds.
Currently, Shafer, Miller, and Funderburk plan to make the fair annual. After this year’s event, they will be able to assess if it is sustainable to organize it every year, or hold it bi-annually. But one thing is for sure—they plan to host it again.
“I think people are just really thrilled to be seeing art in person,” Shafer says. “It just doesn’t convey on a screen as well.”