Hans Magden's paintings are vibrant and raw, deep expressions of emotion from an artist afflicted with a disabling disease. Safori is a sought-after, self-taught artist who once was hailed as Ghana's national pole-vault champion.
They are among 148 artists and 215 galleries from 25 countries featuring their work at Artexpo New York, the oldest fine art trade show in the country. The three-day event, in its 33rd year, opens Friday at Pier 94 in Manhattan.
The contemporary art event draws 10,000 people annually and offers collectors an alternative to such high-end shows like Art Basel in Miami and the Armory Show in New York for quality works from mid-career, moderately priced artists. Prices range from $500 to $100,000.
It is also a place where emerging artists hope to find recognition.
Notable artists who have benefited from exhibiting at the show include Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Haring and LeRoy Neiman, organizers said.
"It is the one venue that connects the greatest number of buyers and artists and where emerging artists have the best chance to be discovered," said Artexpo CEO Eric Smith. The artists "not only have the opportunity to meet collectors and consumers, but also gallery owners, interior designers and architects."
To that end, Artexpo is launching a new website, ArtexpoStudio.com, that offers art lovers and professionals access to quality artwork and tools for people in the industry on how "to grow their businesses in today's rapidly changing fine art marketplace," Smith said.
Magden, who's 60, is exhibiting at Artexpo for the first time. While his booth will be filled with 19 of his abstract paintings, priced at $2,000 to $4,000, his Parkinson's disease will prevent him from leaving his John Day, Ore., home.
Magden lost control of his dominant right side to the disease soon after retiring in 2008. He had retired from his career in veterinary medicine to devote himself to painting. He taught himself to paint with his left hand and now, with the aid of medication, is ambidextrous, working long stretches of 8-10 hours. The disorder defines his work. At one time, Magden abandoned his vibrant colors for "a white phase where I trimmed down most of my painting to just the essentials."
He has sold some pieces privately and the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in Manhattan is giving him his first group show in May. But Magden hopes Artexpo will give him more exposure.
"I'm looking for other galleries" to take notice, he said.
J. Scott Nicol, a 54-year-old artist from Reston, Va. known for his oils of first edition book spines is attending the show for the fourth time.
"It's a great way to show my latest work," he said, and to get the kind of exposure that has made the demand for his work grow.
He searches for first edition classics like John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and Ernest Hemingway's "Old Man by the Sea" and then depicts them "as a work of art, like Warhol did with everyday objects."
For gallery exhibitors like Mehron Zadeh of Deljou Art Group, the show creates an environment for new customers and potential partners and a place to "scope out the competition."
"In a slower economy, it is essential to take advantage of any opportunity that provides such great exposure," Zadeh added.
For Safori, Artexpo is an opportunity to "put my work in front of the world."
The Silver Spring, Md., man stumbled into an art career after friends challenged him to paint a picture he admired.
The former pole-vaulter discovered he had talent. While working as a salesman at Nordstrom in Palo Alto, Calif., co-workers who saw him painting told his boss. She became enamored of his dynamic, colorful compositions and organized an exhibit in the store.
Today, Safori creates wood sculptures, portraiture and still lifes, many with African themes, in various styles including surrealism and cubism, and fills commissions for corporate offices.
The event also offers art demonstrations and panel discussions. Reality television star and sociopolitical artist Peregrine Honig will talk about social networking and art.
Honig was a runner-up on Bravo's first season of "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." Her work explores pop culture and consumer trends.