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ACEOs: The Huge Hot Market for the Smallest Art Works

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There's a huge global market for the tiniest art works, and they're called ACEOs. The medium (any you choose) is the message here, which seems to encompass, cats, fairies, fantasy art, pin-ups and edgy perverse themes.

The Greedy Little Pig, ACEO

What's hot right now in the art market (in addition to the most expensive masterpieces by Picasso and Rauschenberg selling at auction) are the least expensive, and tiniest art works, known popularly as ACEOs (Artists Cards Editions and Originals) selling on the web. These miniature works of art, always 2 1/2" by 3 1/2",created from a  variety of mediums and materials, are sold largely through such sites as eBay and Etsy. There is a global appetite for collecting these affordable miniatures ("The Greedy Little Pig", a mixed-media collage, featured above, sold on eBay to a collector in Belgium), and many artists are finding ACEOs an accessible means of displaying and selling their works.

There is a bit of a muddled story about the history of ACEOs. Some believe they were an extension of ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), which could only be traded, artist to artist, and never sold. When the demand for the ATCs grew (perhaps popularized by art collectors and dealers who wanted in on the trades),similar trading-card-sized art works, known as ACEOs, began to appear, for sale. I have read (mistakenly, I believe)  the market for ACEOs is only a few years old, but I recall, reaching back years earlier, a creative artist/entrepreneur was offering them for sale at $5 each in vending machines (at selected Art Museums). I don't think he envisioned the rampant growth of these mini-masterpieces outside the vending machine arena.  Currently, eBay has listed more than 15,600 ACEOs, priced anywhere from $.01 to $2,200. Believe it or not, the penny works have sold, with free shipping, although they seem to be mainly mainly copied prints - not original art work, which sells for more.  But still - a mere penny?

Etsy, the wonderful website for handmade and vintage goods is a much bigger seller of AECOs, with nearly 30,000 listed for sale currently. (Here, the highest price is $2,999 with more than a few listed in the $500-$600 range, although the majority of sales seem to hover and sell in the $1-$6 range).

To professional artists who believe everyone is an artist, the ACEO is the perfect means for expressing individuality. For an artist, selling an ACEO on the internet means not having to endlessly promote, try to find a gallery to join or sit or stand for hours at a table in a flea market, hoping to sell.  It strikes me, had ACEOs and the internet been around, artists like Rauschenberg and Pollock, who had trouble being accepted by the art world, may have turned to creating them. And, if you were lucky enough to collect one, guess what would have happened to your original investment?  As a matter of record, many of the famed Mid-Century artists did create small trading cards they exchanged, like business cards, back in the 1950s and 1960s when Abstract Expressionists were reaching out for acceptance.

If you intend to start collecting ACEOs, there are a number of themes to capture your fancy, including animals (cats, painted, collaged, penciled are among the most popular). Also popular - fairies, fantasy art, metaphysical themes and pin-up girls. The only "rule" to creating an ACEO is the size (the same size as a sports trading card), but everything else is up to the artist. Begin with card-stock, and then paint, paste, pastel, pencil - your choice - to create your own work of art! There are guides as to how to preserve (seal) your finished work; most experts recommend using acid-free paper.

My favorite ACEO artist is the edgy Shazz, whose sold works are shown here and above, and whose ACEOs have sold out on eBay to collectors in France, Australia, Miami Beach and Hollywood.  But if your tastes are less eclectic, running more towards gingham and polkadots, you can find any number of ACEOs to collect, display (in a magnet sleeve on your fridge) or pile high in a darling vintage basket on your coffee table. One article I read said once you start collecting an ACEO, it's almost impossible (like eating certain potato chips) to stop. This is something to keep in mind if you are a (starving) artist. ACEOs are the way to enter a hot market for artists and collectors alike. "Life's Fair Price" ACEO

Note: all ACEOs pictured here are by Shazz @missenscene.com

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Sy Kravitz

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