When former PE teacher Bec Statton and a friend put up $5000 to start an art gallery in the Queensland town of Toowoomba, they didn't know if they'd ever get their cash back.
"It was pretty instinctive and I guess a little bit mad, but we really felt that if it didn't work, we weren't losing more than we were prepared to lose," she told AAP.
At Melbourne's Affordable Art Fair this weekend, their Toowoomba Gallery sold more than 170 artworks with takings topping $300,000.
"We kind of wanted to test our skills. We thought it would be a good opportunity to test them out in in the real world. This is the big city I guess," she said.
Not bad for a gallery that's only been running since August 2021.
Ms Statton was aware that inflation and cost-of-living pressures might put a dampener on sales, but said instead, there was strong demand.
Fair director Stephanie Kelly Gordine said concerns that cost-of-living pressures might affect the 2022 event had not been borne out.
Overall, 17,000 people visited the art fair, with sales valued at more than $3 million and more than 1700 works sold.
"Art's not a frivolous purchase, it's something that's sort of personal and emotional. I think people have been waiting for their artists to come back," she said.
Ms Gordine said people spending more time at home were wanting to improve their space with art.
Artworks at the fair are priced under $10,000.
Artist Kerry Armstrong, who runs the Studio Gallery across four sites in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, also reported big interest from buyers.
"We were absolutely flabbergasted, it was so busy. We didn't expect that. We have done fairs before, but it was incredibly successful," she said.
Ms Armstrong said younger buyers were looking to spot emerging artists, especially those with overseas profiles.
The Affordable Art Fairs began in London in 1999, and have since sold art worth $732 million.
Sydney Contemporary, another art fair launching this week, will have 90 galleries selling work by more than 450 artists.
Sydney Contemporary is on at Carriageworks from September 8 to 11.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.