Hangin' at the Mini Mart
I recently saw an article in The New York Times discussing the dozens of art fairs that are sprouting up all over the country. (Read here: Art Fairs Spring Up All Over this Month.) It started a train of thought about how the shift of responsibility to the individual is affecting every artist. We keep hearing about how empowering the Internet is for artists. In theory our work can be seen by potentially thousands, even millions of people. It is great "exposure." (See the article in FASO newsletter titled "Exposure: The Ugly Myth.") So we all have to have a website, a blog, a newsletter. The "exposure" is good and I enjoy it, but sales don't necessarily follow.
Then we hear that galleries aren't what they used to be. Many are closing, most are just trying to weather a slow market and maybe an artist shouldn't even bother with a gallery. After all, who can sell your work better than you can? Enter art fairs. Now the financial and marketing responsibility have completely shifted to the artist. There are all kinds of art fairs, from neighborhood sidewalk shows to large convention center extravaganzas. Some of the larger art fairs will attract galleries but many share the idea that the artist pays for the space and sells their own work. The business of art is now completely the responsibility of the artist. Some artists will like this idea and enjoy being in control of their own career. Others will be intimidated or not have the resources to jump into this arena. It is an interesting dilemma which only adds to the stress and pressure of being an artist.
How do you feel about art fairs? Have you had success? Is it worth the effort, time and money?Topics: Marketing 101
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15 Responses to Art Fairs: Another Scam or The Best Way to Market Your Work
Art fairs are great for artists with small, affordable work, easy to transport and for people who don't mind surprises...weather being the biggest. My art doesn't do well in art fairs...but art auctions are better.
I agree with Sally, they are great for small items that are easy to transport but my bigger items never sell. And charging an artist to be at an art festival is rediculous in my opinion. I dont make enough money selling my art to be able to pay to be at a show and then hope I make what I paid and then more to make it worth it. There is one show that I love though, The Columbia Gorge Art Festival. You pay no fee to be there. You can stay at your table or not, they have people there who watch the tables and take the money and they send you a check for your sales 2 weeks later. All you agree to, is to give 25 percent of your sales to the Corbett Education foundation. If you sell nothing you,ve lost nothing. I never sell large items at this one either, only the small inexpensive, easy to transport items.
Sally..I was interested to hear that you put your work into art auctions. I am not sure that I know of any in the LA area but I will look into it. Lisa, thanks for your input. The Columbia Gorge Art Festival sounds like a great event. I made the decision a few years ago not to enter art fairs but with so few options available for so many artists I was interested to see what other artists thought. Thanks for the comments.
Yet another post that makes me go "hmmmmmmm". I guess we all just have to do the best we can, but I think it's interesting and helpful to learn from the experience of others, so thanks Sally and Lisa!!
I've been looking into a few local art fairs (in Texas) for the last few weeks. I want to try a few next year. From what I see work is selling. At almost every fair I've been to I've seen people walking around with work that they bought, mostly smaller (11x14 or less) pieces. I have seen a few lager pieces sell as well.
This is an interesting blog. I'm looking forward to what others have to say.
Thanks George. I know several artists who have been doing art fairs for years. They do well and have a local following. Factoring in the current slower economy could make this strategy more challenging. I would suggest getting a list of the artists who participated the year before and contact the ones who were new to the show. See how they did. I have found my fellow artist are always very helpful with advise and information. Good luck.
Thank you, Sharon, for raising this topic. I'm on the other end of the transaction; I like to buy paintings. I buy mostly at galleries and a little bit online; I would buy more online if I had a feeling of what the artist's work looks like in real life. If you're not in galleries near my home or travels, how will I see any of your work? In short, I need "exposure" (Sorry, Mr. White)to more artists' stuff, and art fairs seem ideal. So I would encourage people to go to art fairs; I've made several purchases that I still enjoy very much.
However, this leads me to a question: how does one find art fairs? I've subscribed to FNO and something else, and they give me the impression there are no fairs in Maryland or Virginia. Ever. Which is just no fair. (OK, I'm sorry)
But how can I find places to see and buy art without finding myself surrounded by chainsaw carvings of the Seven Dwarfs? I'd love to find fairs that show stuff like yours.
Suggestions for DC dwellers, or anyone, anywhere?
Check this website out for listings. They have 1 in the DC area this September.
Thanks, George; I followed your lead, and I have my dance card filled for several Saturdays now.
Thanks George for adding a great site to my list. Hi AJ. It is wonderful to have someone ask about where to find art. Besides all the fairs, I would also suggest the Eaton Plein Air Festival in Maryland which is supposed to be the largest in the country. Also most artist, me included, will accept a return of a painting if you are not satisfied. So don't write off buying online. Happy shopping.
I have been doing street shows for 30 years. There are good shows and bad shows, good promoters and bad ones. The ART FAIR SOURCE BOOK ranks shows according to dollars spent and other criteria. A very, very useful tool. The cost of the book will be recouped at one good show. Yes, there are shows where I have felt the promoter is only selling me 100 square feet of real estate, but there are also shows that are extremely lucrative. The whole art world is different now than pre 2008, but I still make a living by doing some shows and a couple of galleries.
Hi Merry. It is so interesting to read everyone's take on this topic. Thanks for the tip about the Art Fair Source Book. I will look into that.
I actually have promoted art fairs. Mountain Artist Guild in Prescott, AZ has two fine art fairs a year on our historic Courthouse Square. We have artists from all over the West. We do charge a booth fee because it is our biggest money raiser of the year. But it is reasonable for artists. Our shows are on mother's day weekend and the second weekend in August. We have been doing this for 36 years.
Most of our artist's who bring smaller works of art do just fine. It is very hard to sell pieces over a $1,000.00. It is a great way to get exposure and pick up commissions.
Art fairs can certainly be great - it's a great feeling to be in control - the best way to increase the succcess rate is to reasearch the history and reputation of any particular fair - there's no absolute guaruntee for high sales volumes at fairs or anywhere else especially in the art world, especially now. The most successful are those who exercise well informed decision making.
Many artists find that the sidewalk art fairs are the only way to sell enough paintings to make a living so they can be lucrative even in these tough economic times.
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