Experts in the art world agree that art fairs have become increasingly influential in recent years, both on a national and a global scale. What distinguishes these forums from traditional gallery shows is that a fair has more of a “trade show” atmosphere, where artists and galleries set up booths to promote their art, gain valuable exposure, and attract the attention of potential new clients. Experts agree that participating in an art fair can be expensive and risky, but if executed well, it can be rewarding, both financially and for your long-term career. Here are some factors to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to go to an art fair.
Benefits of Participating in an Art Fair
Sales generation: The bottom line is, an art fair gives you the opportunity to display your artwork for sale in a public venue—and for the most part, the general public attends art fairs with an intention to buy. While renting a booth is going to require an initial investment, this can pay dividends both in immediate sales and potential contact with future customers.
Extensive exposure: If the art fair you are going to show at tends to get good attendance, then this can be an excellent opportunity to increase your exposure among gallery owners, dealers, and the general art community. You can maximize this opportunity by preparing in advance engaging sales literature, signage, and displays of your art in order to attract the most attention possible.
Networking opportunities: Don’t forget to bring your business card along to the art fair, as there will be plenty of opportunities to pass it around. You can expect to meet and interact with many different contacts, from gallery owners and serious art collectors to other artists who may be willing to share their own experiences and marketing successes with you.
Reasons an Art Fair May Not Be For You
Expenses: Participation in art fairs requires a lot of coordination and planning, and the expenses involved in all of this can really add up. This includes booth rental and display systems, as well as transportation, lodging, and marketing literature and signage.
Logistics: For an individual artist, art fairs tend to be a lot of work. You will need to manage both the setup and tear down of your booth in a variety of weather conditions, as well as the daily restocking and securing of the art. Transportation of your art to and from the venue is also your responsibility.
Price point: The reality is, there is a difference in perception on the part of the art collector of the value of art purchased in an established gallery versus at a fair, which is going to have a direct impact on your price point. If income is your primary goal, then showing at an art fair may not be your best option.
Making Your Decision
When making your decision about whether a particular art fair is the right venue for your work, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to go to it, or to one as similar as possible. You can observe the layout of the fair, the quality of the artist to client interaction, and the general feel of this particular venue to determine if it’s a good place for you. You may also consider doing a bit a research on the specific fair you are considering to make sure it’s in line with your particular goals and interests, keeping the following points in mind:
What are your obligations as stated in the application prospectus? Are you going to be liable for space rental if for some reason the fair is shortened, postponed, or relocated? Are you required to provide carrying insurance on your work or do the fair organizers cover this? Knowing the particulars before you sign anything will help you weigh up whether the risks are worth the benefit.
What has been the experience of participants in the past? A good first step is to request a list of participants from previous years from the producers, which will put you in touch will some of these artists (you can usually contact them via their website). Even canvassing just a few artists to find out whether they thought the fair was worth their time, effort, and money, can result in some very valuable information concerning whether the art fair is a good decision for you.
What have previous attendance numbers been like? The last thing you want to do is to go to all the work and expense of setting up your fair booth only to have a low turnout. Research previous years at that same venue to determine whether this is an investment that’s going to be worth making in the long run.