Keeping Your Show Under Control

how to sell art at show artexpo new york

5 Factors You Can’t Control When Selling Art at Shows – Or Can You?

There are many factors you can control when selling your art at art fairs and art shows. For example, whether your appearance is professional, how you interact with potential buyers and whether your work is properly hung and lighted are all examples of important factors you can control. Other factors are not so easily managed, but can have an enormous impact on the success of your show. Consider the following.

1. The Weather: Mother Nature may be as random as a roll of the dice. Sunny skies predicted without a drop of moisture in sight can quickly turn into showers off and on for the remainder of the day. As you watch the booths to the left and right of you quickly tear down and head home, you choose to remain as your art and you are quite dry and comfortable thanks to the forethought put into your choice of booth covering. You may not have had many nice things to say about the booth covering when putting it up, but it has turned out to be worth every penny when a blustery storm creeps up.

2. The Show’s Organizer: After participating in a few shows in the same general area, you may hear from other participants about why they will not have a booth at this show or that fair. As you dig a bit deeper, you learn it is due to the organizer of the show. They may have had a negative experience with individual organizers or an organizing group and it has made them somewhat cautious about art fairs in generals. As you listen to their story of woe, making notes of names, dates and places, you thank the art fair gods that you were fortunate enough to learn this information. You do need a filter to know how much credence you put into such comments.

For instance, it might cross your mind that perhaps these artists require a proverbial red carpet upon their arrival, or demand that their booth is moved three times because of its proximity to porta-potties, or want to be nearer to the local rising-star artist or the established local artist. A bit of research on your end could prove to be worthwhile, as you secure your entry into what could be one of your most successful art shows of the year. One person's poor show can be a killer for another. Be open, listen carefully and take all information with a grain of salt.

3. Your Booth Space: Each year, it seems the size of your booth space shrinks while the cost of the rental increases. For example, a 10’ x 10’ booth at the Guild’s Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair was $675 in 2016, with an additional $100 for a corner space. Plus, an additional $100 for electrical service, $75 for parking and $35 to $45 for jury fee depending on when their application was submitted. Many people believe the fairs make money, but most are nonprofits. The city and the state are engaged in the economic activity.

Not everyone who applies automatically receives a spot, either. Sometimes competition is fierce. And, some artists are invited back based on judging that occurred during the previous years’ show. Jurists usually will sift through 700 to 800 applicants in order to fill 125 open spaces. And, yes politics and connections, along with human nature and friendships, can also affect decisions about who gets into a show. 

4. Your Booth Location: Unless you know someone who knows someone, chances are good that there will probably be something a bit off with your booth location. It might be something as simple as uneven pavement or ground. You could end up with a coveted corner location – right by the funnel cake line. The key is to make the most of your booth location – no matter where it is located. If there are monetary incentives to make your booth location a bit better, then you might want to consider those if you feel the location of your booth is worth it.

5. Thefts at Art Fairs and Shows: Unfortunately, thefts of art, cash boxes, purses and more are somewhat common today at art shows. A thief can work alone or with another person, who is used to distract the artist while the thief walks out of your booth with a piece of your art. You may feel that unloading your booth at the end of your day and setting up anew each morning is worth it to ensure the safety of your work.

You can keep your cash, checks and credit cards safe, however. A money belt or money necklace are terrific ways of keeping these items as close to you as possible. Some art fairs will not allow the use of “proxies,” or someone whom you trust to watch your booth in your absence, although “booth sitters” are often provided by art fairs on a volunteer basis to allow exhibitors a few minutes away. Sitters are not authorized to make a sale when the artists are gone, however.

As you can see, some of these factors at art fairs and art shows you actually can control, although you might not think so at first glance. Even the weather doesn’t have to completely end your day, although there are certain to be fewer potential buyers should the weather turn rotten enough. Most of these factors will affect your booth, as this is what will influence how customers initially perceive your art. Do whatever it takes in your power to portray your art favorably and remember to do the same for potential buyers’ first impressions of you!