After exhibiting at The Other Art Fair this July and having visited numerous art fairs in the past (including the Affordable Art Fair this month) - today, I'd like to talk about how to get the best out of an Art Fair.
I would like to share some tips as to how to maximise your visit - both from the perspective of someone looking to acquire new art or an art fair visitor and from a person exhibiting at the fair and/or seeking some inspiration from other artists.
Tips for an Art Collector / Art Fair Visitor
1. Do your homework
Research the artists that are going to be there in advance and note down those that you would definitely like to meet or those that you would want to see the works of.
Art fairs usually have an enormous number of artists exhibiting in one place - so make sure you prepare ahead of the game to avoid missing the one that you would have really liked.
It will also help if you pick up a brochure/map at the entrance - this will make navigation and finding the stands you are looking for so much easier.
And don't just stick to the galleries and artists you already know - the art fair are one of the best places to discover new talent. Art fairs is where the best artists and galleries from around the world come to share their art pieces, having passed a strict selection process.
2. Come armed
Be prepared to take notes. You can do this electronically on your mobile or tablet or take a little notebook with you or even a voice recorder.
What about that amazing artwork that you saw at the stand S25?.. Or was it stand C25?... Taking lots of photographs and notes (including names of the works, labels and prices) will help to avoid confusion later.
And don't forget to note down the name of the gallery/artist too in case you want to follow up later, or explore more works on offer on their website or social channels.
Taking notes is important - but it is even more important to make sure that you wear comfortable shoes and clothing and bring enough water and snacks.
An art fair can be a tiring and long event so make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes and stay hydrated. Did someone say sneakers? That's a new name for comfort in style!
But even if you come all armed - it is more than OK to take a break and come back later - grab a snack, explore the area or simply sit in the park nearby to put your thoughts together.
3. Don't be shy
Artists and gallerists came to the art fair to meet and talk to visitors. Don't be shy and come to say hello and ask as many questions as you want.
They would love to show you what is in their booth and discuss their technique, style, colours, ideas, history, you name it!
And if you see something you like - don't be afraid to start a conversation as the artist/gallerist is actually waiting for it.
4. Don't leave it till the last moment
Art fairs usually run over multiple days, but don't leave it till the last hour of the last day of the show. Make sure you have enough time to browse all the art you'd like to see there.
And ideally - leave yourself a chance to come back on another day in case you want to sleep on a certain decision or would like to come back with your family or friends to show something that you liked to them.
Art fairs are some of the best places to find and connect with the top artists and galleries - so if you liked someone - then make sure to take the contact details or a business card from them. Check out their website, follow them on Instagram or simply drop an email to say hello later - they will be more than happy to connect.
6. Listen to your heart
You will know this feeling when you feel it - the moment when you absolutely fall in love with an artwork. You may walk away from the stand - but you keep thinking about it as you walk through the rows.
There is no harm in coming back - and many collectors do indeed do several rounds at the art fair to make sure they definitely pick something that is sparking joy in their hearts and to make sure they haven't missed something they would love.
If you found something you are truly passionate about, something that makes you happy - why not buy it and take it home.
Now that we've covered some of the tips from the visitor/collector's perspective - let's take a look at what you can do to maximise your day if you are presenting at the fair - or if you are visiting one for inspiration.
Tips for an Artist Presenting at / Visiting the Fair
1. Preparation is key
No matter how boring it may sound - make sure you plan well ahead of the art fair. Don't leave everything till the last minute as there are lots of various things to think of. Ideally - start getting ready 1-2 months ahead to avoid overwhelm as it gets closer to date.
Presentation of your work is super important too. If you are framing your art pieces - are you going to use a mount/window? Did you rely on the golden ratio to pick one? Are you going to use anti-reflective glass so that it doesn't glare on the day? Are you going to use a glass that has a UV filter in it to offer something extra to collectors who fall in love with your work? (Get in touch with me if you'd like to find more about any of those)
And make sure you take special gloves with you for the day to be able to install the art pieces without leaving any marks or fingerprints on your precious creations.
Check if you have all the necessary tools like level, ruler/meter, bradawl, screws as required by the art fair and that are suitable for their particular walls, nails, hammer etc. Put together a checklist that you could use just before the fair to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
Take care of the furniture too. Art fairs usually happening over several days and you may regret not bringing a chair with you on the last day after standing in your booth without any rest. High stools are usually very nice as they allow you to speak with the visitors at their level without even needing to stand up sometimes. A table/display would be nice to have too.
You will also need to arrange public liability insurance to cover you and your stand for the duration of the fair. Standard practice is to cover anything from 2 million in damage.
2. Keep your inventory up to date
This is usually a standard practice - but make sure you are keeping your inventory and editioning up to date. You will need to know which editions, sizes, prices etc you have on the day and if this can become too much of a challenge - print out an A4 price list of your various works with a small photo of the art piece next to it.
3. Learn from others
Artists and galleries have been participating in art fairs for many many years already. You have plenty of information online. But even better - attend several art fairs before you participate in one. You can pick up lots of useful tips and tricks - for example where to buy these special red dots that you use to mark artwork as sold on the day.
It can also be useful to attend such events to see if your prices are competitive with what there is on the market - considering your experience level, publicity, medium, quality of work, style technique, etc.
4. On the day
Display your business cards, brochures at your stand. And make it easy for people to grab one - e.g. you can not only place some on the table but also screw some to the walls. You will also need an art bio/statement/information about you. You can't imagine how many people would like to get to know you but away from striking a conversation straight away.
Bring a notebook for comments and emails too. You never know who you will meet - and it is always nice to offer people join your newsletter to get to know about your style, ideas and technique a little bit more.
It isn't compulsory - but would be a nice touch to have a book/portfolio folder available showcasing some of your other works. Far from everything would fit on the wall, and you don't want to overhang your stand either. You can also print a prints browser with you and display a range of mounted but unframed works there.
Also, when you arrive (or, ideally, beforehand), figure out the operational side of things - where is the payment till (unless you are the one to process the payments yourself), where is the wrapping facilities etc. You don't want to be figuring this out at the important moment of closing a sale.
This is the main reason you are here - not to sell necessarily, but to make lots and lots of new connections for sure! Would you like your works to be noticed by an art gallery? By an art advisor? You've come to the right place then. Make sure you connect with them and follow up after the show.
It is always nice to make friends and learn from other artists too. And it can come in handy to ask each other to man the booth while you need to take a time out on the day.
And make sure you treat all visitors and people approaching you at your booth equally. Don't get discouraged and turn away from those that are simply seeking inspiration, or that are just browsing and not planning to buy anything. You never know what any connection may bring in the future. Plus, if someone falls in love with a piece - most often they will buy it regardless of whether they were planning to buy anything or not. So don't take chances and don't be rude!
6. Have fun
Don't stress too much about tiny things not going to a plan - adapt as you go. You have been preparing for this for a long time, so breathe out and enjoy the experience. The more relaxed you feel on the day, the better the fair will go for you. You don't want to be standing there distracted by your own thoughts when people want to talk to you about your art!
So this sums up the artistic side of things of how to shine at an art fair. If you enjoyed this - you can follow me on social or to join the newsletter.
I will be presenting my works at the Contemporary Art Fair 24-26 September and will be sharing more behind the scenes preparation footage and complimentary ticket codes (#spoilers), so keep an eye on my social media and email newsletter - let's connect on Instagram (@photoportrayal_), Facebook or Pinterest.
Or, if you'd like to explore other artworks I've done in the past - feel free to visit my online store here.
Until next time,