Selecting Art for an Art Fair

Selecting art for art shows

If you have not, please read the previous blog post about what you need to do right now to get started in art fairs!

When considering doing an art show, you will need to consider several things

  1. What art will you select to show the jury so you can get in the art fair?
  2. What art will you show at the art fair?
  3. How much art will you have in inventory?
  4. What is your sale pitch?

Selecting Art for a Jury

The second point means nothing if you do not get into the art show to begin with. Most art show require artists to submit 3-5 pictures of their art and a shot of their complete booth. Juries for art shows comprise of 3-5 artists who will look at the picture you submit on a computer screen and then score you for your art and for your booth on a scale of 1-5.  The juries change composition of the jurors from year to year, thus getting in one year to a famous art show does not mean you will get in other years. Since everything is view on a computer screen, the pictures of the art need to be of high quality. For jeweler and pottery, it will be of tremendous benefits to hire someone who understands lights to make your pieces shine.

The jury is looking for a “consistent body of art” with a theme of some sort. Yes, incredibly vague description. When I started, I chose 5 very different pieces to show off my range of artistic ability. Sadly, this does not get you into art shows. Thus, the piece you select DO have to be shown at the art fair but you ARE NOT limited to the theme for the jury. The booth shot is also very important and I did describe it in the previous blog post.

Selecting art for the art fair

So what art will you show at the art fair? There are many things to consider including the types of pieces, the price range of the pieces and the inventory that you have. Remember, you are looking for your niche(s). What art sells? Thus you will always want a variety, often locally connected if possible. Say you are exhibiting in Minneapolis, then a piece that reflects some part of Minnesota is a good idea. You will also want to include a variety of pieces with different themes including different colors, different places, different types (rings versus necklaces).

For the 2D artist, I would recommend settling on a single medium for simplicity sake. For example, everything displayed on metal or canvas or paper. You can always offer the other types of media on your website. When selecting the medium consider how hard it will be to transport, store, hang or place the art. Will it be weather resistant? Framed pieces are subject to breakage and water damage. In another example, huge statues or pictures are difficult to cart around but show pieces are always nice for the buyer who wants a large piece. Often it is hard for them to visualize to a larger piece.

You will also want to make sure you have pieces at a variety of price points. If you offer merchandise like tote bags, puzzles and mugs, this is helpful. By the same token, offering smaller paper versions of larger pictures. Often folks have no place to hang something.

Inventory management

Finally, how much inventory do you need? The booth itself is either 10 ft X 10 Ft or 10 ft x 20 ft (if you are big time). You will need enough art to make the booth 1) look complete 2) fulfill demand. For jewelers and potters, this can be a nightmare. If they are at a great show and nearly sell out, that is great!! BUT if they have a show the next weekend, it can be very difficult to make more pieces. This is where having a company will to reproduce you art (like photography) can come in handy if it is possible. You also want to consider price when figuring out inventory. For example, you total costs to do a show (booth fee, motel, food, travel) is $800 you will want to be sure to have enough pieces of the right price to cover your expense. Some say you want to make 10X the sales based on the cost. For some this may not be possible, particularly when starting out. Remember, one goal is to collect email addresses using a giveaway so if you do not make sales at least you have gained the contact information of future buyers!

Selling to customers

Finally, you will need a sales pitch. You cannot passively sit around while folks look at your art! You need to engage everyone that steps into your booth. You are not only looking for quick sales but cultivating future sales. Importantly, you can discover what pieces folks like and do not like. The pitch should include something about your inspiration for the art, your materials, how your process to make the art works and shine a spotlight on your website where the buy can get a piece in different sizes, media or as merchandise. Furthermore, you can use portions of the sale pitch for your social media. I will touch on this when talking about working the art fair itself!

The mental game

Selling at art shows is making you vulnerable and can be a fantastic or disheartening experience. Watching the jeweler in the next booth make money hand over fist while you have no sales but plenty of interest is maddening. Seeing a customer who has already purchased from one of your direct competitors, another photographer for example can lead to a bad case of pretender syndrome. You just feel you should not be there. You always need to keep positive. If nothing else you are making an effort and collecting emails at your art show!!

Please contact me with any questions!