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Fairs vs Galleries

by Crystal Rassi on 4/21/2017 9:33:51 AM

This post is by guest author, Crystal Rassi.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 48,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.



I have this inner battle with fairs vs galleries. Do fairs devalue my work? Am I an established artist if I have gallery representation? Will people only buy the cheap stuff at fairs and skip the the high end work and commissions? What do I do, what do I do?


I've been in markets and fairs before. The smaller kind where tables are free or cheap. Sometimes, I sell a few, sometimes I sell none. For the most recent one I spent hours and hours sketching art cards because I knew the type of sale was more crafty than artsy where people want deals, not necessarily heirlooms. And I was right. The cards sold amazingly, but there was no profit after you consider the materials, gas to drive there, and time to make the cards. One thing I will say is that I had a lot of genuine appreciation for my work which led to serious inquiries about workshops and drawing/painting lessons. This in turn led to an actual sketch class. Cool. Sometimes, these fairs lead to future commissions which is also great, and has happened for me, but I really have to stress that if one wants to be in a craft/art show or fair with paintings, first go for fun, then go for profit. People don't like to be caught in a sales pitch but rather have genuine conversation with the artist and know that the artist really enjoys what they are doing. Of course, don't forget about your sales pitch but do be genuine.


I nearly forgot to have fun during my preparation for my last fair showing. I worked endlessly on art cards for weeks while the laundry and dishes piled up. Suppers were no more than sandwiches and all for what? A measly $100 at the end of the fair??! But while I was sketching these art cards, I realized how much fun they actually were to create. I went back to ink and watercolor which I haven't used in years, and just created simple fun pictures that people really enjoyed. I also brushed up on my sketching skills. So what if it was a measly $100 at the end of the day? I spent time in the sun, met some great people, made a few bucks, and started a sketch class. Some artist may make big bucks at fairs while others do not and that's what I mean about having fun. Regardless of how much you make, have fun. Below are some pictures of the art I had a ton of enjoyment making.




Then there's galleries. You don't have full control over your sales in a gallery nor are you able to collect buyers information to see who bought what - did a politician buy it? A business owner? A banker? Are they local, national, international? It would be sure interesting to know and great on your CV if you can write "Internationally renowned artist", or "collected by politicians, banks, and restaurants...". And if you don't know who your selling to, you cannot ensure your work doesn't get sold at auctions without you knowing for profits you'll never see. Arguably - who cares? Does a furniture maker get a cut of sales every time a table or hutch is sold? Does a contractor get a cut from every house that he/she built when they are sold? Nope. Anyway, galleries have a good potential to sell items much higher in price than an art or craft fair. But like fairs, some galleries can sell your work very well while others do not. Both fairs and galleries can be a gamble until you find the right ones that work for you.


So, if you're an artist like me with this dilemma - art fairs or galleries? Do both. Have fun. Make art. Life is short.


You can view Crystal's original post here

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Related Posts:

The Impact of International Art Fairs on Galleries

Think Outside the Gallery

The Gallery Merry Go Round

Art Fairs: Another Scam or the Best Way to Market Your Work?

Online Art Fairs and Online Art Exhibits: Are they a valid addition to the physical art market?

One Super Important Quality For Gallery Success

Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art fairs | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration 

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Thank you for your openness and honesty. Your comments made me realize that I need to examine how I will promote and sell my art.

Dorothy Thompson
Great article. It is reassuring to know others wonder about art fairs too. I will keep pursuing and selling in a variety of venues. Your cards are adorable by the way!!

Mark Brockman
Different paths for different artists, and by different artists I mean personality not work.

I did the fairs long ago, they were not for me, it was hard competing with reproductions against my originals. But I know an artist who makes a very good living doing fairs and has quite a reputation. So it can work. But he does deal in reproductions.

Being that I hate the marketing side of art I'm more then happy to let others do it. Yes they seldom tell you who bought the work and not all galleris are good. To me it's a partnership, I produce the best work possible and they make every effort to sell it. But some galleries just hang work on the wall and hopes someone will buy it. I did work with an art dealer back east till she retired, she would tell me who bought the work, I mentioned that was unusual, her answer, 'I don't mind telling my artist who buys their work, but understand, if an artists goes to that buyer behind my back, we stop doing business.' Something I would never do.

Anyway each to their own.

Daniele Todaro
When I first started in the professional art business, I received some sage advice. Consider festivals a marketing opportunity more than a sales opportunity. A festival is a chance to meet future collectors, students and appreciators of your art. And you have a chance to build up your email/marketing list.

I see relatively successful "card" artists at shows; but they take their best cards and have them reproduced, so multiples are easy and cheap!!
A humorous saying, or "touching" phrase,...for everyday or for specific seasons really helps sales
They use several actual counter "card spinner" displays. I assume they bought it at a used/new display company!
And finally, they do agressive promoting with multiple sale deals,... like " 5 cards for $??? etc. or buy 5 and get another free!

kohlene hendrickson
Well I don't think art fairs today have the same meaning.....

Bob Ragland
One has to do what ever works. Bite size money works well. I sell my shoebox art on a steady basis. Budget friendly prices-$100.-125.
Constant out reach by USPS mail,allows me to sell out of my paid for home/studio.I send career news and updates the old school way by handwritten illustrated letters. I don't have to go on the road. Creativity Wins. See me on youtube-hear me on NPR podcast. Google Bob Ragland. Thanks.

Suzanne Popp
I appreciated the candor and comments of this article and realized that I really like art fairs. I like the camaraderie, and have always sold some work to the artists working at these fairs. Variety, a chance to make one-on-one contacts, and the resulting feedback and talk lead to additional sales. I also have a chance to compare and learn. I end up collecting a few pieces from artists I admire as well. Suzanne

Walter Paul Bebirian
Interesting question you are dealing with here - in fact I think that there is an infinite amount of thought that you can place towards thinking about these two venues and a large number of additional venues if you so choose to do that type of thinking and the discover after all that perhaps non of this thinking matters - you and I and most of the artists that might be involved with any of the discussions on this blog of FASO might or might never get to the point where we even get close to going directly to auction with our work like Damien Hirst but even if we do approach that type of dealing the fact of how one person does one thing and another person accomplishes that same thing is totally different and so if - and this is a possibility as well - if I - using myself as an example for this - choose or decide or just cannot sell any of my work - as was the case with Van Gogh except for one piece of art I believe - and all of the work that I have created during my lifetime is collected up and given to a relative of mine who is savvy enough or hungry enough or determined enough to get something out of that art that is left to him or her because they are interested or as was the case with Van Gogh's sister-in-law - her husband has invest money in that art such that that was an investment that had to pay off now that her husband had died along with the artist - then that is a different route that may be taken - but not much more than the investment or a paltry amount will be gotten for any of the work - especially if no-one famous has owned the art yet - but if - and this is an interesting point - if I either give or donate to charities or sell me work to different individuals or corporations with significant names or significant power or whatever else matters to people - then I am assuring that not only that those works will go up in value - but also that any of my work sold after such point in time will most probably be sold for a larger amount of money than it would have been sold for without the previous sold or donated getting into the hands of people with significant names themselves -

I think this video tells us something about the art world that not many artists realize while they are working on their art:

Thanks for all the wonderful comments so far. These articles are all written to not only share my perspective, but to hopefully inspire conversation. Having a conversation with yourself is not the same as hearing different points of view from all of you. We can not learn that way. So thank you all for your thoughts.

Walter Paul Bebirian
and so what might we converse about or in other words what would you like to talk about?

Hello Walter. Quite frankly, we're already conversing. Every person's comment is a conversation based on the related article. So far, mainly I've heard people's opinions on which route they prefer to sell at and why. Some perspectives such as yours, with added history are another alternative to selling. Of course, I haven't even touched on online sources either but that's a different article.

Some people might read an article, then read the comments, and simply contemplate everything and never comment, which is fine. It's just thoughts to chew on.

What conversations would I like to have? It's a pretty extensive list. Some are in relation to my blog posts, some are in relation to articles already written. But for the sake of this article only, I just like to hear other peoples points of view about fairs vs galleries. I haven't watched the youtube link you gave yet, but I will and perhaps we'll chat more then.

Walter Paul Bebirian
crystal - I eagerly await your next post - :-)

Joanne Benson
Enjoyed your article Crystal and all the commentary. You definitely should watch the you-tube video that Walter provided. It proved to be very interesting and also informative.

Mark Larson
Some of the high end fairs are expensive to show in, but that's usually because they are in a high end market and have that kind of reputation. If you're spending $1k for the booth fee, you had better have your ducks in a row going in so you can recoup your investment. The last fair I showed in, I only sold one painting, but it was a large $7,500 original, so it more than made it worth my time.

So I finally watched the link from Walter. I had seen the video a while ago and forgotten about it. It's so great. But how do living artists get there, such as Freud or Hirst? The most expensive paintings at auction from Klimt or Picasso or Van Gogh do not reflect the success of the artists while they were alive, so at first glance it seems any artists work can be "famous" only when someone wealthy says it's good enough to be worth millions of dollars. Is this how Freud and Hirst marketed their work - only to the rich and famous? By living in a geographical area that views art as an object worth millions of dollars? What do the lives of these living millionaire artists look like? Are they married with kids or single? Are they happy or depressed? Is it all worth it?
Then there is the legal issues of auctions. If you do not have contracts set up that allow you, the artist, and your decendants, a percentage of money when the art sells, then when something goes for millions, the artist or their decendents never see a dime. How fair is that?
So, Walter, you're right in that very few artists will ever be in a Christie's or Sotheby's auction but Auctions are a completely different beast than art fairs or galleries. A good topic of discussion for a new article....

You're spot on.


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