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Home Shows

by Keith Bond on 11/23/2009 4:41:27 PM

This Post is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

In my last article, I made mention of having a client host an art show in their home.  There were several comments requesting more information about how to do such a show.  I must admit, it has been over a year and a half since doing one and I have learned much about marketing and selling since then.  I am currently working on putting another one together, but what I am doing this time is quite different than what was done in the past.  I am not sure whether it will work or not, but since there seems to be significant interest in how I am doing it, I will share what I have been thinking while putting this one together.


Identify the Host Client

Choose the right client to host the show.  Choose one who is enthusiastically in love with your work.  Choose a client who enjoys entertaining in their home.  Choose a client who has friends and acquaintances who are collectors or potential collectors.  Do their friends enjoy art and can they afford to purchase it?  You may not know the answer to all these until after you approach your client.


Approach your Client

An initial telephone call works great.  Explain what you want to do in general terms, realizing that the finer details will be worked out.  If you are willing to compensate them for this (I recommend it), mention it up front while pitching the idea.  Are they interested?  Do they want to entertain the idea?  If so, schedule a time when you can visit more about it.  If distance allows it, take the client to lunch to discuss the details. If distance is too far, telephone or email will work.


By the way, make sure that the wife is on board if you talk to the husband!


Devil’s in the Details

There are a lot of things that need to happen to put on a show.  Discuss all of this with the client at your lunch meeting.


·         Agree on a date well in advance.  It takes time to do it right.  Don’t try to rush it.

·         Can you invite other clients that live nearby who don’t know the host client? 

·         Print invitations.  Have them professionally done.  Have an image of your art on it.  Have an RSVP request on it. 

·         Will the client address and mail the invitations or do they provide addresses of their friends to you?  Either way, you need to pay postage.

·         Refreshments – do you provide these or does the client?  Do you hire a caterer?  Work this out up front with the client.  Don’t go overboard.  Refreshments can be light.  You don’t want it to be too much of a party which will distract from the artwork.

·         Display area – Can you hang your work on their walls or do you need to bring easels?  How many paintings can you comfortably display? 

·         Lighting – you will likely need to invest in a few picture lights that can be attached to the back of the frame.  This will show off the paintings better.  Some clients may already have good track lighting and allow you to hang on the walls.  Bonus!

·         If they have cats or dogs which normally occupy the ‘show’ space, request that they be taken elsewhere during the show.

·         If possible, have someone to help close the sale or write up the sales receipt.  This could be someone you bring or it could be the host.  Choose someone who can talk art and is good in social situations.  Make sure that they realize that they are working and not just socializing.  Compensate them.

·         You may or may not want to have a presentation or art talk.

·         Do you want this to be ‘open house’ style? Or do you want everyone there the entire time?  Unless there is a program, I think open house works best.

·         Print up labels with the title and price and place near each work of art.

·         Print up your bio and artists statement and display them in a noticeable location. 

·         Have a guest register and encourage attendees to sign up for your free e-newsletter.

·         Give the host client first choice of paintings from the show to have (for free) as outlined below. 

·         As with any show, dress up for the occasion.  Be yourself.  Introduce yourself to everyone.  Visit.  Tell your story. 

·         When the show is over, help the host clean up.

·         Promptly send the host a ‘Thank You’.


Compensate the Client Generously

Someone asked me what I meant by ‘generous’.  I offer the client a free painting of mid-size and mid-price range.  For my price level, I offer a 24 x 30 inch painting which retails at about $4200.  They may opt to apply that amount to a more expensive painting or combination of paintings.  That sounds like a lot of money, but let me explain my reasoning.


My actual out of pocket costs are significantly less.  Yes, there are opportunity costs of a potential sale.  But other than frame, canvas, paint, etc. there aren’t many up-front costs.  Even when taking overhead into account, my actual expenses are somewhat less than $1000.  These costs are deductable anyway on my taxes.  So the true cost isn’t that significant. 


But more importantly, what does offering a free painting tell my clients?  This is very significant.  Firstly, it lets them know that I TRULY appreciate their willingness to host a show.  I recognize that it is a commitment on their part and that they will likely put a lot of effort into it.  It will encourage them to put more effort into the show.  Secondly, it endears them to me and my work even more so than they already are.  They will likely enthusiastically share with others how I treat them.   This will encourage their friends to become interested in my work.  It also reinforces the appearance of being a successful artist.  Clients like to know that the artists they collect are successful.  It validates their decisions.


So for me, even if I don’t sell $4200 worth of work at the show, I am willing to part with a painting to try it out.  I have gained clients in the past that didn’t purchase at the show, but did purchase later.  You never know what will happen with those who sign up for your mailing list.  And certainly, in the long run, the clients who hosted the show will be more likely to purchase again in the future.


And, yes, there is a good chance that I am able to sell that much at the show.  I will let you know how it really goes. 



Keith Bond


PS.  If anyone has successfully done home shows, share what worked for you.  We would all benefit.


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Related Posts:

Cultivating Collectors Face to Face

Evaluating New Opportunities

Use Your Mailing List

Finding Your Collectors

Hosting Your Own "One Person Show"

Be Ready for Unexpected Opportunities

Opportunity Knocks

Topics: art marketing | Keith Bond | Sales 

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Loading comments...

Denise Hall
I really appreciate the information you gave. I've been thinking about having an art show at a client's house but wasn't sure how to go about it.

Thanks again,
Denise Hall

Lee McVey
Wonderful informational article, Keith. I've thought about approaching a client to host a home show for me, but was not sure of logistics that would work well. You've given lots of great ideas. Thanks,
Lee McVey

Nancy Park

This is the most detailed and thoughtful guide I have ever seen about getting a home show. I kept thinking of one particular client who has known my work since we were in high school together(!)

My house is much too small, and she knows it. She loves entertaining and art. And she loves my painting! I almost had the idea you were talking about her.

Now if I can just get up the nerve to talk to her about it, with the reward in mind...

-- Nancy

Clint Watson
Thanks Keith, I think this information will be really helpful to a lot of artists. Looking forward to an update after your next show.

Doris Nickerson
I have not thought about asking a friend to host a show for me -- my friends are all up in the "senior " category. However, my sales in the past have been from exhibits at the local hospital lobby or in business places. Now my sales are from repeat clients and word-of-mouth. These people know they can come to my home (also my studio) and browse or take a painting or two home and "try it out". I will give this idea of yours some thought. Maybe the children of some of my older friends ...

I have wanted to have an Open House about this time of year when people are in the buying mode. I think of this each year after my Christmas decorations are in place and the house looks great. I just haven't put the idea into action yet but I still may have some time if I get moving right away.

Keep the ideas coming, Keith. Thanks.

Doris Nickerson


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