Art Show Blunders & Confessions

Anyone who is preparing to be in an Art Show would do well to learn from all my mistakes, nicely documented for your benefit (and my humiliation) right here. Comments welcome, but please be kind.

The secrets of the art world are like cards held close to the body. You can google till your fingers bleed and not find more that a handful of blogs with the real skinny of it.

I could be crazy for giving you these money retaining, time-saving hacks, but I’m a firm believer that good things happen to those who give freely. Some call it karma, I call it the Golden Rule.

My First Art Show — Pancakes & Booze Art Show, Vancouver, B.C.

Last week I attended my first collaborative art show in Vancouver, BC. I was as prepared as possible with the knowledge that I had, but I sure did learn a few hard lessons.

Aspects of my experience might be event-specific, I’m unsure as I have nothing to compare it to. If you, my fellow artists, have had different experiences at your art shows, I would really love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Let’s open the dialogue and help each other out.

WALL SPACE RACE

The email instructions I was given told me that set-up would be between 12pm — 4pm the day of.

“Great”, I thought, “99% of individuals work full-time, so there’s no rush getting there, I’m sure we are assigned space.”

WRONG — wall space was first come first serve, and guess what? Everyone grabbed upper wall space first. This left the not-so-keeners, (me) splitting up their collections amongst the lower parts of several panels. I made the best of the situation, and surprisingly it worked out great.

My largest piece was situated below another large motion piece by Kinetic Glow, that was really the bell-of-the-ball, grabbing every passerby’s attention. Some of my smaller pieces were able to snuggly fit next to an artist who was targeting a very similar audience, which was another great break! For future reference, I surveyed the upper real estate holders about what time they arrived to secure such previous wall space, and apparently the line up started between 10am-noon. Oops! I will be sure to be a keener, maybe the keenest, next year!

BOX OF PRINTS

The aforementioned email instructions also stated that we would be able to have one box of prints out. I (sigh) brought my prints in a wine-box. So my prints sat on the floor, not the end of the world, as I was selecting prints for customers anyhow. But, those with half a brain brought nice little reachable stands, covered with a tablecloth, and had a nice showy box for people to comfortably paw through. Some even had beautiful, protected display albums. Lesson learned!

BUSINESS CARDS

Yay, I did something right and brought all the business cards I had left (roughly 50) with me. However, I was thrown a curve-ball, not knowing the event would be as popular as it was. I was worried about weather, and the general February broke-ness of potential consumers. In my head I justified: “If 100 people walk through the door, this will be a successful event!” Boy, was I wrong. Attendance was closer to 1000 and I ran out of business cards halfway through.

DISPLAY VS. INVENTORY

I was under the impression that all of our inventory had to be framed and displayed. I only found out about the “box of prints” allowance closer to the event date, so unfortunately I spend a fair amount of time and money preparing inventory that was framed and matted. Framed art has to fetch higher prices, but sometime higher prices hampers sales.

What I would do differently next time, especially since you pay per wall-hanging, is have one or two (as large as allowed) frames with all my work inside. Something that simply grabs attention, and then focus on selling prints. I wouldn’t even concern myself about putting a price tag on a framed piece. From what I could observe amongst all the artists in the room, very few were selling originals or framed art. Prints were the hot seller of the night.

All in all, I did my best, and was satisfied with the result. Every business has learning curves and the art world is no exception. You’ve just got to pocket what you’ve learned and build on it for next time.