Why exhibit?

Photograph by Chris King | ckpho.to

This might seem like a trick question, for the obvious answer is to make money, right? Not necessarily, and it’s certainly isn’t the only reason.

Many people find themselves disappointed with exhibitions when they don’t sell the amount that they had hoped to. While such a response is understandable, it’s often the result of having tunnel vision that’s only focused on making immediate sales, which prevents you from seeing the bigger, longer-term picture that can incorporate an array of benefits.

Consider the following reasons to exhibit:

- Make sales (immediate, short-term and long-term)

- Meet people, resulting in building your network and the mailing list (new and future clients, ambassadors, press, collaborators, suppliers and more)

- Bring online connections face to face

- Deepen relationships with existing contacts

- Establish your place as a serious, trustworthy professional

- Raise visibility / brand

- Receive press coverage (excellent for long-term credibility)

- Complete a body of work

- Receive input and develop new ideas (creatively and professionally)

- Trial working with someone (an exhibitor or team member)

- Practice talking about art / artist(s)

- Tackle social concerns / cause

- Find gallery representation / artist(s)

- Create legacy with documentation

Consider this, too: some people moan — a lot — about selling to existing clients at fairs. This attitude undervalues the importance of these events, for the result of being at a location where hundreds, if not thousands, of people will visit puts pressure onto existing prospects. They stand to lose the piece they’ve been wanting if they don’t immediately buy it, so if they’re really serious about making a purchase, the display of ‘their’ piece in front of a large crowd often does the trick.

The thing is, there is SO much to gain. Rather than have your entire focus on selling to newly made contacts, determine objectives ahead of time (and still be open to other benefits). From the list above, note which ones that apply to you and add others that come to mind. Then put specifics onto the list, for example, by how many people you’d like to grow your mailing list, the specific types of professionals you’d like to meet, achievable financial targets, the number of photographs and videos you’d like to have for legacy — and so on.

When on-site, remember that selling art is often based on relationship building. While new contacts might not readily buy on the spot nor offer to write a review of your show, you’re taking the first important step of meeting them.

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