Photograph by Chris King |

Smartphones and sales leads

from Be Smart About Art’s Sunday reading series— a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

The London Art Fair is the art event to attend in England each January. It’s been going since the 1980s, well before the Frieze brand came into existence. Galleries present works by contemporary and 20th Century artists, and fair features include a ‘projects’ section and Photo50, in addition to areas dedicated to Modern British and contemporary galleries.

In the early days of smartphones, galleries typically didn’t want visitors to the fair — let alone attendees to commercial shows, to take images of artwork. Fast-forward to today, and image-taking is positively encouraged by the majority of galleries. Why the change of tune? This is now how prospective buyers record pieces of interest and share on social media.

Concerns about photos still held by galleries are generally two-fold. Firstly, some people might get directly in touch with artists (professional artists will point such individuals back to the dealer). Secondly, some folks might trawl the internet in search of better deals. This latter shouldn’t come to anything because the price of works should be consistent across the board.

On balance, visitors taking images is viewed as more of a good thing than a bad one.

With this in mind, it’s increasingly important that exhibitors make their brand visible. Only the other day, my other half was showing me images from the London Art Fair. Much like other collectors to fairs, he was asking my interest with a view of potentially buying. He has a system for recording pieces that interest him; after taking a photo or two of a piece of interest, he would take a shot of the wall label. While he was walking me through the selection, there was a work on paper that jumped out at both us. Flicking ahead to see who the artist was, medium, and corresponding gallery, there was a problem: the wall label didn’t have any mention of the gallery!

Unfortunately, the gallery was seriously missing a trick. A visitor doesn’t necessarily think to take the gallery’s business card, as they will think all essential info will be recorded in images. In this case, the visitor would have had no choice but to search for the artist’s name, and may or may not have found the gallery showcasing the artist at the fair. Furthermore, if that same visitor was keen to share the image on social media, they wouldn’t have included any mention of the gallery.

Ideally, the wall label would have included the logo, gallery name, website URL. Though it seems simple and straightforward, it’s easier said than done. Artists and dealers alike — please take the time needed to present this vital information on wall labels, price lists and other printed items that visitors will either photograph or take home, lest they slip away.

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